Both developed and published by SEGA, and produced by Japanese gaming veterans Ryutaro Nonaka (Nightshade) and Shuntaro Tanaka (R-Type Final) the Valkyria Chronicles series has spawned spin-off titles such as Valkyria Chronicles D and Valkyria Revolution, but Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the fourth direct sequel in the series and is one of this year’s most anticipated strategy RPG games.
Having sold very well for a game of its type (all titles in series) across multiple platforms since the original title in 2008 for Sony PlayStation 3, the Valkyria Chronicles series has become a respected member of the Japanese RPG genre, even winning Game Spy’s Strategy Game of the Year  (Valkyria Chronicles).
Since 2008 there have been two other sequels, Valkyria Chronicles II and Valkyria Chronicles III, both of which performed reasonably well with the latter title claimed to be the weakest by many game review sites such as GameSpot.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 has received very good scores across various gaming websites including GameSpot, IGN and Game Informer citing excellent RPG mechanics, great character design and perfectly balanced difficulty. Negative subjects of the game are few but in some cases highlight the uneven enemy difficulty in combat and a lackluster story.
Here is my impression of Valkyria Chronicles 4 based upon my expectations from the game, my experiences and my honest and unbiased opinion. Please note that this is not a review. Please read on and enjoy the article.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set at the same time as the original Valkyria Chronicles, (fictionalized and Japanese stylized account of WWI and WWII mixed together called “The Second European War”) but resounds around a different story on that timeline, primarily the gutsy adventures of Claude Wallace and his command of “Squad E” of The Federation across a beautiful water-colored world featuring the unique visuals that Valkyria Chronicles is known for.
The CANVAS graphics engine powers the imagination fueled world of Valkyria Chronicles 4, bringing to life the hand-drawn visuals of the game and plays out like an interactive painting worthy of Studio Ghibli (Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke) with just as compelling an adventure to boot.
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Taking the fight to The Imperial Alliance with Operation Northern Cross, Squad E must battle, overcome personal obstacles and understand the balance of success and failure, love and loss in a time of war utilizing the famed BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones) system.
While in BLiTZ you will have to plan your strategy using Command Mode after accepting a mission from Book Mode (a list of currently available operations); plan your attacks accordingly by studying enemy positions however due to the dynamic nature of the game, your efforts may have to change to cater for changes in the tide of war. Deploy troops using Command Points and then engage the enemy once CP has depleted.
Upon satisfactory planning, it is time to put your plan into action by entering Action Mode. Action Mode is the key gameplay element of the game, where you get to engage in some excellently designed turn-based RPG battle that the series is known for.
This is the real-time gameplay of the title. Action Points deplete with each movement so use your AP wisely to move across the map in real-time until you come across an enemy and commence battle via Target Mode.
Take aim using Target Mode and choose an action accordingly; shoot at an enemy, heal an ally, etc. However just as in other RPG games, an un-killed enemy gets to have his turn, so make sure you have the ability to withstand an attack should the enemy counter-attack.
Taking out an enemy is simple in theory, you just check how many hit points are required for a certain part of the body, and take the shot. Going for the head may seem the obvious choice but requires a higher accuracy rate for the shot, so every shot counts until an enemy’s HP is at zero which will incapacitate the enemy unit. Should one of your own units’ HP reach zero this will send the unit in to “Critical Condition”, which if left for three turns will kill your unit.
All is not lost though as making contact with fallen soldiers will restore them from Critical Condition via a medical E-vac (allowing them to return to battle on the next turn), or in some cases, fallen soldiers may be able to use their “Last Stand” ability which will revive them allowing them to perform one of two actions:
- Stand Up; can perform one last action
- Inspire; influence a team-mate unit to carry on
The Last Stand ability has the potential to completely change the tide of a battle and can be instrumental in capturing a Base Camp.
Base camps are essential for ensuring success in a campaign as they allow for the dispatch of soldiers, recuperation of soldiers (by sending back to HQ), and provide an HP recovery bonus to nearby units. That is to say, the further away you are from a Base Camp, the more difficult a campaign can become as it provides an extension of HQ operations.
Headquarters (HQ) provides access to the Training Field.
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Training allows you to level up your soldiers which unlocks new items such as:
- Personal Potentials; the soldier’s personality traits and characteristics.
- Battle Potentials; the soldier’s combat prowess.
- Orders; special commands whilst in combat such as “Aim Boost”.
Making the best use of orders can greatly affect the outcome of a battle as they provide powerful commands. Mastering the use of Orders will make your use of CP very effective, but will also require you to think strategically about when to execute these orders. Orders can also be learned by talking to other soldiers in the Mess Hall.
Potentials are a little more complicated as they reflect the personal nature of a soldier and can change over time and while Battle Potentials are always positive such as increasing the proficiency in of a weapon, Personal Potentials can be positive or negative such as having a decreasing effect on a soldier’s accuracy. This mechanic is similar to X-Com: Enemy Unknown, whereby soldiers can become battle-hardened and less likely to mess up a shot or panic during battle. Some potentials are unique to a unit’s class.
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As with any strategy RPG, classes are a big part of Valkyria Chronicles 4 as they provide strategic play that needs to be thought about and different play styles depending on your self. Classes also provide a way out of situations when used properly and can aid greatly in the direst of situations.
There are six classes to utilize on the battlefield:
- Grenadier; specializes in explosive weaponry.
- Scout; highly mobile and quick-moving recon soldiers.
- Shocktrooper; CQC and automatic weaponry trained infantry.
- Engineer; repair and re-supply ready heroes of the battlefield.
- Lancer; armor-piercing lance trained heavies, able to take out tanks.
- Sniper; stealthy soldiers trained in very long-range weaponry.
Using each of these in their respectively trained methods is greatly beneficial, such as using snipers to take out the toughest enemies from afar or calling in an engineer to repair a vehicle.
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Vehicles are a new addition to the Valkyria Chronicles series with this installment and are an extremely powerful tool on the battlefield; some can venture out where units cannot and some can be set up like a mobile command center.
- Tanks; powerful blasting machines able to withstand traditional gunfire.
- APCs; can be susceptible to gunfire but can transport groups of soldiers through dangerous areas.
Using these powerful machines effectively can mean the difference between glorious domination or certain death. Using a tank as a shield for units while you move past groups of enemy soldiers ready for an ambush, for example, is one effective use of these machines, or you could use the APC’s mounted machine guns to intercept enemy soldiers while preparing a tank to get in range for firing a mortar.
Improved tank parts, new munitions and ship parts can also be attained by providing funding and setting research via the R&D lab.
Gameranx has an excellent guide on making the most of your war machine assets which you can read here. Warning: May contain spoilers!
A Refreshed Return to an Original Classic
A return to the original story and the classic gameplay system and style of the original Valkyria Chronicles paradoxically blasts a renewed breath of life into the series.
All the expected Valkyria elements are there such as the strategizing system that the series is loved for and the game deliberately stays away from key elements which served to almost ruin the series such as the action RPG element of Valkyria Revolution. That is Valkyria Chronicles 4 has gone back to the original formula and improved it:
- Turn-based tactical planning.
- Real-time movement.
- Real-time fighting.
This blend of gameplay mechanics is a formula worthy of Coca Cola and re-ignites the flames of passion for the game after SEGA almost ruined the series, “New Coke” style.
Not just a run of the mill strategy game, Valkyria Chronicles 4 has a unique sense of style thanks to the CANVAS graphics engine which is unlike anything seen before; it brings the beauty of a European-esque world to life in true Japanese style.
Genuinely interesting characters litter the game and reward you for getting to know them. The story, if a little if cliche and foreseeable still manages to hold your attention as the difficulty arc is perfectly balanced meaning it will actually take you a few hours to grasp the core concepts of the game to a level where you are comfortable in battle.
This is one strategy RPG game that isn’t just for fans of the genre, it is accessible enough for both experts and beginners alike and appeals to all gamers, of all ages.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is available now across multiple platforms; Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch Windows PC.
- Valkyria Chronicles. Wikipedia. Retrieved 05/10/2018.
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Many thought that his youth (and adulthood) playing video games was a waste of time but here he is writing about them for a living.
Michael has a background in IT and enjoys (apart from video games) building and repairing PC’s, digital artwork (Photoshop, 3DS Max) and has interests in too many subjects to mention.