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Valkyrie Elysium Review

Valhalla’s Fall

The Square Enix-produced Valkyrie Profile Japanese RPG series has been dormant for over a decade (aside from a now-defunct mobile tie-in). In a year that has seen this prolific publisher resurrecting old IPs and venturing into new ones with mixed results, it is not with joy that I must bemoan the lack of care that has gone into resurrecting the Valkyrie. 

Valkyrie Elysium is a game that exists. After 15 hours, I am left boggled as to why. I have not played the previous games tied to this spin-off, which is now an action hack-and-slash title. As a series newcomer, it is perhaps for the best that there is effectively no reference to the parent series nor any events preceding this game. You play the titular Valkyrie, a personality-devoid servant of Odin who has been summoned to restore the god’s powers in the midst of Ragnarok. This means gathering a bunch of magical gifts that have been carelessly left lying about as generic blue orbs down in Midgard. What ensues is a series of fetch quests for the pompous and ill-tempered All-Father, where Valkyrie meets and recruits a tiny ensemble of poorly socialised semi-dead humans to aid in her excursions across four relatively small and repetitive levels. Along the way, Fenrir and a wayward Valkyrie attempt to sow seeds of doubt about Odin’s motivations, and these interactions are followed by multiple boss fights against them, occurring way too many times with the same boring patterns. 

Valkyrie and co aren’t the most intuitive bunch

That’s not just a vertical slice of 80% of the game’s plot, that’s almost the entirety of what occurs, and to suggest that I have spoiled anything is to assume that there are any further plot points worth anticipating – there’s almost no conventional narrative arc to this game. The first chapter, as covered in the impressive demo, is all but a dream. The opening cutscene is three or so partially-animated still images. Everything between the beginning and the end feels like McGuffin hunting rather than a crusade to restore the world as was presumably intended.

I mentioned that the demo is impressive. It shows a world that is bright and vibrant and teases light platforming via a grapple hook mechanic as well as a robust combat system. The world does not feel especially large in the opening but gives a nice facade to the breathable corridors that carry the player from A to B. The companion humans, the Einherjer, are already at the player’s disposal and function as both combat partners and elemental buffs to target enemy weaknesses. It all starts as a fairly inoffensive, low-skill hack and slash born of the likes of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. But alas this is all a farce. After this opening tutorial closes, the Valkyrie finds it was all a dream and loses all her powers and even the most basic combat abilities such as the dash and the parry. The player will spend the next ten hours toiling through the most bare-bones, basic combat before coming close to that competent combat they were teased with in the first hour, which is even worse considering combat is all this game has to offer.

Almost half the game involves Naruto-running through these empty buildings until monsters magically appear

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The world of Midgard is an empty series of corridors through ruins and fields across four zones. Everything from characters to textures is cast in a stylised black outline to mask how otherwise flat and colourless they are. The world is washed out in a kind of grey-green filter and fogginess that I assume is meant to be atmospheric while also hiding the low-detail textures and pop-in. Instead, it gives the visuals a nauseating ugliness that draws more attention to the lack of lighting and absent art direction. 

Fear not about the ugly world, as you will not spend much time taking it in. The tenor of this game is one note and involves getting caught in enclosed, inescapable battles with the same eight or nine types of enemies every few dozen meters. The platforming introduced in the opening chapter is used only a handful of times in the entire game, instead forcing the player to hack and slash their way through these repetitive hordes as the dominant means of progressing. 

At first, the breeziness of Valkyrie launching around the virtual arenas is mindlessly enjoyable in its simplicity and flashiness. Then the combat begins to round out with varying elemental versions of the same enemies beginning to appear, requiring the player to focus certain elements or weapon types on specific opponents to weaken their otherwise spongy health bars. At first, this seems like a needed wrinkle to the light combat. Unfortunately, the camera that is necessary to see where the enemies are around you either flicks away, buries itself in a wall or enemy’s arse, or the screen is simply filled with far too many effects such that only God knows where the player and camera will end up facing.

In Musou fashion, enemies don’t tend to put up much of a fight. They are chain attack fodder.

Side missions can be undertaken when visiting Valhalla between the game’s nine chapters, and these missions take place in the zones that players have already visited. The mission types have little variance between eliminating all the enemies in an area, getting to an objective point and eliminating all the enemies, or collecting an item marked on the map (which probably only appears after eliminating all the enemies in the given area). As players are already visiting these mostly linear corridors during the main chapters, being dumped back into the middle of them once again for the side missions is insulting. There is nothing new here to spice things up. The only appeal of these missions is that they are needed to unlock the higher-level elemental spells, as the ones unlocked in main missions are usually the introductory-level spells that quickly become ineffective. A level one fire lance simply won’t do shit in later chapters, not unlike the visually identical but more effective level three fire lance. 

The one saving grace to this otherwise tiresome and unnecessary spin-off is the score. It carries an otherwise soulless game, with its lofty choir bellowing gothic hymns that seem appropriately sublime in this lifeless world. 

Final Thoughts

A low-rent, low-skill hack ‘n slash romp. While infrequently enjoyable, Valkyrie Elysium probably isn’t deserving of its series association. It is a near-competent action game that is evocative of the late 2000s era of blockbuster IP hack ‘n slash tie-ins. For a series whose mainline JRPGs have been dormant for so long, having the bar set so low for a series revival or spin-off in this fashion is a real shame and will do nothing to muster favour for the series.

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Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Valkyrie Elysium Review
Bargain bin Ragnarok
Soulless yet almost serviceable as a light hack ‘n slash Valkyrie Profile spinoff, Elysium is a 15-hour chore of ugly visuals, repetitive combat, and a mundane plot.
The Good
Flashy, passable hack n' slash combat
Einherjar characters add a needed gimmick to the action
The score's gothic hymns give life to a game otherwise absent of it
The Bad
Bland, tiny world that is monotonously reused
Bad camera
Barely registered story carried by drones
Terrible side missions
Boring enemy design
4.5
Bummer
  • Soleil Ltd.
  • Square Enix
  • PS5 / PS4 / PC
  • September 29, 2022

Valkyrie Elysium Review
Bargain bin Ragnarok
Soulless yet almost serviceable as a light hack ‘n slash Valkyrie Profile spinoff, Elysium is a 15-hour chore of ugly visuals, repetitive combat, and a mundane plot.
The Good
Flashy, passable hack n’ slash combat
Einherjar characters add a needed gimmick to the action
The score’s gothic hymns give life to a game otherwise absent of it
The Bad
Bland, tiny world that is monotonously reused
Bad camera
Barely registered story carried by drones
Terrible side missions
Boring enemy design
4.5
Bummer
Written By Nathan Hennessy

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