Believe it or not, it's been an entire decade since Sega's turn-based strategy war series debuted. Valkyria Chronicles 4 brings the franchise back to its roots but does it hold up in 2018?
It's been years since I played the original Valkyria Chronicles. I have fond memories of commanding my soldiers to carefully pick off enemy units one by one and progressing through the dramatic story while taking in the lovely visuals and music. To my delight, Valkyria Chronicles 4 brings all of this back in a masterful way and it frequently gave me flashbacks as I fought battle after battle.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 stars a young man named Claude Wallace whose village of Hafen got wiped out in the Second Europan War. So, he and his friends Kai and Raz enlist to the Federation Army in the hopes of avenging their town and stopping the Empire from further attacks. As the gang (who now compose Squad E) fights their battles, they'll meet plenty of friendly faces and sinister foes along the way. The story is told through somewhat lengthy cutscenes between and sometimes in the heat of battle. If you're the kind of gamer who loves reading about the daily life of the cast of characters so their personalities become more fleshed out then you will love these scenes but everyone else will likely find them to be quite tedious. Either way, I can't complain because in the end, this depends on your own personal preferences. Overall, the cast of characters is likeable and the story is easy to follow with its slow and digestible pace.
What I love most about Valkyria Chronicles is its battle system. Valkyria Chronicles 4 features challenging and engaging combat where you must carefully pick off enemy forces in order to expand your conquered territory and minimize potential threats. There's a very cool base system where you can raise your flag at enemy bases in order to claim them for yourself so you can call for reinforcements and gain even more of an edge over your opponents. Considering many of the battles begin with you in a tight situation, being able to overcome the odds and take over the entire battle map just feels awesome; especially considering how much strategy and effort is required.
All of that being said, I'm slightly disappointed that Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn't take any substantial risks with its gameplay. It's very similar to the original game which came out over a decade ago so long-time fans of the series will definitely feel like they've already experienced many things that Valkyria Chronicles 4 has to offer already. In the end, I wish Sega added more twists to the established gameplay.
Back to the battle system; your team consists of various soldier classes including scouts, shocktroopers, lancers, engineers, snipers, and grenadiers. At the start of the campaign, I found myself juggling between each of the classes equally so I could take advantage of each of their strengths. However, about a dozen hours in, I began to realise that certain classes are much more valuable than others. For example, grenadiers and lancers are fantastic at taking out large enemy installations such as pillboxes and tanks while snipers can pick off distant enemy soldiers with ease. As a result, I began to use mostly these 3 classes while also deploying an engineer so he can run around and restock everyone's ammo. This imbalance is rather annoying as I felt that many of my soldiers were underutilized as they merely sat behind to protect bases. I should also mention that I loved controlling the tanks to run over barricades and blow stuff up.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 features a massive campaign with dozens of battles. Each battle can take a very long time to beat and I often found myself having to save mid-fight just so I could go to bed. In addition to the lengthy campaign, there are a ton of extras to master. The coolest optional content to work through are the Squad Stories which are unlocked by playing as soldiers who are friends with each other and include some clever battle scenarios. There are also more generic Skirmishes that you can play through for extra experience and money. As you play through this content, you can upgrade your troops and tanks which is handled very intuitively.
Although the amount of content is superb, I wish there was a multiplayer component. I imagine that playing against a fellow fan in an online match would be extremely exciting and enjoyable yet there is no multiplayer at all in Valkyria Chronicles 4 which is a significant missed opportunity. Heck, Valkyria Chronicles II even featured a co-op component yet nothing like that is included here.
One aspect that Valkyria Chronicles 4 accomplishes beautifully is its presentational attributes. The visuals may be reminiscent of past games in the series but they're still superbly unique and hold up wonderfully in 2018. The character models, environments, weather effects, comic book text, and anime-inspired scenes all form one memorable and immersive world. On top of this, the inspiring orchestral score, satisfying effects of gunfire and explosions, and talented voice cast complete with rewarding lines of encouragement coming from a radio make the soundscape as captivating as the graphics. It simply looks and sounds amazing.
Strategic war games don't get much more engaging than Valkyria Chronicles 4. Its memorable world, satisfying gameplay, and oodles of content will delight any fan of the genre for dozens of hours.
- + Challenging and engaging classic turn-based strategy battle system
- + Huge campaign and lots of extras
- + Awesome graphics and sound
- - Too similar to the original / doesn't take many risks gameplay-wise
- - Classes are imbalanced
- - No multiplayer at all