Valkyria Chronicles Remastered Review: War is Beautiful
Kalvin Martinez / May 10th, 2016 1 Comment
The terms “remastered” and “re-release” have come to elicit different emotions from different people. Some find these remakes as a way to check out older games they may have missed, while others believe them to be cash grabs by greedy developers. Truthfully, a lot of these remasters are unnecessary, but every now and again, a remastered game comes along that actually remedies some of the original’s old wounds.
Such is the case with Valkyria Chronicles. Released back in 2008 for PlayStation 3, the game has never since had a digital release, making it hard for people to track down. Worse, it didn’t have trophy support to show people’s dedication to the Gallian’s Squad 7. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered corrects some of these issues, but it is a superb game on its own. Its story is wildly compelling while maintaining levity with its characters, and the strategic depth of the gameplay simulates warfare in spectacular fashion.
War is a Battlefield
Europa is in turmoil after the precious resource Ragnite becomes incredibly scarce. This prompts the eastern Empire to declare war on the western Atlantic Federation, sparking the Second Europan War. It doesn’t stop there.
The usually neutral Principality of Gallia is brought into the conflict, driven by the Empire’s brazenness after early victories against the Federation. The Empire wants to conquer the small principality for its rich deposits of Ragnite. They expected little resistance from this minor power, but they didn’t count the tenacity of a scrappy little squad of the Gallian Militia.
Welkin Gunther wanted a normal life despite being the son of a Gallian military hero. All he wanted to do was study nature and become a teacher to pass knowledge onto children. War doesn’t care about people’s plans. Welkin is recruited into the conflict by Alicia Melchiott when the Empire attacks a Gallian border town he is visiting. Meeting Alicia and the valor and quick thinking he displayed in Bruhl allows Welkin to become a Lieutenant in the Gallian militia and command his own squad. The formation of Squad 7 changes the tide of war profoundly thanks to Welkin’s strategic mind, a scrappy squad of soldiers and a relic from his father.
The early moments of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered might fool you into thinking the game is a lighthearted take on war. It isn’t. The deeper you get into the narrative, the more you realize the game is touching on some serious themes. Its moments of levity are to show the complexity of life and war because they provide a stark contrast to the moments of racism, the overarching theme of imperialism, and the ugliness of where those two concepts converge in regard to the Darcsens.
While the heavier themes give the story weight, what makes it engrossing are the characters and how their relationships develop over the course of the game. The personalities help endear you to the characters and their quirks help make them an effective squad, especially Welkin. While there a few different relationships that develop and deepen during the game, the heart is the bond between Welkin and Alicia.
What makes the combat in Valkyria Chronicles Remastered so special is the unique blend of different types of systems. It results in a sublime hybrid of strategy, RPG and shooter.
On missions, you are given a layout of the battlefield, your objectives, specific concerns about the battle, how many troops you have and where you can deploy them. This information is necessary to devise a strategy for tackling the mission in the most effective way.
The necessity to plan out your strategy beforehand allows you to bring the right mix of unit types into combat and complete your objectives in the shortest amount of turns possible. However, like war, things don’t always go according to plan. When this happens, the game allows for a good deal of improvisation, with the ability to remove troops and call in reinforcements.
Actual combat is a mix of active time and turn-based strategy where you can move freely along the map within the confines of your movement limit. When engaging the enemy (or when the enemy engages you), everything happens in real time. Both you and the enemy return fire until someone decides to act. Time slows while you line up your shot, allowing you to target specific body parts on enemies or tanks. While the actual shooting feels like a third-person shooter, everything else about combat only contributes to the depth of strategy you’ll need to utilize to claim victory on maps where you are often outgunned and in an inferior position. The battles are hard won, but that makes victory sweeter.
While the main story focuses on a core group of characters, gameplay actual expands the roster considerably with a wide variety of soldiers and unit types to help populate Squad 7. What makes these characters more than simple red shirts is “potentials,” special attributes — good and bad — that give each solider an advantage or disadvantage on the battlefield when certain conditions are met.
Character backgrounds will give you information such as if they prefer to work alone and the terrains they thrive. Some are odd, like the bad back potential, which activates in an elder soldier when doing too much strenuous activity. The gameplay and the story work well in tandem to create realistic individual characters that are more than generic soldier stereotypes.
The gameplay (along with the story) make the game’s representation of war one of the best in video games. Here you’re not running around shooting everything in sight with the safety net of a respawn point when you get riddled with bullets. If you misjudge the battlefield, people will die. Sure if someone falls in battle, you can call a medic, but using a run-and-gun strategy is only valid early in the game. As battles get tougher, your opponents get smarter and will actively block your attempts to revive soldiers. Decisions have consequences in Valkyria Chronicles Remastered and your soldiers’ lives depend on the decisions you make.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is a wonderful game and a hell of a value. There was a lot of care in bringing the story of Welkin and Squad 7 to a new generation of gamers. The beautiful cel-shaded graphics and water colors are vibrant as ever. Valkyria Chronicles Remasters provides the perfect opportunity to experience this unique hybrid strategy game with a rich story for anyone that missed out.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
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