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Valkyria Chronicles 4 Review

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1576576491_ValkyriaChronicles4boxart.png.8f750bb857f20e95c54c4ff220bd5dc0.pngIt hasn't been easy being a Valkyria Chronicles fan. The first game released in 2008 on the PS3, but then the sequel jumped to PSP exclusivity. Even worse, VCIII was PSP only and was never officially released outside of Japan. That kind of tumultuous history normally wouldn't be a good sign for the future of a franchise, but thankfully Valkyria Chronicles 4 released worldwide this year, and on all major platforms at that. Just like the previous games VC4 features addictive tactical gameplay, beautiful sketchbook-style graphics, and a wealth of different challenges to face. Strategy fans take note: the franchise's formula is just as engaging now as it was ten years ago.
Like the previous games, VC4 takes place in a world loosely based on reality during the Second Europan War (clearly based on WWII) between the Atlantic Federation in the west and the Imperial Alliance in the east. VC4 follows Squad E, soldiers chosen to spearhead a dangerous mission to push through enemy lines and attack their capital. Although there are plenty of likeable and entertaining characters (even if they're a bit tropey), the story really doesn't pick up until after the first third or so of the game. After that point things get to be a little more serious and engaging, and the game even flirts with some interesting thoughts regarding both warfare and sacrifice. Some of the characters' interactions are still a bit melodramatic, but even so it's easy to get invested in their journey. But one of the highlights of the writing is the Squad Stories missions—side missions that each focus on three different characters in Squad E, aside from the main protagonists. It's nice to see some other characters get a little time in the spotlight, all of whom have their own unique backstories, and oftentimes Squad Stories offer up the best comedic moments of the game as well.
The Valkyria Chronicles games feature a unique blend of tactical gameplay and third-person shooting action. You begin a level by looking at the map and selecting a character to move—pretty standard stuff for a strategy game. However, at this point the view switches to a third-person view of that character and you're able to move freely about the map, limited by how many Action Points (AP) that character has (each class of soldier has a different max AP). Not only do you move like this but you shoot as well, so you have to have decent aim to play effectively. Don't worry though, it isn't as frantic as a typical shooter; while aiming, all enemy actions are paused so you can take your time lining up a shot. There are also plenty of opportunities to flank or fire from a distance so you don't have to get up close and personal, such as by using the new class of units, grenadiers.
Another unique aspect of VC games is that you can move a single unit multiple times on your turn. However, each time you move them they'll have less AP to work with, and some units have limited ammo as well. Being able to move a single unit multiple times opens up a ton of strategy potential though and really allows you to adapt to the challenges in front of you or rely on certain favored tactics. There are also plenty of different characters to use, each with unique personal traits, including some that are helpful and some that are harmful. For the most part they're well balanced though, so it's easy to use whoever you like (and using lots of different characters helps unlock Squad Stories, so it's worth doing). The best part is that you don't have to level up individual characters. Instead you train all units of a specific class at once, so, for example, upgrading the sniper class boosts all of your snipers. This is a great way to let you experiment with characters and not feel tied to specific units like other strategy games.
I may be throwing a lot of information at you here but it hardly takes any time at all to get used to this gameplay formula, and soon enough it proves incredibly engaging. It really blends the best of both worlds: the thoughtful tactics of a strategy game with the excitement of controlling the aim yourself. VC4 also finds a pretty accommodating balance of difficulty. Sure the game is going to punish you if you make mistakes (like leaving vulnerable units exposed) but there are helpful ways to bounce back, such as calling in reinforcements or even rescuing downed characters so they can return to battle. Possibly best of all is just the fact that the game allows you to save mid-level, so if you're ever unsure of a risky maneuver you can just save in advance (we've all done it while playing a strategy game).
Plus, if you do want a bit more of a challenge, there are aspects of each battle that aren't necessarily side quests but are challenges you can impose on yourself, like taking out all enemy troops before capturing the enemy base. The game's ranking system is only based on the number of turns you take to complete a map—which is a bit strange since it means, in some instances, you can just rush the enemy base while ignoring a large portion of the enemy units—but taking the time to defeat all enemy commanders, ace units, tanks, etc. is a good way to push yourself.
There is one aspect where the game's difficulty really doesn't feel as well balanced though, and that's any time you're fighting a boss enemy. Too often these battles are just overwhelming unless you use specific strategies, which feels antithetical to a strategy game. It's understandable that bosses would pose more a challenge, but it doesn't feel very rewarding or particularly well-balanced in VC4.
Another mildly disappointing aspect of the game is the pacing, though that's not entirely unexpected when playing a strategy game like this, where one map can last over an hour. What's a little odd in VC4 though is the way that the cutscenes between missions are so broken up into little pieces so you have to click through each one constantly. Given how long these cutscenes can last though, maybe it's for the best.
Just completing the main story will last a good amount of time, at least thirty to forty hours, and thanks to the RPG mechanics of leveling up units by class and buying new equipment it's worth taking the time to play some of the side content as well. In addition to the aforementioned Squad Stories there are skirmishes which are great when you just want to jump right into a battle. You can also replay missions if you want to try to perfect your rank or just try different tactics. On top of all of that there are paid DLC missions you can buy. Suffice it to say VC4 will keep you well occupied.
The returning art style of the original VC game, a blend of sketchbook visuals in a 3D setting, remains a beautifully unique look that adds a colorful flair to a game that is actually about warfare. The setting doesn't really allow for much fancy detail in the environments—battlefields tend to all look alike—but the distinctive art style makes up for it and creates a truly visually interesting game. The soundtrack is somewhat less unique but still features some solid tracks that make for decent background noise while fighting a war. And finally the voice work is well done—particularly helpful for keeping the long stretches of cutscenes lively—but if you're a Japanese voice acting purist you can download the original voice work for free off of the eShop.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is just about everything fans of the franchise could hope for: a wealth of engaging, strategy-based gameplay with enough new content to keep every battle exciting. Aside from the unfortunate difficulty spikes around boss battles the gameplay in VC4 is wonderfully rich with possibilities, possibilities that let you adapt on the fly and move with the flow of battle. And despite that 4 in the title this isn't just a game for longtime fans. Any player could easily jump right into the action here and find an incredibly addictive treasure trove of tactical action.
Rating: 9 out of 10 Soldiers

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I can agree most of the bosses are kinda bullshit. I cheesed nearly every one of them, thx smoke rounds (or just using Hafen over and over for tank dude).


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21 hours ago, Arvis said:

I can agree most of the bosses are kinda bullshit. I cheesed nearly every one of them, thx smoke rounds (or just using Hafen over and over for tank dude).



I didn't learn how effective smoke rounds could be until my second or third encounter with those twins, but yeah it's a game changer when fighting those two. That and I sometimes just got super lucky that they would run around in front of the Hafen a lot, eating up interception damage.

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