Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Valkyria Revolution Impressions

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way up front: This game was given to me by Sega/Atlus. I played about five hours of it. I played it on the Xbox One.

"What? Only five hours?!" Well, no. I watched about three hours of in engine cut-scenes and played about two hours of it. Those proportions might be a little off, but not by much. So why did I pull out so quickly? A few reasons. I'll get there.

Valkyria Revolution is not a sequel to Valkyria Chronicles. The universe isn't the same (but it is similar). The gameplay isn't the same. The comparisons can stop at similar art styles and similar themes. ...and maybe similar writing.

Revolution brings a few new things to the table. The game's engine is kind of cool in that it renders as if it were painting the images on a canvas. There's a subtle canvas texture that is nice, especially when the action on the screen is minimal, allowing you to take it in. However, the models seem really sharp - like a last generation game. This makes it all the more baffling when the game will load an in-engine cinematic, deliver two lines of dialog, and then return to a load screen for a camera angle change. One particularly egregious example of this is when the player is introduced to the four plot-central characters by the narrator. They each get a few lines of narration rehashing what the exposition just told us. The narrator takes 5-10 seconds to speak, then there's a 10-20 second load time. As of this writing I have not been informed of any day 1 patch to address this. Also of note, at one point in the first few hours my Xbox dimmed the screen because it had been so long since I was given a chance to interact with the game.

That reminds me. I don't say 'anime story' as if it were a bad thing. Some of my favorite stories are anime. However, this was an anime ass anime story. I think some of the problems may have been with  the localization process - some characters spoke in really stilted olde English, while others reminded me of 1920's newsies. That might have been a style choice, and I could have looked passed it if not for the melodrama and cliche plot elements presented up front. The story alternates between treating the player like an idiot (the aforementioned explicit rehash of what was CLEARLY spelled out in forced exposition) and glossing over information that would be helpful (such as why the untrained, rookie princess and a literal child are fighting with the elite super squad on the front lines instead of like... the reserves) which is pretty frustrating.

The combat is... fine? Maybe? It has some light real time strategy (think the original Mass Effect series) layered on an active time battle system. You can do a chain of attacks, then you have to dodge around for three or four seconds to attack again. There is crafting, skill trees, and a spell infusion system that promise depth; but I was pretty checked out by the time they were introduced.

I have no real complaints about the gameplay. It is a system that I haven't seen before, and I wish there was something to support it - or at least not actively annoy me so that I could muster the will to explore it further. If you're thinking about picking this game up, I'd encourage you to watch the first few hours on Twitch or something to make sure you know what you're in for. Everyone else? Check out the original Valkyria Chronicles. Those games are pretty good.