“War never changes.” One of the most infamous opening phrases in gaming, and it applies quite well to Valkyria Chronicles. A gem of the last gen, fans were excited to hear the cult hit would be getting a PC port. Back with all the charm of its PS3 days and a host of features for PC users to max out, this port of Valkyria Chronicles is the perfect way for newcomers to experience a masterpiece.
For those not in the know, Valkyria Chronicles is an odd hybrid of turn-based strategy and third-person shooter mechanics. You follow Welkin, a young man caught up in the sudden invasion of his homeland Gallia by the evil Imperials. After barely escaping your hometown with your lives, Welkin and his unlikely companion Alicia enlist in the Gallian military to push back the Imperials and save their homeland.
The story is pretty cheesy, but it still manages to make you care about each of your soldiers and their fates. There’s the standard ancient power being used for evil, and a conflict based over powerful minerals (called Ragnite), but it’s still pretty decent.
The main appeal of Valkyria Chronicles is the fascinating battle system. Each turn you receive an allotted number of Command Points, or CP. Activating a unit costs CP, and once they’re activated, you can move and shoot, similar to a third-person shooter. Each shot you take is similar to XCOM: you have a chance to hit wherever you aim, and different weapon types deal different amounts of damage to the many varieties of units. Lancers are great at killing tanks, but can barely hold their own against infantry; Snipers can pick off engineers, but fall fast to heavy armor; and so on and so forth.
Outside of battles, you can manage your squad in a variety of ways. You can spend experience to level up classes, spend money on more research or tank parts, and recruit new soldiers to replace lost comrades or just to bolster the variety of your forces. Chronicles levels up classes, not characters, so every soldier you have and will have will all be at the same level as everyone else in their class.
There are five classes to flesh out and develop throughout the course of the game. Scouts are effective at recon and decent against infantry, but have low health and overall damage. Stormtroopers are your DPS, dealing the most overall damage and able to go toe-to-toe with most enemy units. Lancers act as anti-armor, able to pierce tanks with their rockets but falling to infantry fire. Snipers are effective at clearing out infantry, but are slow and easy to kill in exchange for their massive range. Finally, Engineers support your troops, clearing out mines and laying their own, and also providing ammo to friendly forces in need. There’s also tanks, but you only really manage a few in your time with Valkyria Chronicles; there’s a lot to upgrade on them, but the focus is mostly on your infantry.
The game itself is still as solid as it was in its PS3 days, and the inclusion of all previous DLC releases is great too. The game is enough of a draw for any newcomer to pick up the game and play through the amazing story of the Gallian hero Welkin.
The real difference delivered in the PC port of Chronicles is in the graphical upgrades. Players can up the graphical quality to almost any 16:9 resolution setting, which also upscales all the art assets naturally – it makes the game look beautiful. There’s also a host of options for setting frame limit and v-sync as well, meaning you can make Chronicles look as fantastic as your rig can handle. The anime-style graphics scale amazingly well into higher resolutions and framerates, and there’s a noticeable difference between the original PS3 version’s graphics and the PC port’s fidelity. The setting of the game was already wonderful, with plenty of different locales for you to wage war in, and now it looks even better than before.
If I have any qualms with Valkyria Chronicles, it’s in the minutia. While there’s plenty of classes to upgrade and develop, you can beat most missions with a couple Scouts and Stormtroopers. Engineers don’t feel all too useful, and Lancers play second fiddle once your Stormtroopers can deal effectively with tanks.
Also, the difficulty ramp in Chronicles is very strange. If you play through the main story missions only, the game becomes very difficult very fast, especially around Chapter 7 or so. But if you complete side missions regularly and spend a little amount of time leveling up your main classes, the game is pretty easy to breeze through without difficulty.
There’s also the issue of mission ratings: to get the best ranking on a good deal of missions, you are pretty much forced to just send a few Scouts or Stormtroopers on a suicide run for a certain point on the map to end the mission ASAP. It seems odd that a strategy game would gate its best rankings with time/turn restrictions.