Valkyria Chronicles 4 had me hooked from the demo, so I was very excited to see what the full game had in store. It may seem a little odd at first, but it’s a beautifully-crafted and enchantingly unique take on tactical strategy.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 manages to perfectly mesh turn-based strategy with real-time action in a crazy and addictive way which requires you to be both quick to think and quick to move. A variety of mission objectives and failure criteria changes the pace and the feel of each operation. Whether you’re racing against the clock or slowly inching your way through and revelling in the ensuing destruction, it’s exciting and extremely satisfying, which is really all you could ask for from a strategy game.
A beautifully-crafted and enchantingly unique take on tactical strategy.
While a lot of the core parts are the same as in the first Valkyria Chronicles, Valkyria Chronicles 4 goes above and beyond in refining and embellishing every aspect of its gameplay and storytelling. This is particularly clear in the new additions to the gameplay, such as the introduction of the extremely useful Grenadier class.
Grenadiers are ridiculously fun to use. Armed with mortars that fire powerful shells, Grenadiers mix the range of a Sniper with the power of a tank. The drawbacks being they can move about as fast and as far as you’d expect someone carrying a big ol’ mortar to be able to move, and they’re vulnerable to the enemy while they set up their equipment.
Grenadiers are ridiculously fun to use.
Once they’re in place though, they can merrily rain down explosives with devastating results against all but the strongest of enemy troops. One shell to the face of a particularly stubborn enemy and you’ll wonder how playing without Grenadiers was ever a thing.
Another new addition to Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the Ship Orders command. With support from the massive Centurion, you can check for enemies using radar and even bombard particular locations. Combined with the lengthy list of Orders providing stat boosts and timely evacuations among other things, Claude really stands out as a useful commanding unit rather than just a part of his tank.
Outside of the adrenaline-filled combat, you can develop your soldiers, equipment, and skills and dip into the extensive history of Europa at the Headquarters. This is the central hub you can access between battles, and is comprised of different locations where you can spend all your hard-earned DCT and EXP. The Mess Hall is a new feature that lets you interact with characters and learn new Orders.
These cost a hefty amount of EXP, but they’re pretty useful skills to have for if you get into a bind. The Training Field, Squad Set-up, and R&D all return, alongside Private Quarters where you can brush up on the game’s terminology, learn about your squadmates, and admire all your shiny medals.
Both the Training Grounds and R&D allow for quick and easy ways to bolster your team and equipment. You decide what you want to spend your DCT and EXP. If you find one class falling behind, you can boost all units of that class at once. The Training Field even tells you when a class is due to learn a new potential or unlock a new order, so you can prioritise what’s most cost-effective if you don’t have enough EXP to level up everyone at once.
Similarly, equipment is automatically distributed to all applicable units when you upgrade it, so you don’t have to worry about how many decent sniper rifles you have or remembering to update the equipment of a unit you haven’t used in a while. If other games made levelling up and sorting equipment as enjoyably simplistic as Valkyria Chronicles 4 does, I wouldn’t find the reams of weapons and skills in JRPGs so daunting.
There’s an extra benefit to this way of doing things in that all your units are as strong as the others of their kind, so you don’t have to worry about bringing in seriously under-levelled units should you switch-up the team members. This is particularly useful for a game with a permadeath mechanic. It’s maybe even a little too forgiving!
You start with far more units than you can physically deploy at your disposal, and the game continues to introduce new recruits as you play, keeping your unit types topped up and the sea of faces changing and varied. It’s actually quite exciting to see them when you get new characters, and each and every one has a bio where you can learn more about them in the Headquarters’ Personnel section.
The characters have a lot of depth and personality, right down to it affecting their stats in personalised ways. These Personal Potentials list a few of a character’s most prevalent traits, be they positive or negative, which will activate in specific circumstances and temporarily alter their stats. As well as these and class-based Battle Potentials, characters have up to 3 other units who they like, and being positioned close to each other in battles will also award them stat boosts.
Even the secondary characters get plenty of development and time to shine, which is a real feat when there are so many and most of them could die at a moment’s notice. I have a lot to say about how nicely Valkyria Chronicles 4 handles its large cast, so I won’t go into full detail on that here!
For all the polish and refinement of the gameplay though, the story is one of the game’s weaker aspects, falling prey to a few too many typical cliches to be entirely enjoyable. Still, the strong cast of characters and the thrilling battle system make it palatable enough in the overall scheme of things.
Even beyond the main story, Valkyria Chronicles 4 has plenty to offer, with bonus Squad Stories to acquaint you with the cast and Skirmishes that let you go over previous battles to help you rack up experience and give you a chance to use more characters to unlock said Squad Stories.
Even beyond the main story, Valkyria Chronicles 4 has plenty to offer.
Both of these types of battles provide useful opportunities to obtain plenty of extra DCT and EXP for training up your team and kitting them out with good equipment. I’m not hugely one for optional battles if it feels like there’s little to gain from them, but I’ll happily continue chipping away at Valkyria Chronicles 4 to see all there is to see – and that’s a lot, especially with exciting DLC on the way!
The game’s pacing when it comes balancing story sections and battles is downright masterful too. You might get operations one after another with only a minute of story interlude between them, or you might get a whole chapter which is predominantly lengthy story scenes showing Squad E hanging out and growing closer.
It’s a simple thing, but this helps balance the tension of the game without stripping back the dialogue too much and without going overboard on the action. You have battles exactly where you expect to have battles, so they don’t feel shoehorned in for the sake of another level, and you have reprieve right as the story calls for it. Hey, let’s check out this town and buy some bread!
While things can get pretty intense, there are still plenty of lighter moments to see the characters interact – including some optional ones – but the chit-chat doesn’t slow down the quick pace of the action and story too much, which is wonderful. Similarly, story scenes are broken down into easily manageable chunks, so you don’t get flooded with a huge amount of information at once and you can go back and rewatch scenes any time you like.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 both looks and sounds stunning.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 both looks and sounds stunning, with a strong, emotive soundtrack and a watercolour-like visual style that works wonderfully with the game’s framing as a journal. Both in and out of battle, the character models are detailed and pleasant to look at, it’s only a shame that the panel-heavy approach to storytelling often masks them in favour of cropped boxes and broad, white borders. They look lovely! Stop hiding them!
It’s one of the game’s few and minor problems, but it’s made somewhat more annoying by the fact that you see the full models in battle and they’re great in action. It’s a little jarring to go from the visually impressive, fast-paced combat to such static cutscenes that use limited and clunky movements. When the game does show off in full, however, it’s a real treat. There seems to be special attention paid to portraying the weather and time of day too, which not only genuinely affect visibility in battle, but also help build atmosphere splendidly.
The game’s soundtrack is distinct enough to make itself felt, especially during tenser scenes, but doesn’t distract from focusing on your strategy. The sound effects of different weapons and occasional chatter over radio in battle are more really effective atmospheric touches.
If one of your units is hit by a shell or steps on a mine, then all the sound following the ensuing explosion is dulled in favour of a piercing ringing noise, as your character stumbles and gets back to their feet. It’s a small touch, sure, but it works wonders for impact and just generally making you want to try and avoid that ever happening again.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 mixes gritty realism with charming fantasy flare to create a blend that’s a little disjointed, but nonetheless intriguing to delve into. It’s easy to be drawn in by the likeable characters and find yourself eagerly awaiting what lies beyond the next battle map.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 provides a solid SRPG fix.
All in all, Valkyria Chronicles 4 provides a solid SRPG fix and has definitely bolstered my interest in the series as a whole. If you’re a fan of strategy or military plotlines and like throwing yourself into games for hours at a time, you should definitely give this one a look!
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