"Oh no... What have they done?" is something I ought to be saying after a dramatic twist in a story, not upon playing the first few hours of a sequel to one of my favourite strategy role playing games of all time.
The first time around I completely missed Valkyria Chronicles
. I got around to playing it only last year and it blew me away: the art style was beautiful, the combat required thought and planning and above all else it told a great fantasy-skewed reworking of World War 2.
Fast forward a year and some change and Valkyria Chronicles
finally releases after a slightly tumultuous development cycle where a demo available to the public brought to light the fact that the game had rubbish gameplay. With feedback the team went back to work and reworked various mechanics, attempting to make the game feel more akin to what fans expected.
They failed, miserably.
The original idea was to have Dynasty Warriors
-style combat with a veneer of the original Valkyria
game to add strategy. What we got was a slow-paced combat system that is almost insultingly simple, just requiring you to attack to win. If you want to use abilities (they are next to pointless) you have to trawl through menus that would better serve a turn-based game, but because this is real-time they feel cumbersome and out of place.
Outside of combat you can wonder around a few locations doing busy work between missions, upgrading gear and taking part in side stories. Nothing overly interesting or new happens here and serves more as padding than actual meat on Revolution
The story isn't bad, it just isn't very interesting and suffers from terrible set-up that sees a student trying to learn more about his countries past. Thus the gameplay takes place in the past and follows the actions of a group known as The Five Traitors lead by a chap called Amleth as they lead their country to war on a mission of vengeance.
There are the seeds of a great story here, but frequent pacing issues and terrible voice acting turn it in to a snooze-fest. Add to this cutscenes that are regularly broken up by loading screens that last longer than the scene being loaded and constant breaks so that Richelle can explain to her prospective student the circumstances that lead each country to do what it did.
For a while I thought the game looked okay, there are a lot of bright colours and little details, but there was this feeling in the back of my mind that something wasn't quite right with what I was looking at. It took some time but I finally managed to pin it down - the character models, animations and textures all belong to the handheld PS Vita version of the game and have had the minimum done to them to make it work on the PlayStation 4. Once you notice it the art direction for the whole game falls apart and if you then make the mistake of going back to Valkyria Chronicles
for the sake of comparison the bright colours look garish in comparison to the pencil and water colour aesthetic of that original game.
They had a chance with this game to retool the Valkyria
franchise into a massive international hit. The existing fanbase was primed and ready to sing Revolution
's praises, but instead we got something that could very well bury the series under a mountain of mediocrity and bad design.
+ It probably looks okay on the Vita?
- Dull combat that rarely requires you to wade through the other systems on hand
- Story framing and bad characterisation kill the story being told
- More loading screens than should ever be needed
- Vibrant visuals almost hide the poor models and animation. Almost.
SPOnG Score 3/10