Valkyria Chronicles 2: review

The first Valkyria Chronicles game was an unheard of, underrated, under-advertised release for the PS3. Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard anything about it as Sega decided instead to focus on the latest Sonic rehash rather than championing what was a decent game that tried different things. Despite Sega’s best efforts to make it fail, Valkyria Chronicles quickly reached cult status and even gave birth to an animé in Japan. This probably still didn’t reflect well in overall sales and may explain why the sequel to this strategic RPG has been released for PSP.

The story of VC2 is set a few years after where VC1 left off. In a fictional world that closely mimics Europe and the events of World War 2, two large countries do battle for resources, while stuck in the middle of them is the small independent country of Gallia. The first game focused on the militia of Gallia pushing out Imperial invaders from one of the countries at war, but this time the focus is on an internal civil war.

The cause for the civil war which has seen Gallia break into two camps leans heavily on a key plot twist from the first game which we won’t mention. Instead, we can only point out that while the game as a whole may reflect WW2 (right down to the persecution of a race for something allegedly done in their past) this time around there may be more similarities to the American Civil War, with trouble brewing first in the South and then moving North.

It may sound like quite a harsh and serious plot and when looking at the bigger picture it is. The game doesn’t shy away from war atrocities, such as the slaughter of innocent people just because of their race; but at the same time it almost manages to ruin everything by straying too far into stereotypical animé cliché.

Gallia, it seems, has no qualms about sending teenagers into war rather than, say, adults or soldiers. You take up the role of Avan Hardins, a student at the Gallian Military Academy searching for the reason his brother died, forced into the role of leader for his class. If you can ignore the cliché school setting, the cliché moody character, bitchy character, gossipy character and every other stereotype you can think of, then the larger story is an interesting and compelling one.

Gameplay is tough to explain due to being quite different. VC2 mixes elements of RTS with RPG and third person action. Once a mission has been selected you are presented with a map of the level which, unlike in VC1, is broken into smaller sections rather than one huge map. On this map your deployed units appear as symbols and upon selecting one of these symbols you are thrown into the 3D real time world and take your turn as that character with time only stopping again when your turn is over or when you take aim. This continues until you have used up all your Command Points and then the enemy takes their turn in similar fashion.

The units deployed in battle are made up of your classmates and have different specialisations. The classes returning from VC1 are Scout, Shocktrooper, Engineer and Lancer (anti-tank) and joining this list is the new melee based Armoured Tech (which also has abilities previously given to the Engineer). There are also advanced and elite specialisations for each class which unlock via earning special commendations through participation in battle.

Throw into the mix Potentials and things continue to get a bit complex. These are passive traits which randomly activate while taking your turn as a character. These can be both positive (increased damage or defence) or negative (lower accuracy or movement range).

Needless to say, trying to describe every facet of the gameplay is difficult and there is a lot to try. What classes you take into battle change the way any given mission could play out, as will your desired strategy. Truth be told, if you abuse the Armoured Tech class you will find the first fifteen hours of this (considerably long) game will be a bit too easy – right up until the point the enemy starts using them against you. As with VC1 there is also a steep difficulty curve for certain plot related battles that may have you pulling your hair out until you find a strategy that works.

The game also features both competitive and co-operative play with each being unlocked after a little progress into the story mode and with more maps becoming available as you carry on.

As well as the stereotypical characters voiced by a largely average cast, the game falters slightly in other areas as well. VC1 was well known for having a look best described as a watercolour painting come to life. This visual style could not be recreated on the PSP, giving stages a far less detailed or stylised look. There is also a limit to the number of maps, so many optional missions will continuously re-use maps you’ve been to a few times before (just at a different time of day or with base camps located in different places). There also isn’t a huge selection of objectives, with most just boiling down to killing all enemies and/or capturing all their base camps in each section of the map.

We began this review by pointing out that VC1 received critical acclaim despite Sega’s best efforts to let it flounder in obscurity. Here, VC2 manages to be a good game in spite of the animé school setting which would most likely scare many people off. If you are looking for a strategic RPG which will eat up a lot of your time and that can be genuinely difficult at times then look no further than Valkyria Chronicles 2. Just don’t get distracted thinking about why it’s Valkyria and not Valkyrie.


8/10

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

Leave a Reply