Spencer Smith ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Valkyria Revolution is a game that shouldn’t exist in the form in which it exists. It shouldn’t even be released like this; it’s been nearly a decade, and somehow it feels like it needed another few before even beta testing it. Sure, even though Valkyria Chronicles was far from a perfect game, it was certainly a unique one; a RTS-JRPG hybrid with plenty of great strategic gameplay and a serviceable story to boot. Valkyria Revolution, on the other, hand throws all that away and instead feels like a game that hasn’t even passed quality assurance.
Revolution’s story takes place in the fictional world of Europa (the only real connection to the previous titles.) The game takes place many years after the original game, revolving around the countries of Jutland and Ruhzland. Like the original game, it’s told like a storybook, but unlike the original, instead of flipping through the book as a player, Revolution uses it as a prop in a story outside the story as a conversation between two blonde-haired, blue-eyed throwaway characters: a teacher and student. After the student questions the bad reputation of the supposed “Circle of Five Traitors” who apparently started the whole war, the teacher tells the student the “secret” story of the Five. She posits to the student (and the player) that they must decide whether these Traitors were heroes or their namesake.
Yet Revolution doesn’t really seem to give you a choice in the matter. The game is told very much in a third person style in which the player just observes what’s happening. Yes, Chronicles did that too, but that game told a story about characters just fighting a battle they didn’t start. In this game, the main characters start the war, and intentionally so. While that could lead to some great moral quandaries, the game’s story and characters feel all too stock to create any depth. Characters are nothing more than stock archetypes and their motives are constantly brought up but never feel challenged. It also may have to do with that fact that the player barely controls the game at all.
No joke, a vast majority of the game’s content is cutscenes. It took almost twenty-five minutes from starting a new game to engaging in the first battle before any actual need for the controller was warranted. This will happen every time a story mission is finished! A twenty to thirty minute series of cutscenes with an abundance of long loading screens greet you. It’s like being punished instead of rewarded for playing the game! Not only that, but since the game is told in that “two people talking” framing device, the game constantly comes back to the two, halting any kind of flow the game is building.
It’d also be one thing if the cutscenes were even good, but they’re plagued with numerous bugs and bizarre design issues. Characters assume stock character model poses and will only do one or two expressions (ex: crossing arms, stroking chin, etc.) invoking feelings of a PS2 game. Sound effects will be out of sync in cutscenes, characters will finish speaking and are greeted with a five second pause before getting a response, and the cutscenes are told from static wide shots that dictate nothing visually. So it’s not just that the cutscenes are overabundant, but they don’t even have the courtesy of being watchable. It’s like asking for wine but being given milk which also happens to be rotten.
However, Valkyria Revolution’s biggest sin lies within that very gameplay. Pretty much all of the great RTS gameplay from the original game has been thrown to the sharks and replaced with a new system. There is no overhead map view or turn system, but rather a super dumbed down JRPG combat system. The game boils down to “press X to attack” and “repeat step one.”
Oh, sure, there are candy-coated times when the game claims to be strategic. In battle, the fight can be stopped at any time by press Triangle which brings up a “Battle Pallet” with Special Attacks, Ranged Weapons, and Alchemy. This is what the developers claim to be the “strategy” part of the game on very thin paper. Yet as soon as the game starts, the theory is thrown into a shredder. Firstly is the fact that the Battle Pallet doesn’t invoke strategy since there’s no real motive to use it strategically. Since you can essentially plow through enemies Dynasty Warriors-style, the only use of these moves is to spam them to get rid of the already dozens of enemies on screen. There’s no enemy variety so there’s hardly any reason to deviate from “Press X to Kill Enemy” strategy.
Yet there also lies a problem in that. Since the game deludes itself as a hybrid, all actions now have an “Action Meter” like the first game. However, since this isn’t an RTS, that means that instead of a good attack flow, it’s constantly interrupted by running out of the meter. So there’s no way to get into some kind of “I’m the greatest warrior in the universe” experience like in Dynasty Warriors and no way to be “the greatest commander in the world” like in Chronicles. The game ultimately can’t be great at either and simply fails to be good altogether!
In the end, Valkyria Revolution is a sometimes tortuous experience of endless cutscenes, boring gameplay, and constant reminders of a much better game. Even at the reduced price tag of forty bucks, a copy of the soundtrack, and a free pin, this still isn’t worth the time or money.