Let’s take down some imps!
Yesterday, a demo for Valkyria Chronicles 4 dropped on PS4, XBOX One, and the Switch (sorry PC!). Seeing as I was a fan of the original Valkyria Chronicles and I have a Switch, I wanted to give it a try.
First, some details about the demo itself! It’s 4.4 GBs, it comprises of the prologue and the first two chapters, there are two skirmish battles included, access to HQ, and a demo exclusive bonus level accessible from the title screen.
Oh, and your squad can only be trained to level 4, so no steam rolling over the early missions*.
Onto the impressions!
Graphics are still tried and true
It looks gorgeous. One of the best qualities of the original Valkyria Chronicles (2008) was its aesthetic, with everything looking like it was painted using water colors. Just look at the flower field in an early cutscene.
So gorgeous. During my playtime I didn’t notice any bad edges or poor renderings, the graphical quality was maintained at this high quality over my playtime.
I can go on and on about how the aesthetic of the game contrasts well with military plot, or how the Imperial soldiers are all dressed in their copper-toned armor while the Federation soldiers use a mix of blue, red and white in opposition, but honestly? I’m just happy looking at those flowers above
Gameplay is as fun as ever (plus a new class!)
The old adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” holds tried and true 10 years later. The gameplay (at least in the prologue and first two chapters) remain fundamentally the same; place your units at the start of battle, and then go to war.
Certain units (the important story characters) have a gold medal next to their names, and they add 1 Command Point (CP) to your total CP. This is very important because choosing to move a unit consumes 1 CP. Any CP left over at the end of your turn is rolled over into the next, so in theory you can stock pile a ton of CP and march your units toward the enemy.
In practice, Sega made sure to keep things balanced. Just like the original, when choosing to move a unit, the camera zooms down to battlefield level and the player takes control of one character-the game then transitions into a limited third person shooter. All units have a bar of Action Points (AP) - moving on the field consumes the AP bar. Once the unit runs out of AP, they can no longer move. They can, however, choose to fire upon a target, at which point the player zooms into first person mode to aim and then fire (shockingly, targeting the head of an enemy is more effective, who knew?). The player may also elect to fire at a target before consuming all of the AP bar-that way, the unit still has AP left over to move-however a unit can only perform 1 action per CP.
1 action per CP means that the player can, after zooming back out onto the map, choose the same unit to move again. The difference is that the AP bar will start at a lower quantity (so can’t move as far), and the unit may not have the ammo to perform an action, as certain actions use up one ammo (e.g. sniper rifles or grenades, regular guns have unlimited ammo). A mechanic unit can restock any character they pass by, but that’ll still require 1 CP to move the mechanic.
There’s also interception fire, wherein scouts and shocktroopers can fire upon passing enemies that enter their range (goes both ways, so the enemy can fire upon you too!). However, when a unit starts aiming, there’s a ceasefire while the unit lines up their shots.
New to Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the Grenadier Class. These units fire mortars (...I believe they’re called mortars...) in a parabolic arc. Their usefulness comes from the fact that they can fire at targets at higher ground. In aiming mode, the player can use the right analog stick to move the camera on the Y-axis (to position the camera higher) while the left analog stick moves the reticle.
EDIT: Teh_AKOD points out the Grenadier isn’t that brand new:
The Grenadier is not quite a new class. Well, kinda. In VC2 there were Mortarers that function as a side class from Lancers. They also had mortars although lighter and definitely with not as much range as the Grenadiers.
Grenadiers can also take part in intercepting fire - they use the vision of other characters to mark their targets (so if no one can see the enemy, the grenadiers can’t fire).
The grenadier class definitely adds a new layer of strategy to the game, as their shelling obliterates enemy emplacements, while also providing decent interception fire, if the shots land. They’re pretty fun to use in any case.
Another tale to tell
Valkyria Chronicles 4 tells the tale of Squad E, another regiment of the Federation army. It takes place at the same time as Valkyria Chronicles 1 and 3, however instead of taking part of the Gallian Militia (VC1) or being a part of a squad comprised of criminals and miscreants (VC3), the player takes control of a squad in the Federation (though the characters are still Gallian, they joined the Edinburgh army) that take part in Operation Northern Cross.
So far, it’s interesting! Everything is still the same, gameplay wise, but the tone is slightly different due to more rigid military regulations (or maybe my memory of VC1 is just that hazy).
Not everything is pitch perfect in the demo though.
Characters are walking cliches
Alright maybe this isn’t “bad” as it is “fine.” This one’s to personal taste, but I didn’t really find much interest in the cast of Valkyria Chronicles 4. They’re all walking cliches so far, each embodying typical character traits (e.g. the brash, thick headed one, the cool, collected one, etc.)
That being said, 1) it’s the first couple of chapters, so it’s still early and, more importantly, 2) The cast of Valkyria Chronicles 1 was also just plain fine and I still had a blast.
Load times are noticeable
I can’t say if this was an issue on the PS4 or XBOX One, but there were quite a number of times when the game would take a few seconds to load the next line of dialogue, or get to the next screen prompt. It’s especially jarring when characters are talking, because it sounds like these short gaps of silence.
It was a common enough occurrence to wonder if this was part of the reason why the Switch version of VC4 was delayed in Japan, because it was a bit annoying to have to wait to say, move from cutscene to battle. While it didn’t ruin the experience, it was evident that something was amiss.
Mission rank is still tied to number of turns
One of the gameplay issues from the first game (and I guess, presumably the second and third?) was that mission ranking-which determined how much experience and money was paid out, was tied to the number of player turns taken. As a result, the game seemed to emphasize rushing down the objective instead of being tactical with the various units.
So yep, scout rushing the objective is still super effective.
To be fair, two out of three missions in the demo curtail this by effectively forcing you to use the other units in the squad (one is where any unit would be shredded, and the other requires snipers for the objective point), however scouts still provided some of the best back up troops to use.
Plus, the player isn’t forced to use scouts to rush the objective - so far the levels are pretty generous enough to let the player use other units to accomplish the mission, and I found that using each unit in their specialized role was a much more enjoyable journey (except for Curtis. RIP Curtis).
It’s fun and free! The save data from the demo can be carried over to the main game, and there’ll be a bonus accessory for those with demo saves too. So far, from how the demo plays? It’s good to see Valkyria Chronicles back in the West.
....now port VC3 to the Switch, Sega. I want to play as criminals and low-lifes!
Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases September 25, 2018 for the PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. I put 3 hours and 30 minutes into the demo. It was fun.
*Ha ha ha, with the proper tactics a level 4 squad can steam roll through everything.