The Valkyria Chronicles series is easily one of my favorite turn-based strategy franchises of all time, featuring great combat, beautiful art, and an engaging narrative. The first game in the series, Valkyria Chronicles, was recently ported over to the PS4 and is soon coming to the Nintendo Switch in October. I strongly suggest everyone plays the seminal first title because it still holds up, and while Valkryia Chronicles 2 and Valkyria Revolution tried new things to unsuccessful results, I can still appreciate what they were trying to achieve. I am thankful this long dormant series is receiving new life with Sega bringing Valkyria Chronicles 4 to America and it is everything I would have hoped for in a sequel.
Valkryia Chronicles 4 takes the formula established in the first few titles and takes it in an interesting new direction by being a spin-off. This takes place during the events of the Second European War between the Atlantic Federation and Eastern Empire. It’s basically a retelling of World War II with you going against a Nazi-like regime and taking part in some huge battles. While the first game focused on the conflicts between normal/everyday people, you take control of the recruits of Squad E, a seasoned yet young group of soldiers led by commander Claude Wallace. The main goal being to capture the Imperial City and bring an end to the encroaching menace.
Each of the Valkyria Chronicles games are extremely focused tactical turn-based combat titles, with a heavy emphasis on military combat. This mixing of warfare with tactical based combat may seem odd at first, but functions very well. Due to the nature of the combat, every single moment of the battles make sense, from tactically trying to aim at someones head or using a tank to bullrush the enemy and provide cover.
Where I can really appreciate Valkyria Chronicles 4, and the series in general, is with the narrative. It is very heartfelt due to all of us understanding what a war like World War II actually meant to our existence. The war had clear and obvious villains, and Valkyria Chronicles 4 runs with the concept to a greater degree. The game takes place on the mythological continent of Europa and involves a smaller army severely outnumbered by a giant invading nation. Fortunately, you’re not outgunned as the forces you control are able to fight with more of a tactical edge.
The story in Valkryia Chronicles 4 is probably my favorite in the series, due to it being far more personal with the characters involved. Many of the strengths and weaknesses, plus some of the dark history, of the characters you control are touched upon and this gives you a better opportunity to care for your fellow squadmates and their motives. Your fellow soldiers don’t feel disposable like in other games in the series, as each new soldier introduces themselves to the squad and there can be some emotional connection to them. Having this feeling of real party members with real consequences made me second guess myself and really provided gravitas to certain situations in battle.
Gameplay is probably the greatest part of Valkyria Chronicles games, and Valkyria Chronicles 4 does not disappoint. Turn-based battles unfold with each faction taking a turn to move all their characters and perform actions within their turn. When it’s your squads turn to attack, you can select any of the units in any order you want and then you get to move and fire until you’re out of battle points. Everybody in your faction is able to shoot once a turn and move once a turn, so long as you have the battle points for each selected soldier.
There are different styles of soldiers you can select from in your base camp to enlist in the battles, including snipers, scouts, engineers, lancers, and the newly added grenadiers. Before taking part in a battle it’s important to have a mix of these soldier types, as having a sniper up on a hill and a lancer able to take out a tank can mean the different between winning or losing a battle. Scouts are also extremely important, as they have increased stamina during movement and are able to spot hiding enemies or enemies way off in the distance that normal soldiers can’t see.
It wouldn’t be a Valkryia game without tanks, and these are the big guns of the series that can do major damage. You aren’t able to use heavy vehicles in every match, but in certain missions they’re vital for survival. Tanks are completely immune to standard fire, but are not immune to mortar fire that can take out a tank quickly if you’re not careful. Successfully implementing the tank for cover fire or using as a barrier is essential further into the more difficult missions.
The missions themselves are extremely varied and fun to take part in. Every task you’re trying to complete has very different objectives and can even change in-mission, meaning you always need to be able to adapt just like in a real war. One mission in particular involved sneaking through a fog covered town without being seen to try and discover what tanks were real and which ones were being used as decoys. Another mission involved trying to sneak into an enemy base, but instead of attacking head-on with everyone, you would have your forces broken up to infiltrate the area. It’s this variance in the mission structures that really make Valkryia Chronicles 4 stand out from other similar turn-based tactical shooters.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 features deep customization that can really change the flow of combat and is yet another thing that separates the series from other tactical RPG’s. When you go back to base you can spend the money and experience you’ve earned to level up the characters you like to use and make it so a specific class may have extra abilities. There is also a research and development part of the base where you can spend money to increase the armor plating of your tanks or research a new type of weapon for a certain type of unit.
My only real complaint is how closely Valkyria Chronicles 4 resembles the original title in almost every way. I love the first title and don’t mind more of the same thing, but I can see how this may be a turn off to some new players to the franchise and sometimes it just felt like I was playing the original again. The hand-drawn aesthetic is nothing short of stunning, and the tactical gameplay is as robust and challenging as ever, but I wish they wouldn’t settle back into such safe territory this time around. I also wish there were more side-quests or in-game missions to take part in, rather than just replaying some of the missions in Skirmish mode.
Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a fine return to form for one of my favorite gaming series of all time. While it may seem too familiar to the original Valkyria Chronicles at times, its narrative consisting of multiple engaging stories makes it powerful in its own right. It may not necessarily be for everyone, but if you’ve ever had a passing interest in tactical games, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a wonderful entry into the genre and comes highly recommended.