Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4 – A chronicle worth embarking on

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Valkyria Chronicles is a series that re-imagines World War II as a low-key fantasy take where it has been renamed the Second European War. Now, we’re entering into our fourth story within the well-established franchise as we once more take on The Empire to protect our friends and allies from the ever-growing threat.


Pros:
+Some of the best storytelling to date thanks to the character backgrounds and story building
+Classic combat returns after the troubles with Valkyria Revolution
+The watercolor art style still pops and helps the game stand out against the photo-realistic titles on the market
+The addition of winter weather effects makes tactical gameplay even more important during winter missions
+Grenadiers are an absolutely astonishing addition to the already full roster of classes

Cons:
-Difficulty scaling can be slightly problematic for the franchise’s newcomers


Since the release of Valkyria Chronicles ten years ago on the PlayStation 3, the franchise has somehow managed to grow to critical acclaim, a cult following and its unique art style used to bring it to life. Often seen as an artistic masterpiece and a re-imagining of World War II, Valkyria Chronicles remains a unique series that puts people as ordinary as you and I into places we’d never imagine to go, including defending our homes from an invading evil that wants to control everything we know and love.

Four adventures – five if you count the spin-off title Valkyria Revolution – and it seems that the stories are countless with endless possibilities since the franchise came to life. Inside and outside of the Japan-based fandom, fans around the world have come together, pleading for more and hoping that the future installment wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of the troubled Valkyria Revolution.

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Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an absolute step in the right direction

Having spent plenty of time in the vibrant watercolored worlds of Valkyria Chronicles in the past, I didn’t hesitate the moment the opportunity to review this latest entry arose. I couldn’t help but feel my heart skip a beat the moment the introduction once more began. Just like the previous installments, the story is presented to players as a book that has logged the Europan history and brings each event to life through the stories this tome has to tell.

But not ever entry logged is a battle, some may be an important pulse within the stories very heart, bringing it to life through critical moments or lighthearted banter between unlikely heroes that have forged bonds tighter than comradery itself. The watercolor approach is only a backdrop to bring the game to life, one that forgoes the attempts modern games use to bring their titles to life through photo-realism (here’s looking at you Call of Duty and Battlefield) that will only look quite fake in the upcoming years.

Progressing through the story of Claude Wallace, the commander of Squad E of the Federation Army, is an absolute delight and a treat to be had. His storyline isn’t one that trails off to create a new attempt to keep the franchise alive, but rather, it runs parallel with the events of the original series and keeps everything we’ve done and come to know relevant whether you take note of the events or not. Claude and his squad, just like any other squad in the series, play a critical role in turning the tides of war against The Empire in hopes to bring peace to The Federation once again.

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Even war has its costs and it’ll weigh heavy on your heart

Just like previous titles, Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t shy away from the realities of war. They touch on sensitive topics such as love, loss, betrayal and the devastation caused to the world around the unlikely heroes before you. Whether it’s their reactions to recent events or their true-to-being-human responses to the devastation wreaking havoc across the land; it’s hard not to notice the small details behind every single event that reveals itself before you.

To balance out the tragedies before you, SEGA has added layers to every character. Not a single one of them is your anime stereotype as they might seem. Rather, each of them has a deep and meaningful attachment to the overall story.  Claude and his team are tasked with one single goal in mind and that is to enter The Empire Capital and deliver a blow that The Empire will feel for years on end, but getting there, that’s where the real treat is.

Just like other titles, Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t rush for its end. It’s a delicate balance of pacing and keeping players engaged as the story unfolds. It’s a game that balances it out through giving us the realities of war on one hand and continues to deliver the fantasy-like elements from previous entries that we’ve seen once before. It’s a blend not often seen brought to life in modern tactical-RPGs as many only seek to get from point a to point b in a rush.

But things have changed with the Valkyria Chronicles as a whole. Just like its predecessors, Valkyria Chronicles 4 continues to evolve, improve and update the systems we’ve played since the series was established on the PlayStation 3. You’re still given a set number of Command Points that can be used to order your troops around, giving each one orders such as moving, attacking, and even using the equipment they have at their disposal.

Everything your troops and or tanks do is dictated by how many points that are available. Each of these points (CP for short) will determine whether you can attack, whether you can move a unit or if your turn is over. Your actions are simple, you can tap R1 at any time to aim your characters shots and determine whether or not they can do achieve a headshot or even a few body shots to inflict damage upon enemy forces. Even then, you can still use equipment such as grenades to help damage multiple enemies if they are close enough to one another.

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Enter the grenadiers

The only trick to combat is making sure you have your troops in secure and strong defensive positions before ending your turn. You don’t want Claude, Raz, or Kai left out in the open and being gunned down for not having a strong defensive post such as a sandbag, rock, or something of the sort to help keep them out of harm’s way. If they are damaged enough, they’ll end up laying on the battlefield succumbing to their injuries for a few turns until you can get a medic to them.

But this is where the reality of war kicks in. If you don’t get a medic to a troop, they do and they won’t be coming back. This makes it of the utmost importance that those looking to play the game pay attention to the enemy and friendly troop placements. It just brings forth that bit of reality that game needs in order to let us know and feel the importance of how precious life actually is.

There is a reason behind why each class is important how you place your troops becomes even more important. Every class offers different offensive and defensive capabilities, which makes it so you can’t just load up your roster with a group of Shocktroopers or Grenadiers and hope to win. Instead, you have to strategize, you have to have an equitable balance of power within your unit.

Sure, shocktroopers can obliterate entire lines of troops with their machine guns, but the issue is, they can’t travel long distances, which leaves them vulnerable if left out in the open. That’s where classes such as the Sniper, Grenadiers and even Engineers come into play. Every class is an important part of your class-based ecosystem, which allows you to give cover to your shocktrooper that’s been caught with their pants down due to their positioning. The Tanks, the Engineers, and even Snipers can give them the protection they need if they are left open and vulnerable.

But don’t think you’ve had the upper hand this entire time. SEGA was smarter than that and has purposely placed some of these classes, if not all of them, in later missions to give you trouble. Especially the newly added Grenadiers, which are weak in close quarters combat, but excel at long range attacks thanks to their knowledge of explosive weapons. That means you will find yourself sending out troops in caution later on in hopes that you won’t get assaulted by explosives and carefully hidden troops.

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Winter is coming and it’s filled with danger

Additionally, like previous games, maps, missions, and goals vary from mission to mission. Many of the missions themselves are much larger than previous Valkyria Chronicles titles and will see to it that you rank and file your troops based on what you may expect to happen. If you don’t, there is a likely chance your troops will get routed and from there – eliminated if you aren’t careful.

New to the series comes winter missions where you will have to set out, finding yourself often hampered in movement and visibility. Additionally, you may find your troops succumbing to their grievous wounds a bit more quickly due to the damage they had taken in an encounter. The newest addition only adds to the well-structured battles you will become apart of and will forever remember as they play out before you.

The crisp white and grey backgrounds work well with the art style the franchise is known for and only continues to add onto our already great and happy memories.

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The Conclusion

Nothing about the 40-hour-plus story feels stale, not the slightest and it constantly weighs in on you as you explore the tale being told. But when said and done, Valkyria Chronicles 4 isn’t just some game that pumps a bit more juice and meaning into the franchise. It literally has re-defined what we should perceive Valkyria Chronicles as. It’s a game that replaces the horrible experiences we had with Valkyria Revolution and returns to its roots, giving us a place where we can get a taste of familiarity while moving on and constantly seeing a series evolve as it ages.

Valkyria Chronicles 4
Platforms: 
Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Version Reviewed: 
PlayStation 4
Developer:
SEGA
Publisher: 
SEGA
Release Date: 
Available Now
Cost:
 $59.99

With a thoughtful and immersive story, it’s hard not to find why fans and critics alike are already discussing Valkyria Chronicles 4 as one of the best RPGs of this generation. Whether it’s the challenging, yet, rewarding combat scenarios, the relationships, and bonds we build with the cast or the beautiful watercolor art, there’s a lot to appreciate about the series and this very game gives me hope for the Valkyria Chronicles franchise moving forward.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 9.5 out of 10


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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