Platform PlayStation 4 Genre Tactical RPG
Developer SEGA Publisher SEGA
You know that awkward moment when an HD port becomes one of your favorite games for a current-gen console? I realized this the more I progressed into Valkyria Chronciles Remastered, a game which debuted on the PlayStation 3 in 2008, and it’s one of the most refreshing experiences I’ve had in gaming in a long time — years even.
Drawing heavy inspiration from World War II with a dash of steampunk, VC throws players into the fictional world of Europa, a continent where war between the Empire and Atlantic Federation has broken out over ragnite, a precious resource used for numerous purposes. The war eventually finds its way to Gallia, a neutral country filled with ragnite.
Enter Welkin Gunther and the members of Squad 7, a unit part of the Gallian Militia. Much of VC’s journey follows Welkin and his ragtag team as they face numerous, dangerous missions and circumstances throughout the war.
Some of themes typical to war — loss, survival, prejudice, racism, sadness, betrayal, hope, etc. — are omnipresent throughout the 25-plus hour story, but it’s all told in an ultimately charming and cohesive way thanks to a likable and varied cast of characters and beautiful watercolor/anime, almost Studio Ghibili-like, aesthetics. And they will likely stand the test of time for years to come. While the English dub can be a little shoddy at times, but much of the cast, including iconic voice actor Steve Blum, gives great performances.
Though VC has a gripping tale that could stand on its own (and apparently does as an anime), the combat is where the meat of the game lies, and it’s impossible to keep it within the realms of a single genre. Real-time strategy, turn-based gameplay and third-person shooter mechanics, all of which are mixed with RPG elements, blend together like milk and cereal to create the combat. I can safely say I’ve never played anything akin to it, and I mean that in the highest of compliments. I might even go a step further and claim there is nothing else like it on the market today.
In each mission, players are given an overview of the map to where units — both on your team and the enemy’s team — are located. From there, careful planning must be used to complete each mission, especially if you don’t want characters to die permanently. Most of the time, the objective is to capture the enemy’s main base, and you will automatically fail the mission if too many turns pass or certain characters die. VC mixes it up with different scenarios and goals on some missions, but the approach to every mission is distinctive enough to where the combat never feels dull.
Command points are primarily used to determine how many times a player can move units each turn. When you choose a unit, the camera shifts from the overhead map view down to a third-person perspective. VC doesn’t control like traditional third-person shooters such as Gears of War on Uncharted, but it features over-the-shoulder shooting and a cover system.
Each unit can only use one action each time they’re selected, so making a mistake during a sole turn can dramatically shift the outcome of a battle. “Should I heal him/her or have them shoot this nearby enemy so they don’t come back to bight me during their next turn?” “How risky is to move this person across this danger zone?” These were questions I often pondered as I stressed through each turn, and every kill or right decision feels immensely satisfying, but is equally disheartening when a tactical choice goes awry.
The mobility of a unit is determined by action points. The second a unit runs out of AP, they cannot move any further, meaning literally every step taken is important. You can select the same unit multiple times during a turn, but the max AP with each run decreases until the next turn.
VC’s combat is undoubtedly a lot to take in. It also introduces new elements throughout half of the game, but it also does an excellent job of easing you into things. The entire game is a process of learning from both mistakes and previous battles.
Units are divided into six classes: Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Engineers, Snipers and Tanks. Each class has as many strengths as they do limitations. Some can move more thanks to high AP but lack defense, while others can barely move anywhere and cause serious damage when given the chance. Figuring out which units are more useful in certain areas during each mission is vital to achieving victory. None of the classes felt purposeless despite each one’s shortcomings. And there wasn’t much that was more satisfying than a Sniper successfully pulling of a headshot.
Once you get past the beginning missions, most battles will take at least 45 minutes to complete, and there’s no way to boost the speed when it’s the enemy’s turn, but I never felt like my time was wasted. Watching where the enemies move, including ones you can’t see on the overhead map, is a nail-biting and nerve-wracking experience.
And you’ll want to the best job you can — by finishing missions in as little turns as possible — in each mission to earn more experience points and money to put toward upgraded weapons and leveling up troops, all of which is done in a convenient manner. Rather than upgrading an individual character, the classes themselves rank up. For example, if I level up Lancers, every character that’s part of that class levels up too, which I feel was a smart choice. After you spend more money on weapons, players can then access a skill tree of sorts for each firearm. I liked having the option to boost my rifles’ firepower, or give more range to machine guns.
Outside the story missions, VC provides much backstory about its universe. If a character talks about a certain event or person, you have the option to look up more information on that subject, including weapons, but I never felt lost if I didn’t pursue further knowledge. You can even find out more information about each of your troops the more you bring them into combat.
My main gripe with VC is the questionable moves made by my foes at times. There were more than a few situations where I cursed myself out for a stupid move I thought would inevitably make me face doom, but the opposing team would then do something out of left field, like not taking the time to shoot a soldier and running in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help but “talk” to the enemies and tell them things like, “You know you could have easily killed me just then, right?”
For any returning players of the originals, VC contains the staples for a remaster: 1080p resolution running at 60 frames during gameplay and all previous DLC, which includes an excruciating expert difficulty in skirmish fights for the masochists out there, as well as extra story missions. You won’t be missing out on anything in these side missions, but for a $30-launch price, it certainly won’t harm you either.
I could easily go on about how every PlayStation 4 owner should pick up Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Its unique combat that combines real-time strategy, turn-based and third-person shooter mechanics into an engrossing blend is wholly unique, and it’s all introduced without overwhelming the player. The combat is further backed by wonderful watercolor visuals, a great cast of characters, a story of war and its bright and dark sides, and a well-crafted universe. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered absolutely deserves every gamer’s attention — whether you have already played it or not.
- Unique, strategic and ultimately rewarding combat
- Well-varied unit classes
- Cast of characters
- The story and its heavy themes
- Watercolor and anime-like visuals
- Sometimes stupid AI
The Score: 9.5
Robbie Key is the Nintendo editor for Analog Addiction, assistant news editor at The Daily Sentinel and former editor-in-chief of The Pine Log at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he is now an alumnus. Follow his “completely relevant” Twitter updates and view his LinkedIn profile.