SEGA is back with one of their most exciting franchises, in the tactical role-playing game Valkyria Chronicles 4. The game takes the series back to its roots and features a gameplay style more akin to that of the first three games. VC4 also features a number of carryovers from the series’ PlayStation Portable outings that could have done with updating. We’ll get into those later.
The story follows the young yet promising squad leader Claude Wallace. With the continent of Europa spilt between the Federation and the Empire, Claude and Squad E take part in the Federate forces Operation Northern Cross. Claude alongside his childhood friends Raz, Kai and Riley joined the Federation Army in order to protect their home country of Gallia after an attack by the Empire on their hometown of Hafen. With the command of Squad E and his friends, Claude takes the fight right into Empire territory in the hopes putting an end to the war.
The game unfolds in a series of chapters laid out in book format, a carryover from the PSP versions. For the most part, this is perfectly adequate for this type of game. The issues only start to creep in during later chapters where cutscenes are broken up into bite-sized chunks. This has its benefits in that you can save between scenes if you’re short on time but it’s slightly annoying when you have to keep tapping buttons to watch the next cutscene for the eighth time in a row. Ultimately, the chapter progress is something I feel works really well with tactical role-playing games.
Navigation of the book menu system is very intuitive and allows you to travel back through previous chapters with ease. Backtracking over past missions is a great way to earn some extra money and experience as well as improving upon your previous completion rank for a particular mission. You also gain access to skirmishes and character missions as the game opens up. Most importantly though, is the ability to access your HQ. Once unlocked, it allows you to upgrade your equipment, manage your squad, learn new commands and use earnt experience points on training your soldiers. Soldiers level up as a class rather than individually so when you level up a certain class all the soldiers within will receive a boost.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 makes use of a mechanic known as The BLiTZ System: Turn-Based Tactics, Real-Time Action which has been fully recalibrated to accommodate larger maps, more units per map and new soldier classes. With the addition of the Grenadier class, you really feel the urgency of making smart and fast decisions during battle or find yourself on the wrong end of explosive shells. Hiding behind cover will not always keep you safe when a Grenadier is on the field. While incredibly useful in taking out hard to reach enemies they have very short movement stats and setting up their mortar can leave them vulnerable to enemy fire.
Battles themselves are a blast, pardon the pun, as the turn-based tactics combined with real-time action gives the Valkyria Chronicles series a uniquely different feel. Take your pick out of a roster full of various classes and formulate your best strategy is you try to complete each mission quickly and efficiently. Recklessness is not encouraged as permadeath is a very real possibility. That being said, the game is very forgiving in that regard giving you plenty of opportunities to save your downed comrades. No medics in the game, but every class has Ragnaid to heal up, and Engineers have the means to revive allies in critical condition so don’t pass up on what they can offer. Ultimately, its all down to your own play style. The game is fairly open in that regard and doesn’t punish you for playing at your own pace.
The Valkyria Chronicles games always feature a very pleasing aesthetic and VC4 is no exception. Making full use of The CANVAS Engine Valkyria Chronicles 4 brings watercolour paintings to full motion. The hand-drawn style, colour bleeding and crosshatch shadows paint a very different picture of the war-torn continent of Europa the story takes place in. But through compelling storytelling and an awesome soundscape VC4 makes you feel for the characters and their wartime plight.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a great addition to the series and easily accessible to both experienced and new players. There are a few minor annoyances I experienced but those are negligible in the game as a whole. The game boasts a lengthy campaign that’ll keep even the most battle-hardened players busy for many hours while also maintaining a great balance of difficulty and enjoyability.