Posted on November 30, 2010 by GRIM
Available at Amazon.com
Valkyria Chronicles is a squad oriented, turn-based strategy game with a big narrative emphasis and a strong anime style. It’s daring in some ways in its narrative, but not quite daring enough. Regardless, it’s an engaging game and well worth sitting through the cut-scenes for.
Valkyria takes place in an alternative Europe and an alternative World War II. In this world your small nation, which seems to be an analogue for Holland or Belgium, is independent of the two opposed forces which are beginning their clash across this world’s Europe. Your nation, Gallia, is invaded by the Imperial Alliance in a blitzkreig and Gallia’s citizen soldiers – including your team – are rapidly deployed to try and blunt the advance and secure Gallian independence from both the Imperials and the overtures of their enemies, the Atlantic Federation, a force that isn’t above being manipulative and underhanded in their prosecution of war either.
Your squad plays a key role in turning aside the Empire and, ultimately, defeating its invasion which shows that a plucky little nation like Gallia can withstand even the might of an Empire. Along the way you discover things about Gallia’s past, about the mysterious Ur-race the Valkyr and about despised Jews… I mean Darcsen.
Gameplay takes place across a sort of diary/notebook with each double-set of pages representing a chapter. Each chapter is made up of a lot of cutscenes that lay out the background and the mission parameters and then the missions themselves.
Missions take place in a tactical map view and a third person, turn-based view where you take direct control of a character, directing them and making attacks, setting them behind cover and positioning them to take potshots at anyone coming across their field of view. You get a certain number of activations that you can use to move and shoot with your troops and tanks. You can activate the same character multiple times but you get diminishing returns as they can move less and less with each successive activation.
You get to make your squad up of several different kinds of troops, tanks, scouts, engineers, snipers, lancers and assault troops. Each has their own strength and their own weakness and each can be upgraded through training or through equipment, either researched back at the base or captured from enemies in battle.
On the map page you can get an overview of the terrain and battlefield and you can be aware of the position of enemies that any of your troops can see. Here you select your troops each activation, dropping into third person view and moving them with the thumbsticks. When you choose to fire you drop into a closer view and can line up your shot, though whether you hit or not is mostly down to chance. That’s essentially it.
This is an alternate World War II that lacks aircraft but the combination of cel-shading and very well-done cutscenes creates an atmosphere that invokes much of the spirit of WWII and touches on a lot of themes from history, both in WWI and WWII. The light, cartoony nature of the graphics helps emphasise the ruin and the stakes of the conflict, rather than drawing a way from it and the characterisation and storyline from the cutscenes genuinely makes you care about your unit and the lives of your soldiers, extra knowledge about their backgrounds and lives is even released in your diary screen as you move on, giving each a sense of their own personality which is reinforced by traits that come into play in certain conditions during combat.
The cel-shaded graphics are some of the best I have seen done in any game that uses the technique. Much of Valkyria genuinely looks like watching an anime cartoon and while some cutscenes can come across a little wooden – still a problem with CG – most are streets ahead of any similar games. The whole thing feels almost like a watercolour sketchbook and almost like a comic, complete with onomatopoeia.
If you have any love for alternate history or the mystical aspects of WWII this is a good game to get, if you have any love for skirmish games or turn based strategy at all, get this game. Full stop.
On the plus side:
* Engaging storyline.
* Excellent gameplay.
* Brilliant cel-shading.
On the minus side:
* Some levels take a very long time to play.
* Doesn’t follow through on some of the more controversial source material.
Review by James “Grim” Desborough