Valkyria Chronicles 4
PC via Stream/Playstation 4/
CONSIDERING the critical and commercial success of the source material, the release of Valkyria Chronicles 4, a sequel that in large measure represents a technical update, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Developers Sega and Media.Vision certainly set it up well; in preparation for its rollout on retail and as part of its production process, they saw fit to work on and come up with a remastered version of the original for current-generation consoles. Eight years had passed since the latter went on to gain accolades from various quarters, and they couldn’t help but take advantage of the opportunity to both revive and use the title as a stepping stone for the series’ latest iteration.
Creditably, Valkyria Chronicles 4 boasts of gameplay elements that hark back to its roots while, at the same time, capitalizing on technological upgrades in presentation. For all intents and purposes, it serves as the real followup to the original (which proved to be so rich in possibilities as to spawn adaptations in other media), what with Valkyria Chronicles II and III made specifically for the PlayStation Portable and Valkyria Chronicles D and Valkyria Revolution veering from the storyline of the previous releases.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place at the same time as Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles III do, early on in World War II but in Europa as part of an alternate reality. While its aforesaid predecessors’ perspective was that from within neutral Gallia, however, it highlights moves by the Atlantic Federation against the Imperial Alliance. The narrative follows Squad E of the Edinburgh Army in fulfillment of orders to plow to the North and ultimately invade Schwartzgrad. And, remarkably, it shines in its seamless melding of compelling exposition and immersive game mechanics.
Story-wise, Valkyria Chronicles 4 manages to humanize developments by delving into the motivations of the principal protagonists. Squad E commanding officer Claude Wallace, grenadier Riley Miller, and sargeants Raz and Kai Schulen hail from Gallia and are spurred to action in an effort to protect their home country from Imperial forces. Later on, they are joined by former Squad F commanding officer Minerva Victor, whose role as scout proves crucial to progress. Their richly layered personalities lead to colorful interactions underpinned by unique experiences.
Notably, Valkyria Chronicles 4 makes use of a battle interface that brings to the fore its worth as a tactical role-playing game. During combat, players oversee Squad E via a Command Mode that provides a top-down view of the theater of operations, and then via Action and Target Modes that enable direct control of troop movements and allow for precision aiming, respectively. The length of a given turn is determined by the depletion of command points, and of a given battle by the completion of — or, as the case may be, failure to achieve — mission objectives. To this end, six character classes with distinct sets of strengths and weaknesses offer up a myriad options across large swaths of land. And, needless to say, with victory come the personnel and equipment upgrades required to move the game forward.
In light of Valkyria Chronicles 4’s serious treatment of the subject matter, it fittingly treats players to gorgeous visuals and impressive audio cues that reflect its intricacy and attention to detail. The art style is loosely impressionist with splotches of anime, reflecting its presentation as a wistful retrospective off Claude’s journal. Meanwhile, the soundtrack accentuates the mood of the moment, and is highlighted by outstanding voice acting. The visceral feedback is best elicited on the personal computer, but remains impactful on the PlayStation 4 Pro and even on the Nintendo Switch. Softer tones may be abundant on the latter, but hardly to the point of distraction.
Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 4 stands as a reboot that fans of the series will deem worthy of its name. At the same time, those new to the intellectual property will find their effort rewarded by its uncommon depth and capacity to personalize the ravages of war. It’s not flawless by any means; the story can drag on and combat sequences suffer from uneven play that border on the exploitative. Still, it distinguishes itself as an example that fodder for both brains and brawn can go hand in hand. And regardless of the platform it is enjoyed in, it excels.
• Outstanding story and game mechanics
• Remarkable visuals and audio cues
• Stellar voice acting
• Effective update of the acclaimed original
• Story presentation can drag on
• Uneven gameplay that players can exploit
• Quality-of-life issues crop up on occasion and disrupt the experience
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