Valkyria Revolution Review
Valkyria Chronicles was among my favorite series this past decade. Starting with the early PS3 original and followed by the unendingly excellent Valkyria Chronicles 2 on PSP - a game I still pick up and play on a semi-regular basis - the series has a special place in my heart, despite the fact that I never got a chance to play a localized version of the Valkyria Chronicles 3. The recent Valkyria Chronicles Remastered reminded me what I loved about the strategy/shooter hybrid RPG, and the announcement of a new direction for the series, Valkyria Revolution, had me good and excited. With the game's credits rolling in front of me, the only thing I think now is that Sega desperately needs, for the love of humanity, to ditch this new direction and go back to what made the Chronicles games great. This is not a revolution anyone asked for or needed.
As with past games, the story in Valkyria Revolution is a major selling point. Revolution tells the tale of a region we've not explored before, Jutland, and their break from the Ruzhien Empire. What's cool is that the story is told through memories, and framed as a professor instructing a student on what actually happened during the conflict, not what the official history books say. The professor's scrapbook, like the journals in past games, lets you revisit the story and rewatch dialog and cutscenes, and view the entire story as a cohesive narrative, all in one place. Flipping through the pages, especially as the book is nearing completion, gives the player that feeling of connection and accomplishment by seeing the whole tale laid out, thanks to their progress.
But here's the issue. Valkyria Revolution is, seriously, like 75% cutscenes. Not since Metal Gear Solid 4 has a game been so heavily skewed toward making the player watch, rather than play. It doesn't help matters that even dialog sequences are "all-or-nothing" skips; you can't advance the dialog without waiting for the words to be spoken aloud. If you try, you skip the entire cutscene. Yes, you can go back and rewatch them if you accidentally jump over something important, but some of - a lot of - the scenes can exceed a full 10-15 minutes. If you accidentally skipped to the end in minute 12, you'd better go make a sandwich and be prepared to watch it all again. Worse yet is the fact that most of the action is confined to the � of the game you actually spend playing; the cutscenes are, more often than not, just long, painful conversations with little movement or action. For such a cool premise and setup, and from such a revered series, this focus on "watch" over "play" is jarring, unpleasant and annoying.
The actual "playing" part of the game is almost as disappointing. The SRPG battles in the Chronicles games were exciting, challenging and often brilliant in their construction, forcing you to use team members and resources to their fullest to prevail against overwhelming odds. The feeling of bringing your ragtag squad against the most powerful of armored troops and tanks - and winning - was unparalled, and it's what keeps me going back to play and replay battles in Valkyria Chronicles 2. All that is gone in Valkyria Revolutions. Instead, a more action-based combat system is used, with you controlling and switching between team members on the fly to use melee attacks against waves of same looking and downright stupid enemy soldiers. It's kind of like Dynasty Warriors with fewer enemies, with even tougher foes being almost no match for your characters' melee attacks. It is fast-paced, but that's about all you can say in its defense.
I'm all for dumb button-mashing action combat, but so many little systems are implemented to make things more interesting... and none of them do the job. Magic is used much more than it was in past games, but it requires the player to stop and hit triangle when prompted, making it unoriginal and intrusive. Guns are useless compared to melee weapons, and all the SRPG-lite prompts - enemy fear, bonuses for attacking fleeing enemies, etc. - are all pointless in the face of just swatting down dumb bad guys with oversized swords and spears. The boss battles are a little better and do require a bit more thought, but it still mostly just boils down to pointing a character at a foe and mashing attack til they die. The combat never feels anything more than clunky and uninspired, and even flashy special attacks don't do much to break up the monotony. And succeeding, which you'll almost always do - the game is definitely on the overly-easy side - only offers more boring, semi-unskippable (for story's sake) cutscenes to watch. Ugh.
By the time I finished Valkyria Revolutions, I was almost comically over it. The most telling moment of the entire experience came as I was nearing the end, and my wife came downstairs and asked me, "Ugh. Are you watching that game again? Play something more interesting!" That's right, "watching that game again." With so many cutscenes, only broken up by uninspired action with ideas that don't work or aren't utilized correctly, Valkyria Revolution is tough to recommend to anyone for any reason. If the alternate history angle of the story excites you, you'd be better off playing any of the Chronicles games. If action RPG combat is your thing, Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors or the upcoming Fire Emblem Warriors should scratch that itch much better than this game can. And if you are a longtime fan of the series, like I am, I can't do anything but warn you; this is not the game you wish it was, nor expect it to be. Please, Sega, let's go back to the way it was. This Revolution is not a welcome or a successful one.
Final Rating: 40% - For those who prefer watching games rather than playing them.