Valkyria Revolution review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Medium: Digital/Vita Card/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

I should admit up front that I never really got into Valkyria Chronicles. I played the sequel a little on my PSP a few years ago, but I’d be lying if I said I remembered much about it beyond the battle system (turn-based) and the vague recollection of its plot and setting (basically, Europe circa World War II, but not). Consequently, I can’t say that I share in the displeasure a lot of people feel with Valkyria Revolution over its fidelity — or lack thereof — to the series, since I just don’t know it well enough to be annoyed.

In fact, I suspect that this lack of familiarity (and, more importantly, my resulting lack of expectations) actually helps me enjoy Valkyria Revolution more than I may have otherwise. I’m not going into it with anything in the way of preconceived notions about how the characters should act, where the story should go, or how everyone should fight. All that makes it much easier to enjoy on its own terms.

It also doesn’t hurt — at least in my eyes — that the combat went from being turn-based (which I generally have a harder time appreciating) to something closer to hack & slash (which I generally love). I know a lot of people enjoyed those original Valkyria Chronicles games specifically because of the strategy involved in guiding your forces across a battlefield, so I get that the change here may come as a significant and unwelcome departure, but personally I found the shift made the game much, much more accessible. I know that I’m basically admitting here that I like that they dumbed things down, but…well, that’s the truth. I could try to argue that there’s a little more strategy here than in, say, any of the Warriors games, since there’s also an action wheel that can pause time while you decide whether you want to augment your attack, plus your attacks are spaced apart by a short cooldown period, but let’s be honest: it’s much closer to the Warriors games than it is to Valkyria Chronicles.

Ironically, while Valkyria Revolution’s combat may be much more accessible, its story and plot are far more demanding. The game launches with, essentially, an hour-long cutscene. You’ll get a few moments of action here and there, and you can skip some of its scenes if you want, but if you want to understand what’s going on for the next thirty hours or so of playing time, you should be aware that you’ll be given a whole lot of talking right off the bat.

(You should also be aware that if you want to save your progress, your first opportunity doesn’t come up until after that first hour. This was something I discovered only after turning the game off after my first 45 minutes of playing time; it’s also how I discovered both the ability to skip scenes and that the load times — at least on the Vita — occasionally feel like eternities.)

I’d like to say that it’s at least interesting talking, but that’s not the case. It’s endless exposition, coupled with long digressions into random characters talking, with a little bit of bonus explanations of the impacts of economic policies. It’s a lot of world-building just for world-building’s sake, and I can’t say that the game feels like it’s better for it. In fact, given that much of the dialogue is delivered by talking heads — or worse, delivered by someone not pictured, as you stare at the impassive faces of people listening to the speaker — I’d say that it actively harms the game.

Which is how, ultimately, I arrive at the same place as all those people who disliked Valkyria Revolution for very different reasons than me. I may not share in their distaste for the game’s move away from turn-based combat, but I definitely agree with them that this game features far too much pointless talk to be engaging. It’s quite possible that a judicious and frequent use of the “Skip this scene” feature might uncover a game worth checking out, but that’s making players do the work that the game’s creators should’ve done in the first place.

Grade: C+