- Developer: SEGA
- Publisher: SEGA
- Genre: RTS RPG
- Release Date: 25/9/18
- Platforms: PS4/Xbox1/Switch/Windows
- Reviewed on: PS4 Pro on 4K Samsung TV
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
What an adventure Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes you on. From the start, having previously played only a few hours of Valkyria Chronicles Remastered HD edition, I was utterly underwhelmed with VC4. The first reason being, the visuals have no upgrades from the HD remastered version, which I found hugely disappointing.
The artwork is still fantastic, in a super fun looking anime take on an alternative reality version of world war 2. However the palet is of a watercolour theme so at times seems too washed out and not vibrant enough. It’s certainly not a game you need a 4k Tv to enjoy. Much like an anime series, the details are there in the artwork and backgrounds, just on a pretty basic level. Vistas are great to look at like a painting but lack details of life, and are just too sterile.
However the games audio is magnificent. The game lists it’s own composer ( Hitoshi Sakimoto ) which is an indication of how beautiful and how much effort they put into making this have a magnificent musical score. As someone who appreciates classical music anyway, I was enthralled by the stupendous symphonic, sweeping majesty of what has been penned here. It fitted the aesthetic of the game perfectly with big dramatic, and at times wistful themes, mixed with sombre thoughtful occasions.
So initial reactions were mixed from a presentation point of view at the beginning but this turned to despair a couple of hours in. The game has a very steep learning curve, even harder to those who’ve never played a game in the series before. I do find this sort of thing unforgivable in this day and age.
The game literally throws you into the hands of a character in the middle of a war, to lead troops and you basically have to get on with it. The getting on with it involves painstakingly (at first) moving troops on a top down view (like over a tabletop) to get them into positions to fire at the enemies. You just start to understand how this works when the game then throws a you 22 characters to individually manage, with different abilities like Scout, Shock Trooper, Grenadier etc, but crucially doesn’t really explain how to maximize the team for a strategy. Not that the game even gives you hints or help at a strategy either.
So very soon into the game I felt overwhelmed, under prepared, not really knowing what to do, and in short got slaughtered. This then aggravated me even more as even though i’d hit a cut scene the game doesn’t save (you have to do it manually mid battle, again not explained) and therefore, literally an hour of painstakingly moving each individual soldier into positions gone up in smoke, and i had to start over again… Sigh….. What made it even worse was the manner of defeat was an enemy soldier i’d not even seen on my map, simply walked passed two of mine (who just let him and didn’t fire a shot) to stand in my base and that was it!
On the verge of mild anger and annoyance, I turned the game off and left it for a day before i thought, one more go tomorrow.
Then something beautiful happened the next time i turned it on. The game for me clicked. It takes about 4 hours to get what the game wants you to do well, and frankly doesn’t help you get there. A LOT of gameplay information is thrown at you in those opening hours which needs a couple of goes to really understand, but when you do it’s magnificent.
Suddenly, after having a go at what each type of soldier could do, squad tactics and strategies suddenly manifested themselves automatically from my gameplay and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Outnumbered and outgunned before, suddenly i was the military muscle smashing all before me.
So it’s at this point I could explain better the gameplay. You have various amounts of troops per level ( and some reserves if you need them ) to move on a map to either reach objectives or destroy all the troops. Think of tabletop soldiers wargaming. Each type of soldier can move different amounts. Scouts can move great distances at once, Anti tank gunners or Mortar Crew can’t. When in position you then aim and fire at chosen enemies. Sightlines are important as is managing each of your team’s health. I rotated the lead soldier as i progressed for example to keep them all alive. The game doesn’t tell you this you have to figure it out.
You also at times have armour support of a tank, which moves exactly the same way as the troops. As you move you use CP points (Control Points). You have a limited amount of CP points to achieve objectives, but for the first few levels i never felt worried about using them up as there were plenty.
So you then progress, leapfrogging, flanking, destroying trying to avoid squadmates permadeaths (once they die they are out the game and a replacement arrives back at camp) so you do actually build up relationships with each of your team. This then lead itself to an amazing thing. I really started to care! One trooper who by the skin of his teeth won you the last battle, I felt disinclined to try and sacrifice him the next time, but had to, and therein lies the ethos behind the story of the game. Sacrifice and the horrors of war and the people with relationships who die behind them. You as squad leader feel attached, responsible for your troops over time. You experience elation and joy when your favourite and most reliable troops make it through the battle at your hands, deflation and regret when they don’t. For example, your favourite trooper gets hit and you can save him by rushing another of the team to him so he can be evacuated, but in doing this compromises the mission and the team set up. Do you save him or finish the mission you spent the last hour trying to finish ? This is just gameplay story, let alone the main overarching story with even more depth of character and story on that.
With no multiplayer aspect, there is still a lot of replayability with the game to go back over previous missions or seperate “skirmishes” to rank up your team, or get better grades than the previous time you completed the mission.
The main story is also excellent, but what you would expect from a war story. It’s set in an alternative reality of World War 2, that basically shadows the Germans advance through Europe (the Empire in this game) whilst the Federation (Allies) try to stop them. There are twists, turns, love, honour, horror and sacrifice here in this 40 hour epic, and although you’ve seen this sort of thing before, it’s still worth a playthrough again here in VC4
VC4 is most certainly in a niche market. Only games like XCOM come close to this. It’s a stupid hard learning curve to begin with that i can quite easily see many players give up in frustration that is simply unnecessary from a game design point of view. It could have so easily be explained in how to play better but doesn’t.
However once you do figure it out, it’s an excellent, rewarding, somewhat slow paced great game worth the experience and your time.