Valkyria Revolution is a game of halves. It’s half action RPG, half strategy. Half story driven gameplay, half research paper. Half PS4 game, half Vita game. Half Valkyria series game, and half absolutely not a Valkyria series game. With so many halves mixing about it’s no surprise that Valkyria Revolution ends up feeling incomplete. Looking at it fully, what it really has are defining traits that actively work against players’ enjoyment, a unique combat system that seems out of place and almost an afterthought, and a name of a series that can gain fanatical levels of excitement tacked onto it to boost interest.
Valkyria Revolution tells the tale of five traitors and their secret motivations for starting a war between nations. Actually, the game is the story of an elder professor explaining to one of her best students what really caused the traitors to start the conflict. This puts confusion in the narrative from the word GO, since this professor and student have a marginal understanding of the characters and events surrounding the game. The professor also has family ties to the narrative at hand, so players have to consider if she can be a trustworthy source on the matter. The player is often left introduced to characters without any setup of who they are or why we should care about them. The first time any real explanation of the five traitors is brought up is almost two hours after numerous cutscenes have included all five of them, as well as being introduced to the protagonist and his six or so squadmates and the princess and her guard and handmaiden. We are treated to vignettes that help give the squadmates some life, but these are doled out over the course of the game. Even when you get them, almost all of the squadmates fit into pretty common anime stereotypes, like the aristocrat who fights because he is bored and the old brute who might have a bit of a drinking problem. It’s hard at first to know who is going to be important and who is going to be there to just be a body filling a seat. Once these explanations do come, players can visit a glossary and a story recap to go over things that have already been told in the story just incase they had no idea what was going on the first time.
Another major sticking point of the story is how intrusive it is to actual gameplay. Cutscenes take forever to get the little information they provide across, and are sometimes split between a number of different loading screens on the Vita. Scenes that seemingly would only be about five minutes long would take upwards of 45 as a few lines of dialogue would play, then a loading screen, then a few lines, a loading screen to a different environment that would take even longer. I’m not sure if this a non issue on PS4, but it makes the story almost insufferable on the Vita. I understand visual novels are largely successful on the platform and I also enjoy those types of games, but if I’m going to play one, I want the hour I spend in between gameplay sequences to give me more information than a 30 second advertisement.
All of the issues with story would be fine if the gameplay was worth waiting through it, but sadly combat is also lackluster also sometimes takes forever. Gameplay is broken up between hack and slash action while also giving orders and casting spells from a menu, allowing players to give commands to teammates or take direct control of them better take advantage of their abilities. Characters each have a unique physical attack which is based off of their class and weapon. This is the hack and slash portion requiring just one button input to unleash an attack combo on an enemy. Once your ‘action gauge’ is recharged, a mechanic used to make sure you’re not just spamming attack or magics to murder things, players can attack again, use a spell, or issue a command to another character. This is where the majority of time is spent in battle and where the tactical portion of the game comes from. Anything over a foot soldier is going to require the use of powers. These powers are tied to a mana gauge which will recharge over time, or an item can be used to restore it. Battles often amount to cleaning up the little guys with basic attacks, then going after the big target with spells until you run out of mana, switching to another character and repeating. Boss battles in particular start to get mind numbing after you learn which way you have to dodge to not get hit by their attack and get the closest to them so you can start spamming your spells. That’s not to say that you can’t lose boss fights. Often smaller units will spawn seemingly out of nowhere downing the rest of your squad and then focusing you before you can do anything about it. If you fail the mission you restart from the beginning, lord help you if there was any sizable amount of cutscenes in the mission.
Occasionally players will visit the capital city to get the word on the street from the public on how they are viewing the ongoing conflict. These sections also offer a chance to get some insight on your squad, but these scenes can be skipped. Players can also get new gear, upgrade weapons, and buy items and spells during this section, but all of the different shops and things to do are spread throughout the town and some require moving to another location and, you guessed it, a loading screen.
Valkyria Revolution isn’t terrible. At times the story can be quite good and someone out there will find the battle system to be perfect for them. But tactical and real-time combat RPG fans aren’t going to find enough of either to want to keep playing. The story takes too long to go anywhere and once it does you might already have gotten off the ride. It’s a shame that this is likely going to be the last of the Valkyria series we see for awhile, but fans can take solace in knowing that this game is set in a different part of the world during a different time period. When you are good at a lot of things you are a master of none, and Valkyria Revolution unfortunately isn’t even good at a lot of things.
Valkyria Revolution was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita using a PSN code provided by SEGA. Valkyria Revolution is also available on PS4 and Xbox One.