Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
You’d better like the word “loading”, because if you play Valkyria Revolution you’ll be seeing it a whole lot. That’s one of the first things I noticed when I fired up this spin-off from the Valkyria Chronicles series. This is not good, not at all, especially when you get tired of loading screens before you even get to pick up the pad and play the damn thing.
Here you get about 30 seconds of cut scene, loading, another 30 seconds, loading, a bit of dialogue loading, a menu or two, loading, and eventually, if you’re a good boy, you’ll get a few minutes of actual gameplay. Of course, this gameplay is stopped every few seconds for pop-up tutorials straight out of 90s game design.
What I’m trying to say here is Valkyria Revolution isn’t exactly a smooth operator, and what little gameplay you get whilst slogging through the game’s rough and often pointless and inane dialogue and loading screens aplenty just isn’t enough for anyone but the most hardened anime fan.
If you’ve played Valkyria Chronicles, you may be expecting the same turn-based action strategy that made that game so good, wrapped up in the stylish visuals the game is known for. That’s not what you get here, though, and instead Revolution is a far more action-focused game (when it actually wants to be) that incorporates a kind of action time battle system and time stopping tactics into a third-person combat game. It’s a little strange, but at it’s core, I actually like it.
Yes, you read that right, despite opening my review with less than favourable comments, the actual core of this Valkyria title is actually quite interesting, and contains some promise. Sadly, though, what promise there is, is just buried under some of the most ridiculously sluggish and broken-up game flow I’ve ever seen.
The flow of the game is, at its foundation, simple and nothing new. As with the original game, you’re given some story scenes to draw you into the conflict, some menus where you can buy equipment, research new tech, and pick your team, and you get the action, battles where you have various goals to attain. Also included is a kind of hub section that let’s you walk around limited areas of your home city to talk to others and go shopping, and there are other locations to visit between battles.
The problem here is the battles themselves are few and far between, with far too much waffling and irritating loading screens breaking up each and every section. There’s no flow to proceedings, and I found myself zoning out whilst waiting for the next actual bit of gameplay. The pacing improves a little, but I found the amount of clicking and wading through poor dialogue really hurt proceedings.
“The story and dialogue is important!” I hear you cry, and yes, I totally agree, when said dialogue is interesting and written well. Here, though, whether down to poor translation or just plain bad writing, the dialogue is totally uninteresting, and every anime character trope you can imagine is pulled out.
People ramble on during what should be important briefings, and even in the midst of battle when facing an enemy, your team will just stand there babbling on. Quite why the opposing Ruzi army doesn’t just pound you to mincemeat whilst you’re having such exchanges, is beyond me. What I do know is that it doesn’t help the game flow any better, and what you end up with is a stop-start mechanic that soon becomes tiresome.
This is a shame, as underneath this is a game that demands more attention. The combat sections are a strange mixture of Valkyria Chronicles and Dynasty Warriors. You have direct control over your characters, and can choose to attack, defend, and utilise a range of skills and weapons. The tactical aspect comes in thanks to the action timer, which has to fill back up after you perform an action. This timer is affected by how well you’re doing in battle. If you’re doing badly, your timer takes a long time to recharge. If you’re on the wining side of battle, it speeds up. Te same applies to your foes, creating a dynamic feel of battle where you have to plan you actions and ensure you keep your side on top if you’re going to stand a change against large, and more powerful foes such as walking tanks and bosses.
The game features a perma-death system, meaning your fallen comrades can die for good in battle (although you can retry if you don’t want to lose them), and battles can get quite tricky, especially when fighting some tough bosses that boast all sorts of special abilities and crazy skills.
I enjoyed the battles themselves, and although things start off very easy, the combat does soon become more challenging, and rewarding. You grow to embrace the strange combat system and its mixture of real-time and tactical, turn-based action. It’s rare to play any games that actually feels original these days, but the combat found in Valkyria Revolution is just that, and I applaud it for doing something different
What I can’t be as positive about, however, is the rest, which, as I’ve already said, is just awfully paced and broken. If just the endless loading screens could be fixed, it’d be a step in the right direction, but the dialogue you also have to wade through isn’t as easily fixed, and although you can skip through it, you’ll be skipping a huge part of the game, and that’s never a good thing.