It’s been more than a decade since a new Valkyria Chronicles title has graced a home console, but finally the long wait is over in the form of Valkyria Chronicles 4. The anime style, World War II-inspired tactical RPG may be the fourth game in the series, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not a sequel of the original game, as it takes far more inspiration from Valkyria Chronicles than it does from the following two releases on the PSP. Despite feeling and looking very similar to the original game in the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 manages to build upon the foundation that Valkyria Chronicles laid all those years ago, offering the quality host of characters and succinct, strategic gameplay that you’d expect from the series, alongside some welcome new features that add a little more to what was already an alluring experience.
Taking place at the same time as the events of the original game, Valkyria Chronicles 4 sees you assume control of Squad E of the Atlantic Federation, led by Commander Claude Wallace. The stark reality is that the Federation is on the brink of defeat. They are severely outnumbered by the Imperial Alliance, and it’s just a matter of time before the Imperials invade and win the The Second Europan War. Claude and his pals in Squad E are ordered to execute Operation Northern Cross, a mission that’ll see them go against all odds in an attempt to capture the Imperial capital in a last ditch attempt to avoid the Imperials seemingly inevitable victory. It’s essentially a suicide mission, but they have nothing more to lose, so they set off on what may just be the defining mission of the war.
Operation Northern Cross is serious business
The narrative on display in Valkyria Chronicles is top notch, with a multitude of emotional and epic moments perfectly presented by a loveable bunch of varied characters who are superbly voice acted (yes, the English dub is great). Squad E is full of your expected anime character archetypes. Claude is your upstanding, confident leader, his childhood best friend Raz is the arrogant, blasé perve, and their other childhood pal Kai fits the motif of the quiet and reserved female character. They all comfortably fit the mould of stereotypical anime characters, but they are all fleshed out perfectly, leading you to feel emotionally invested in them. For example, we learn early of Claude’s past, and how he is known by those who knew him before the war as Scaredy-Claude, because his fear stopped him from risking his life to save others. You can see how much this affected Claude, and how it helped mould him into the Commander he eventually became. Each main character seems to have their own backstory and motivations for being involved in the mission to save their homeland, which in turn leads to a narrative that is gripping throughout.
Claude, Raz, Kai, and Riley are an awesome bunch
This emotional investment doesn’t pertain to simply the lead characters either, with characters featured less in the main story also having emotional and interesting exchanges and stories, which can be seen in the optional Squad Story missions that can be unlocked when you incorporate certain characters into your Squad E line-up. These side stories serve to tell the tales of the lesser likes of Squad E, allowing you to connect with characters you may have had no real reason to care about prior. Permadeath is present for characters not integral to the main plot after all, so these missions may make you just feel a little bit more desperate to save your comrades when they are at risk of perishing on the battlefield. Playing the Squad Stories missions also leads to some characters debuffs being converted into buffs, which is also a great incentive to give them a try.
Squad Stories are welcome deviations from the main plot
The story and world building in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is perfectly executed, providing you with characters that you can’t help but connect with. The game is also damn pretty too, with the CANVAS engine responsible for creating immensely beautiful watercoloured anime art, with each character having their own unique look.
The narrative is undeniably strong, and thankfully the gameplay is too. Valkyria Chronicles 4 gameplay-wise feels very much the same as the original game in the series, with a few new features to tinker with on the frontlines. The premise throughout is decidedly simple – navigate your squad of soldiers around a battlefield, taking out enemy troops and completing the outlined objective. More often than not your objective will be to capture the enemy base, but some missions offer up different objectives to complete a mission. One mission tasks you to reach the end of a heavily guarded ravine, while another requires you to survey an enemy occupied city, in order to know how many tanks the enemy have before planning your method of attack. Having variety in objectives keeps the stock standard ‘invade the base’ missions from becoming too stale, and I never felt any inkling of boredom while on the battlefield.
This game is so damn gorgeous
The original five classes, Scout, Shocktrooper, Lancer, Sniper, and Engineer all return in Valkyria Chronicles 4, alongside an all new Grenadier class. Each class has their pros and cons on the battlefield, with the composition of Squad E your call to make before you deploy on missions. For example, Scouts are quick moving soldiers who can cover long distances, while the Shocktroopers despite having less distance to move than the Scouts, makes up for it with a far more effective damage output. The Grenadier class is arguably the biggest addition to game, providing a class that is nothing like the others. As the Grenadier, you carry around a portable mortar, which while making you slow and unable to walk very far, also takes a couple of seconds to plant and setup when prepping to attack. Despite the lack of movement and pace, the mortar grants you an extremely damaging mortar strike that can travel over terrain, a perk that no other class really has. I’m not going to go deep into the intricacies of each class here, but they all do offer varying play styles, with some being more interesting to use than others. I preferred to bring an Engineer to monitor the health of my tanks and provide ammo to my troops at the expense of the Lancer class, as their short walk distance didn’t fit my fast-moving playstyle, as they’d often be left behind by the advancing Scouts and Shocktroopers
The Grenadier is an awesome new class
When you aren’t on the battlefield, you’ll be spending your time at the Headquarters, the hub in which you can manage your troops, and spend your hard earned experience and money. Your currency known as Ducat (DCT) can be spent at the R&D Facility in exchange for equipment and tank part upgrades, while the Training Field allows you to spend your experience points to upgrade classes. The Mess Hall is also an area in which you can spend your experience points to learn new orders to use when in battle, such as being able to evacuate a fallen soldier without having to rescue them, or fortifying the armour of one your tanks. Whether it be on the frontlines or at the headquarters, there’s always something to do throughout Valkyria Chronicles 4.
You’ll spend a decent amount of time at the R&D Facility
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is undoubtedly solid in its design, but I did encounter a couple of problems throughout the lengthy experience. Firstly, the enemy AI isn’t as smart as it arguably should be, with enemy troops being far too generous when it came to their movements on the battlefield. On numerous occasions I found myself stressing about the placement of my squad members, knowing that the enemy would easily be able to take them out, yet whenever they had the option to make the bold play, more often than not they didn’t capitalise. The enemy AI is perfectly fine for the majority of the experience, but sometimes the AI’s stupidity stuck out like a sore thumb.
Secondly, the game is overall a bit too easy, especially for those who have delved into the series before. There are of course challenging moments, but sadly most of the game isn’t that stressful, which is a shame for those dying for a gruelling tactical experience. Lastly, Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t have any sort of autosave system whatsoever, meaning that you’ll have to manually save your progress. It’s 2018, and autosaving has been an expected feature for more than a decade, so I can’t help but be frustrated that it’s lacking here. Nobody wants to lose hours of progress like that, and as someone that did whilst playing through Valkyria Chronicles 4, I have to say that it did have a negative effect on my enjoyment of the game, although very minutely.
Why does this game not autosave?
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a safe sequel, but it succeeds in bringing back the quality tactical gameplay and likeable characters that the series gained recognition for initially. The gameplay is strategic fun, the characters are not just likeable but well written and well voiced, and the music is delightful to listen to, especially when paired with an emotional story beat. The game is also so damn pretty, with the watercolour anime art being a pleasure to look at throughout what is a 40-hours-plus campaign. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the return to relevancy that the series needed, and I can’t help but wholeheartedly recommend that you give the game a go.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher