Release Date: September 25th, 2018 (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, Xbox One)
Genre: Role-Playing, Strategy
ESRB: Mature (Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence)
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a Japanese RPG, developed and distributed by Sega. The thing that sets the Valkyria series apart from other JRPGs is the way that they flawlessly incorporate the story into the gameplay. In particular, though, the ground-based combat and character dialogues throughout the game, whether in battle or through the story, is enough to keep you interested. For me, personally, the lack of true storytelling elements, fluid game play and a lack of being able to understand a lot of components to the game are what forces me to generally turn away from this genre. However, when introduced to Claude Wallace and his team (known as Squad E.) you will quickly learn why you will not find yourself in the same position.
The game is set in the year 1935 EC, in the continent of Europa. The Second Europan war rages on and you are thrust into the middle of the combat as Squad E of the Atlantic Federation, which includes Lieutenant Claude Wallace (Commander of Squad E), Raz (Shocktrooper), Kai (Sniper), Miles (Tank Operator) and Riley Miller (Joint Operations for the Federation/Grenadier). There are several modes in the game, most of which refer to an element of combat, with the exception of book mode. As you move through “book mode,” different cutscenes will trigger and you will begin to learn more about the events unfolding in the war, as well as, the characters’ links to one another… and why they play a pivotal role in their decision to enlist. The further you progress in the war, the more you learn of their backstory… and thus, the more captivating it becomes. For example, once I got into The Battle of Siegval – one of the main battle series’ in the war – I didn’t want to put my controller down for a second.
In addition to the standard Tank, Scout, Shocktrooper, Sniper, Engineer and Lancer classes, you are introduced to a new soldier class. The Grenadier class allows you to fire mortars from a distance which can end up crippling enemies that may be behind cover or hiding in pillboxes. These particular troops are extremely useful for bigger battles, where they afford you the opportunity to get a jump on the enemy. The game’s combat, as with previous games in the franchise, is turn-based and relies heavily on strategy. Make one wrong move and you could lose a soldier, the battle or even the whole squad!
Which makes the new wrinkle for the game all that more fascinating. See, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is almost entirely ground-based and, even on the easiest difficulty, your enemies are anything but ignorant. There are two difficulties, easy and normal, which can be adjusted at any time in the game. Seemingly, the only difference in the two, is that “easy” mode allows you to defeat your foes quicker and with less tact while “normal” allows for a more in-depth, tactful approach and requires much more strategy. As someone who likes a challenge, it would have been nice to see a “hard” mode with a lot more action during combat that allowed for a richer, more rewarding experience for those who look for a bigger challenge.
The HQ (Headquarters) is introduced early in the game and is the place where you will learn how to train your soldiers, research and develop new weapons, tank parts and armor, and prepare for your next battle. Once the Mess Hall is unlocked, you will be able to talk to different characters who will allow you to spend points to teach Claude new “Orders.” “Orders” are directives that only commanders can issue, to either a whole squad or subset of soldiers. For example, your first order learned via the Mess Hall will allow you to call for a medic to aid a wounded soldier who is out of your range. “Orders” can only be used once per turn but can prove quite useful in battle. One new addition to the game is referred to as the “Brave” system. Put simply, this triggers when any one member of your unit gets close to a wounded comrade. Once triggered, you are given the option to spend one CP (command point) to help restore either some HP or AP, effectively healing them and allowing them to continue the fight.
Due to the difficult nature of the combat, I would recommend this game only to those who have previous experience with turn-based strategy games. That is not to say that a rookie could not jump right in, as the tutorial system is great and allows you to grasp the elements of combat, in-depth, almost flawlessly. The trick becomes how to USE those elements, to best your foes and win the war, though. If you are a fan of JRPGs, turn-based strategy, and an in-depth storyline centered around a war torn nation you would do best to pick up a copy of Valkyria Chronicles 4. The game is currently available for you to dive in and take control of Squad E to steer your nation to victory! (Barrett Stephens; Gaming Staff Writer)
Review copy provided by Sega.