Games I Played 2012: Episode 15- Valkyria Chronicles

Wow blog fifteen! Getting pretty close to the present at this point. Gotta get these written before the year is done and it is coming up fast!! My November game was the acclaimed Valkyria Chronicles. But just to recap I am writing these blogs in order to be a part of the game of the year fun. Because of my modest student budget I can’t play the standard ten 2012 games in this year (also just as a sanity thing I wouldn’t buy ten games full price, that seems insane) instead I pick up cheaper games that I still wanna talk about. So that is what I’ve been doing with these. Fifteen games so far (I honestly can’t believe I’ve played that many sounds nuts) and I went and picked up Valkyria Chronicles.

A little while ago I think it was around a year and a half ago I made the decision I wanted to play one of the underexposed pre-trophy PS3 exclusives. I got decided to choose between Folklore and Valkyria Chronicles and I chose the former (which I really liked and was the only game that I enjoyed using the sixaxis controls) and Valkyria moved to the back of the line. Then just recently I got into the whole XCOM hype that was going around the site (which I hope someone will get me for Christmas) and lamented the fact that I don’t play enough strategy games and remembered Valkyria. It also helped that at this point the game is dirt cheap and I got it for twenty bones. I knew that XCOM was waaaaay different from Valkyria I just wanted to scratch my itch for strategy.

My main interaction with strategy games have been the Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series. I’m not a diehard fan of either, however, I do pretty much play Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones and Fire Emblem for the GBA (one with Eliwood in it) because I fucking love those games. I believe I’ve heard those two games are a travesty to the big fans of Fire Emblem (if you believe this please “enlighten” me cause those games were awesome in my opinion) and I liked a lot of the ideas and characters in those games. So while I started my adventure with Valkyria by wanting to play XCOM I was really expecting more of a mix of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. Based on the quick look I saw the actual battle segments (where you maneuver your dude etc.) were really different from those series but I expected the strategy stuff with characters and soldier types and that stuff would be similar and I would love Valkyria. In fact based on popular sentiment from forums and other sources I expected a lot of cool shit from this game. People would praise this game for its story and just as an overall great experience. This is going to be a largely dissenting opinion but I thought the game was sort of meh. My main belief would be that the positive opinions of this game caused me to heighten my expectations and I was disappointed as a result.

Yeah See These Dudes Pretty Much Red Shirts
Yeah See These Dudes Pretty Much Red Shirts

Alright so to start out people said the story and characters were a highlight of the game. My perhaps biggest issue with this game was the lack of characterization in the side characters. In a similar way to Fire Emblem your characters (except for story characters) can be killed and perma death is a constant threat. In Fire Emblem this made me more connected to my characters and I felt awful when they died and I decided to move on for the greater good. In Fire Emblem the rest of your crew have stories, motivations and specialties. For example in Fire Emblem there was a character name Dorcas who is an axe wielding brute who you face and recruit because he has hired himself out as a mercenary to earn money to help out his sick wife. In one of my first play throughs of this game Dorcas died and he was all “I’m so sorry wife!!!!” and I felt like shit even though he was this small picture and text based dude. In Valkyria Chronicles I was like yeah! Characters like that, with voices and more complex stories. You get to recruit like thirty dudes into your squad made up of certain classes. Whereas in Fire Emblem you can get warriors, or monks or archers or knights and many other classes Valkyria Chronicles presents you with only about five. People are designated as scouts, troopers, lancers, engineers or snipers. Also the don’t significantly improve other than on a stats level and later on one class (the troopers) getting to use a flamethrower. In Fire Emblem you get an evolution of everyone’s class if you reach level ten and use a rare item. But alright I could get over these more limited options. What I could not get over was that the crew outside of the four or five main dudes were goddamn nonexistent. They were just unique looking dudes with about 5 lines of dialogue and motivations that you pretty much had to look up on your own. There was no mention of them in interactions in the story, or any talking between characters. They were useless. Pretty much dudes to just throw at the enemy with the only important thing being their class traits. When I recruited Jann the gay lancer and Coby the old trooper I was like cool what are these guys all about? Turns out nothing, they die and you don’t care because they are robots.

Wow that was a big paragraph. Another thing that I didn’t personally like and is more justifiable in a design sense was the class leveling over individual leveling. When you gain exp in Valkyria you use it to level an entire class rather than making one sniper a beast everyone goes to level 2 at the same time. I understand why some people would like this as you don’t make your entire squad weaker if someone dies. However, this played into my love for the individuals in the Fire Emblem games. If I could have made Coby my beast trooper I would have cared more if he died and there would be more consequence to death. Instead when Jann died I just replaced him with the next lancer in my roster no biggie. This seems to be one of the majorly cool things about XCOM as it is a game where the squad members are not really developed like in Valkyria but they level individually so people go nuts when their maxed out dude gets killed. In that game people end up getting attached to these dudes even though they are not developed but the death in Valkyria had no consequence at all and the people don’t matter.

Oh Wow A Well Developed Villian..Or Just Another Evil Conquerer..Alright
Oh Wow A Well Developed Villian..Or Just Another Evil Conquerer..Alright

Ok I’ll talk about the gameplay itself which I did enjoy but was generally overshadowed by my disappointments with the rest of the game. I enjoyed flanking dudes and the typical trooper>scout and lancer>tank style that is typical in strategy game (or the one I’m more used to being sword>axes>lances>swords). I was overjoyed when a lancer would hit a dude who was about to kill one of my other dudes. Or enjoyed when I could get my sniper up to a crow’s nest and begin to wipe out the map. All of that stuff was fun. One issue I had which I’m sorry I have to compare to my previous strategy games of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem (I know I shouldn’t compare everything but shit happens) is that there is no accuracy percentage. Occasionally I would take shots that would look ok and go nowhere near so it would have been a nice addition so I could have maneuvered my soldiers more accurately. Taking down tanks were also kind of silly because they had the typical “shoot the glowing blue exterior engine to explode” feature which I thought was rather unnecessary. Lancers should have had to just shoot the damn thing 3 times to destroy it or something and stayed away from that sort of silliness. One other weird thing I liked was the hidden grass stuff which was pretty great and surprised the shit out of me the first time I encountered it. It was a nice touch that you could hide in grass and be camouflaged from the enemy (although it was also silly when you ran up on a person in grass your hit was still low but whatever).

I guess I’ll talk about the story itself which I was expecting to be more original than it was. A small country in the middle of two big warring territories is invaded and a ragtag group of soldiers bands together to defend their homeland. As the story goes on Valkyria’s are introduced as these near-mythic beings who possess great power and can fuck shit up. Conveniently for the evil empire invading they have recruited a Valkyria who is obsessed with the evil prince. They gather the magic spear and shield of the Valkyria and begin decimating your home, Gallia. The set up is typical but fine and I liked the race stuff they put in with Welkin’s sister and her people being opposed to the Valkyria. I was expecting a lot of good personal story moments between Welkin and the squad and was rather let down. Alicia and Welkin’s relationship to me at least seemed to go from 0 to 60 in no time. One minute they are meeting and exchanging battle plans and then they are married in typical idyllic ending. I didn’t find there to be a significant development of this romance and it was just sort of yeah you know these people are gonna be together, here ya go. The best (and most ambitious) moment in the story is SPOILER!!!!!!!!!! Welkin’s sisters assassination. That was a good heartfelt moment that I was expecting to be prevalent throughout the game…but this was it. Pretty much Welkin’s younger sibling was the only significantly interesting story moment in the game really. Other than that it was the typical small guy fighting back against the evil empire, young chick + young dude=”Welcome to Alicia’s!” (or love more accurately) and you know good>evil. Oh wait one more slightly interesting character was the Valkyria herself who was engaging in her obsession with the prince and her betrayal etc. However she doesn’t get a lot of screen time and is not a major factor as a result.

Trophy section!! Oh wait this game has no trophies…shit. As a trophy hunter the fact that the game was without trophies was disappointing and in a way I’m sort of glad it didn’t have them this time. It allowed me to view the game with no distractions in mind and see it fully.

So yeah here is my opposing of popular sentiment this year (I mean not popular per se but widespread opinion) I just found the game to be really lacking in story, characters and have found in my opinion better gameplay in other strategy games. I’m not entirely sure why people are so vocal about this game, I imagine they will tell me if there are comments to this blog. I think it must have been the fact that there were no other games quite like this on the PS3. And I mean it is a pretty game but there was a lot of positive opinion about this game narrative wise that got me excited and subsequently disappointed.

Alright duders thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far, next up I finally get around to playing Fallout: New Vegas and what I played in December. Exciting!!

See ya.