After several years, the beloved Valkyria Chronicles series has received a spin off in the form of Valkyria Revolution. I don’t know enough about the Valkyria Chronicles series to tell you if there are any solid ties or anything, but I can say the story of Revolution is told by a storyteller to a historian that is interested in the shadowy past of Jutland. In the beginning, this works well enough but quickly becomes an obnoxious and redundant side story that does little beyond taking the player out of whatever they were doing beforehand. Or at least it would… If there were much to distract from.
Before I dig into the actual gameplay, let me explain something about Valkyria Revolution. There are an awful lot of cutscenes and loading screens. Now I can understand there being an overabundance of cutscenes in a Japanese game, but having these cutscenes come one after another while hardly adding anything to the story of the game is just obnoxious. Combine this with loading screens that interrupt everything from combat to walking around town and even cutscenes. Players can expect to watch a cutscene, then watch a loading screen only to end up watching another cutscene right after. Although for me, that isn’t even the worst part: These cutscenes and loading screens even constantly break up the combat of the game with unbelievable amounts of dialog.
These instances are far too common, add nothing to the current situation, and destroy any sense of flow the combat could have had if the combat were exciting in the first place. Let me put it this way: There are games with simple combat, and then there’s Valkyria Revolution. I’m not even sure whether to say it’s too simple or too complicated. On one hand, each time you attack, it uses the same combo that can’t be altered or stopped. On the other, any combatant, foe or otherwise, can experience emotions that change how they fight. Back on the first hand, spells, group commands, and secondary weapons can be used from a wheel that stops time until you pick an option, making them easy to use. While on the second hand again, there are many different classes and each one is wholly separate from all the others.
On top of all of this, the levels are usually fairly empty and when there are a bunch of enemies, they usually die in one hit making them far less satisfying to fight. Combine this with bosses that are either damage sponges that can easily wipe out the weaker teammates in seconds or gigantic and impressive looking while being extremely simple to defeat due to being fought with a pattern. Mix in an action bar that means there are lots of times where players will find themselves just walking around, a meter that determines how fast it fills, and a bunch of ‘different’ spells that really boil down to a few types of spells with different elements (which of course affect different enemies differently). What do you get with all of this? A convoluted mess that doesn’t change the fact that the core combat isn’t fun. I want to mention some saving grace or unveil a mechanic that makes it all worth it, but I can’t because I simply couldn’t find any. In fact, one of the only things I did enjoy about the game was it’s impeccable art.
Valkyria Revolution looks great all the time, which is a shame because a lot of this is gone to waste when silly things that could have been avoided happen all the same. One example is how nearly every character is some sort of stereotype that is cranked up to 11. We’ve got the broody loner badass that has a heart of gold, despite his rough exterior and stylish hair. Making an appearance is the overly serious type that never, ever shows any hint of emotion (unless a cute boy is near). Finally, there’s the ever loved overly flamboyant character with so much style, class, and humility (maybe scratch that last one). These are just a few of the characters, yet all of them feel as flat and overused as these examples. A huge part of why I couldn’t get attached to any one of the characters is simply due to how many there are. I’m all for having a large cast and crafting a deep story if you can do it without making it cumbersome. This goes double for characters that are meant to be likable, but instead end up as husks with tons of useless details.
I think that may be what I took away the most from this game. I simply couldn’t enjoy the story or how deep it was trying to be. Without any set up, I’m supposed to care about Jutland and how five Traitors changed it forever. Then, I’m subjected to literally hours of cutscenes that do little to further the plot or characters. When I do get to play, it feels hollow and without reason, since I know everything is going to be be wrapped up or explained in yet another cutscene in five or ten minutes. How am I supposed to care about this rich, politically charged story when it goes at a snail's pace and hardly allows me to interact with it? Maybe I’m missing something or I can’t appreciate some finer details because I’m not as used to Japanese titles as some. But I don’t think any game should have a barrier of entry that includes enjoying boring gameplay and boring characters. I wanted to like this game so much, I looked and looked for something I could latch onto and really sink my teeth into, but I simply couldn’t find anything I truly enjoyed. While this review may sound rather harsh, I won’t be rating it too low because I have to admit I didn’t notice any technical issues, and a lot of my problems could be fixed with some simple retooling. I believe this game could be salvaged if enough time was put into it.
Valkyria Revolution (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
This is a spin off that simply shouldn't be. It tries to take on too many ideas without forming an interesting and engaging core. With boring characters and a story that requires more cutscenes than gameplay, this game really exemplifies why "Show, don't tell" is still true.