Review: Valkyria Chronicles

Josh Tolentino | 1 Dec 2008 21:05
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Individual soldiers also have their own potentials and relationships, distinct traits which affect their performance in certain situations. A sniper with a pollen allergy might find her accuracy diminished when operating in rural areas, while a stormtrooper with a maternal bent might work best when standing beside her friends.

Between battles, you can research and upgrade equipment and class abilities using acquired experience points. As every unit in a given class levels up simultaneously, there's no chance of the "level-lag" common in other tactical RPGs, encouraging the player to use your many soldiers according to who is most appropriate in a given situation.

There are a few nagging issues with Valkyria Chronicles. It's a little strict regarding what exactly constitutes cover. Why are sand bags cover, but not a thick tree or a nearby rock? The game also sticks a bit too closely to some of its rock-paper-scissors relationships. A rocket that destroys a tank in one shot might do very little damage to an infantryman in spite of a direct hit.

The real-time crossfire can also lead to problems, especially when beginning a unit's turn out of cover. A unit at low health might be hit by a lucky shot within seconds of being activated, resulting in a K.O. and wasted command points. It's realistic and encourages careful behavior and tactics ("stop-and-pop" vs. "run-and-gun"), but will inevitably result in some damage that could otherwise be avoided. Speaking of which, why does the game's structure encourage methodical, cautious play, but reward speed the most in post-mission grading - "blitzing with BLiTZ," if you will?

To borrow a phrase, the fundamentals of Valkyria Chronicles are strong in spite of its small flaws, and the game manages to convey a feeling of excitement and novelty, quite the achievement in a subgenre mired in the mechanical limbo between Final Fantasy Tactics and X-COM.

Bottom line: Valkyria Chronicles is one of the best tactical RPGs to date.

Recommendation: Hurry up and buy it. It's a great game and a PS3 exclusive to be proud of. Any hatred you have for anime will be offset by your troops' bizarre personality traits and the fact that your loli stepsister is the one driving your battle tank.

Josh Tolentino is delighted to note that Valkyria Chronicles' Executive Producer worked on his beloved Sakura Taisen series, and that those games also feature adorable acronyms for their mechanics.

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