Thursday, July 20, 2017

Valkyria Revolution (Xbox One) Review

When first shown, Valkyria Revolution irked some people.  They thought it was supposed to be a sequel to Valkyria Chronicles, despite not having a number after it, or even having the same name.  It's a spin-off, and as such, does play pretty different from Chronicles.

That said, there are several similarities in Revolution.  The graphics have that hatched water color look to them, and the story menu is similarly contained in a book.  Starting out in the game is pretty rough, though.  There are several long cut scenes setting up the story, and a multi-part battle to go through, all before you can save.  It took me an hour to get to that point.  While I'm okay with the long scenes, spending so much time before you can first save is not my cup of tea.  The story is good, though.

Combat is action-oriented.  You can run, jump, block, and dodge on the battlefield.  While it does kind of play like a hack and slash, you don't just run around mashing attack.  You can attack or use your menu when your action gauge has filled, and it does so pretty fast.  If you open the menu, time freezes, so you have time to select what you want and aim it properly.  From this menu, you can cast your ragnite magic abilities, use your secondary weapon (gun), or grenade.  Grenades and magic attacks are very useful...and fun.  Blowing up a small group of enemies and making the rest afraid is way too satisfying.

There are sometimes a few bases you can/will take over, sometimes a boss fight, and others you will defend your base from foes.  Small enemy groups have commanders that make their squad tougher.  Killing them first can make the rest afraid.  To keep it fair, your squad members can also receive that status ailment, especially when taking heavy fire from an enemy tank.  Well, they are called tanks, but they are combat walkers, which are pretty cool.  The battles were pretty fun, save for the occasional crazy tough boss fight.

Besides the story battles, there are free maps you can undertake for more experience, items and money.  The game also introduces special defend and attack missions, which you can keep and expand your area of influence/territory.  For the defense missions, if you ignore them for too long, you will lose that area.  I'm not really a fan of that, since it kind of forces you to stall your forward momentum to take care of it.  Overall, the battles aren't usually very hard, but some can become quite tense.

When not in a fight, you can run around the town, talk to people, view events, shop, and upgrade.  Upgrading the sub-weapons and grenades just costs money.  Upgrading the weapon's grid requires you to sacrifice ragnite.  Trouble is, ragnite is also equipped to give your character their magical skills.  You will have to upgrade their weapon's grid to be able to equip stronger ragnite, so figuring out the balance is an evolving process.  Even after playing for many hours, I was still probably too cautious with giving up my ragnite.

When not in battle or running around town, you are probably viewing cut scenes.  As mentioned earlier, they can be numerous and lengthy.  You can skip them if you are so inclined.  There are also other scenes that are unlocked while you play, but they aren't required to view.  On one hand, it's nice there's so much story, as it helps to further flesh out the world and characters, but at some point it feels like overkill.  A lot of the game's length feels like its from the story cut scenes, as the balance between story and combat isn't the best.

The last gripe I have about the game is the menu.  Moving the cursor in the menu requires the d-pad.  As an option, sure, but as the only way, I don't like it.  There are menus that can be better served by using the d-pad, but some (like confirming a save) really don't need it.  I'm already on the stick, why should I have to switch to hit one direction?  Also, the d-pad sensitivity seems wonky at times.  It could be my controller, but I haven't had the issue in other games I've played recently.

Valkyria Revolution is a fun action RPG that is sometimes bogged down by lengthy cut scenes.  As long as you have realistic expectations, it's worth actually trying out.

The Good:
The story is good.

The Bad:
But, it can take awhile to get through the cut scenes.

The SaHD:
It's weird that people can get so up in arms about a spin-off that's not trying to be a sequel, then they are to a main character completely changing while supposedly being the same person.

(Review code for Valkyria Revolution was provided by the publisher)

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