Steam got me good this year!
Two games on my radar went on sale for the Steam Winter Sale! Valkyria Chronicles 4 (50% off) and Dragon Quest XI (40% off). I basically had no choice but to fork the money over for these two. At the moment I’ve only spent time on Valkyria Chronicles 4 (which I will be calling VC4 from now on), so that’s what I’ll be writing about here.
I’m not sure how far I am into the game, but I’d imagine I am probably only around 10-20% through the game. I’ve played enough missions and experienced enough that I wanted to get my thoughts out there sooner than later, because the game is currently 50% off on Steam!
Going to get right into it!
It’s been a while since I had watched the Valkyria Chronicles anime, but I believe that VC4 takes place in the same universe. There is a (good) Federation and a (evil) Empire (where have I seen this premise before…), and there are also people with no homeland called Darcsen who I guess live wherever. So I imagine it’s the same universe because I remember these things from the anime.
The world map is essentially Europe, but the factions aren’t quite the same. The Empire is situated in what would be Eastern Europe, but the Imperial troops give off that early 1900’s Imperial German look. The Federation (in what would be Western Europe) seems more stylized after 1900’s English troops, with a more ragtag and individualistic look to the characters. Funny how it always seems to work out this way, it was just like this in Legend of the Galactic Heroes too – and I can think of many other stories that are like this.
Anyways here is the very brief synopsis:
We follow and play as E Company in the Federation Army, a Ranger Corps group of elite soldiers. The Empire has been successful in invading a third of the Federation territories, and so the Federation comes up with a risky plan to strike back at the Empire in an attempt to end the war.
That’s pretty much it for how the game starts out.
From what I understand, the visual style is heavily derived from the theme of the game being told from the perspective of a chronicle of what happened (hence the title Valkyria Chronicles). Scenes and missions are selected through a journal, that fills out as you progress.
As a result, the visual style was designed to appear as if we are watching historical events through the chronicle. The borders in scenes and battles are faded to make it appear like we are watching everything through the chronicle. Sepia tone is also applied to the visuals to give it a more “old-timey” look. Very unique, and very cool.
The game, like many other anime / JRPG type games, uses a combination of storytelling, character development, and gameplay to create a visceral experience that makes the story engaging and very enjoyable.
There are three methods used by the game to show us what is happening and expand on the story / characters.
First is cutscenes. These are essentially clips of video that play out, showing high quality footage. From what I have seen, cutscenes are used to show us exciting moments of action. Characters under fire, tanks firing on enemies, explosions, etc.. Moments that text or still frames wouldn’t be able to capture as effectively.
Second there are what I’ll call “half cutscenes”. These are scenes with animated characters in the background, but they display text boxes so you can advance at your own pace. You still get a big picture of what is happening and some movement, but have complete control over advancement of the scene.
Thirdly there are text scenes, with “talking heads”. Dialogue between characters is shown through textboxes, but we can still see their animated faces throughout the scene so their visual reactions can be seen. Majority of the scenes are done using this method, which is only natural because there are a lot of scenes to go through in the VC4 story. It’s very effective though, and better done than many other games I have played so these scenes are still enjoyable.
From what I’ve experienced so far, everything is voiced. Every single scene. Very good to see, because voice acting really elevates the quality of scenes for me.
Aside from advancing through scenes to continue the story, there are other aspects of gameplay to VC4: preparing for missions, and the missions themselves.
Here we have preparing for missions. It’s sort of the macro portion of the game, where you can spend resources and tinker with your setup for missions.
Early on in the game you unlock “headquarters”, where you have access to several features.
There’s training, where you can spend EXP earned from missions to level up different classes of infantry (Scout, Shocktrooper, Sniper, etc…). I’ve been keeping my scouts at a higher level than everyone else, because they are just so useful. I feel like giving them an edge is worthwhile. To contrast, engineers and lancers are situational, so I’ve been giving them less experience as a result.
And there’s R&D where you can spend money earned from missions to unlock new weapons and upgrade vehicles. My one issue with this feature would just be that (so far) it feels like you earn way too much money, or that upgrades are too cheap. I’ve been able to purchase every upgrade without any issues – I would kind of prefer upgrades to be something that I had to think more about: which upgrades do I want right away, and should I go back and replay missions to earn more money? Hopefully they get more expensive as the game goes on.
You can also change up your active roster, view all of your soldier’s traits and see their individual character preferences. The game tries to reward planning by giving you a variety of soldiers to choose from. The soliders have preferences, and if you use soliders that like each other on missions they are more likely to conduct joint attacks or (I believe) receive positive bonuses. You can also change their equipped gear, because the game gives you multiple weapons to choose from with different stats.
The missions themselves are very fun. This is the gameplay that the Valkyria Chronicles series is known for. Tactical, turn based ranged warfare. Positioning of units to take advantage of terrain, joint attacks, surprise attacks, and more. Here are a few screencaps of a mission map that can give you an idea of what missions can look like from a unit / positioning standpoint:
You can tackle missions in a variety of ways. Charge head-on, snipe enemies, rely on artillery, advance using tank(s) as cover, sneak around… the maps are designed so you can play each mission to suit your style. At first I thought I would be using snipers a lot, because they are so useful at taking out targets from a safe range – but I found myself instead relying heavily on scouts and their massive movement range to rush in and do as much damage as possible in a short period of time. Scouts aren’t as durable or deadly as shocktroopers, but movement is so strong in this game that they are very useful.
I’m not going to dive into the specific mechanics of gameplay, but here is an overview of how it works. You get command points each turn, that you spend on units. Each point lets you control a unit that can move a certain distance, and attack. If an enemy has vision of you when you are moving, they will shoot at you, but if you are stopped, they will stop firing so you can take your time and line up a good shot. Some enemy units don’t stop firing though, so you just have to stay out of their range and find another way to sneak around or destroy them.
You get ranked on missions based on how fast you can complete them, and higher ranks can net you rewards such as unique items and equipment for your soldiers. Gives an incentive to replay missions – although I would also like to see the option to drastically increase mission difficulty for increased rewards as well. Maybe this feature will exist later on in the game though.
I’ve never played a Valkyria Chronicles game before this one, but I’ve always been interested. I was very happy to see this game on sale 50% off, and it’s been a fun game to pick up and play. The story so far is very good, exactly as you would expect from an anime game / JRPG. Gameplay is also great fun – I love how games like this do such a great job of integrating storytelling and gameplay to create an overall very fun experience.
Anyone who is interested, I would definitely recommend checking out Valkyria Chronicles 4 – especially because it’s currently 50% off until Jan 3!
You can’t go wrong with 50% off a great game like this (and no this isn’t an advertisement, more like a PSA! 🙂 ).
If you are interested in joining many amazing bloggers and myself in a WordPress Aniblogger Collaboration, check out this post! It’s a collab idea I’ve had for a while that allows everyone to collaborate while still posting from their own blogs. Likely starting date will be Jan 7, 2019, so check it out and see if you are interested!
Until next time!
Thanks for reading.