Valkyria Revolution Review

By Kevin Tavore, 2 months ago
Admittedly the Xbox is starved for JRPGs. We've recently had Final Fantasy XV and a few indie games inspired by the genre, but the lineup pales in comparison to the PS4, which has many of them. One of the standout titles is a remaster of Valkyria Chronicles and over the past decade, the Valkyria series has become one of the most respected franchises in the entire genre. That's why fans were so excited when an English localization of Valkyria Revolution was revealed and, better yet, it was coming to Xbox. Unfortunately, this Valkyria unequivocally does not live up to its namesake, but on a console starved for quality JRPGs, Valkyria Revolution can still be worth your time.


The Valkyria series is set in a fictional land called Europa that's quite a lot like 19th century Europe. Countries like Italos, Brenland, Ruz, Grecia, and Persha are major powers, each with their own imperial dynasty to consider. At the center of it all is a small country named Jutland. The name sounds like a dirty British port town, but in Valkyria it's actually a liberal bastion with a kind royal family, free speech, clean streets and a cruel economic blockade enforced by the Ruzi Empire. In short, it's the good guy.

The game is the story of this country's revolution, a year-long war against the Ruzi Empire. Told from the perspective of a student and teacher hundreds of years in the future, the outcome of the war is obvious and blatant in the first cutscene: Jutland will be victorious. While the revolution serves as the background, the true focus of the story is a group called the Five Traitors. These five staged events to start a war solely for revenge, causing the deaths of countless soldiers and civilians alike. History didn't treat them kindly, but the teacher knows better and teases that perhaps these traitors could have been honorable in the first place.

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The vast majority of this 40 hour epic is cutscenes; battles typically last 10 minutes or less and you'll watch 10-20 minutes of cutscenes in between. The world is interesting and in war there are always many perspectives to tell, so this isn't a problem in theory, but Valkyria Revolution is made by game developers who appear to have had no training whatsoever in pacing, framing or script-writing. The result is a decent story that's heavily weighed down by the fact that it's nearly unwatchable. Every scene is twice as long as it needs to be, animations are stiff, and characters say things that are plainly idiotic. Still, the payoff doesn't fall flat and the story keeps you interested through the whole thing with its focus on the Traitors and whether they were right.

Of course, as a JRPG there are a host of party members to interact with on the adventure. They form the Vanargand, an elite squad made to fight the Valkyria. While you've got your average JRPG trope teenagers in the squad, most of it is made up of adults and even the teens can be likeable. The story of these characters is told not through the cutscenes but through "Circles" instead. These are skits where the characters have conversations, like Tales games. They're humorous in tone and even if you don't laugh out loud, they breathe life into these characters. At the end you'll feel for them — they have their own backstories, their own aspirations, and the whole troupe feels like a team. With a huge range of personalities, each character will no doubt have their own fans and none of them are relegated to being background fodder. When the story falters under a streak of cutscenes, these characters are there to break the monotony when you finally get back to the game.

This is actually one of the tamer bits of dialogue that will make you cringe.This is actually one of the tamer bits of dialogue that will make you cringe.

The gameplay is a change of pace for the Valkyria series. Instead of a turn-based shooter akin to XCOM, Revolution is a hack and slash with active time battle. This means you have free movement and the ability to dodge and block, but can only perform actions when the action gauge is full. Luckily, the gauge fills extremely quickly based on your kills. By the time a battle is halfway over, you'll likely have the gauge filled instantly as soon as it's used, making the game a true hack and slash. Overall it's quite fun if you can get past the fact that there are no combos and that the game is insanely easy.

Your party is another sore point in combat because they're worthless. There are three formations — squad, partner and solo — but only squad is ever useful. If you set it to solo, in theory your allies should each pick their own target and begin attacking, but the AI is abysmal and the party sits around doing literally nothing. You can order them to take an action, but even this takes an excessive amount of time as the ally runs around doing who knows what before getting around to the action, if they bother to do it at all. Thankfully you can switch to them yourself if you ever need their specific abilities.

There are no words for this.There are no words for this.

The highlight of the gameplay is that it actually feels like fighting a war. You'll take strategic points as you move through a city, carving up enemy lines. There are cannons, mines and tanks to contend with as you make your way to the objective. Each battle is a minor victory in the small scale, but when you get back to HQ and can look at the map, you can see yourself doing some good as the Jutish army gets a firmer grip on its conquered lands. Of course, if you neglect things then the Ruzi armies will conquer the lands back and you'll need to work to retake them. It feels great to come back after the Ruzi's have taken your territories and systematically take them all back — at least for the first 20 hours or so.

The game does have a pacing issue tied to the war. You do not gain enough experience to only play story missions — not even close. You'll need to participate in battle after battle and it wears you down. It's fun to continue the story while conquering new lands. It's not fun to re-fight obnoxious boss battles that randomly spawn in a battle you've fought dozens of times. Every story mission had to be accompanied with at least 30 minutes of grinding to stay up to date. I watched TV while doing these random battles and made it through an entire 16 episode season while grinding, just to keep up with story progression. The only good thing about that experience was the TV show.

I have a suit with blue flames as well.<br/> Edgy.I have a suit with blue flames as well.
Edgy.

The other prominent issue in the game is loading. This game does not load quickly and there's no apparent reason why not. Every cutscene is preceded by a few seconds of black with "now loading" in the corner. While other games load subsequent cutscenes during the previous, that doesn't seem to happen here; in fact, on occasion cutscenes are split in half by black loading screens. It would be humorously absurd if you didn't have to sit there and wait to hear the next line of conversation.

There are a few back-loaded story achievements, with most of them coming in the final two chapters out of twelve, but you will earn the vast majority of the rest during story progression nonetheless. Along the way, you'll undoubtedly kill 3000 enemies and capture 50 bases. With a bit of discipline, you can also view all the Circles while getting to know your party members. You will need to S-rank all the story missions, but this is extremely easy and if you do miss one, you can mop it up in the post-game when you're overpowered. Thanks to that robust post-game, none of the achievements are missable and you'll likely get them all as you spend extra hours grinding out the money needed to spend $300,000. Overall, you can expect the story to take about 40 hours and you'll likely only need about five more hours to finish everything up.

Summary

Valkyria Revolution comes from a line of highly-acclaimed titles, but this one undoubtedly misses the mark. Gameplay takes a backseat thanks to the primary focus on long, drawn-out cutscenes that take up a solid 70% of your playtime. Even when it is at the forefront, that gameplay is outrageously easy and complimented by braindead AI that will rarely do what you want. Worst of all are the constant loading screens, sometimes in the middle of combat. Still, the game really feels like a war and the combat is still fun if you're looking for something simple. The payoff of the story is ultimately worth it, and the party members are fleshed out and have their own personalities, which helps to get through the cutscenes. The bottom line is that there are much better JRPGs out there if you have access to a PS4. If you've played them all or if Xbox is all you have, this is a game that can be worth your time.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Feels like a war
  • Characters are properly fleshed out
  • Story has a moral question instead of a stereotypical good vs. evil battle
  • Combat is fun, if simple
Negatives
  • Cutscenes are excessively long
  • Loading is all too frequent, sometimes even in cutscenes
  • Idiotic dialogue
  • Grinding is necessary for story progression
  • AI is extremely poor
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 41 hours exploring the world of Valkyria Revolution, fighting battles, interacting with characters, and finishing up the story. 24 of the game's 28 achievements were unlocked along the way. An Xbox One copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.
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