It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Valkyria Chronicles make an appearance. The last title in the franchise released in 2011 for PSP, but that version wasn’t even localized outside of Japan. The last Valkyria Chronicles released and localized was Valkyria Chronicles II back in 2010. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is honestly a pretty incredible journey with a beautiful artstyle that kept sucking me back in.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place in Europa, during the Second Europan War. The main narrative of the plot follows commander Claude Wallace, but the 18 chapters that players will be sinking a ton of time into are driven just as much by the great cast supporting Claude. Squad E, as they are known, are part of the battle between the Atlantic Federation and the Eastern Imperial Alliance. This war will take them all the way to the imperial capital to fight imperials and the Valkyria.
I can’t stress enough how great the cast of characters are. From the footsoldier Raz who just wants to fight and shoot at everything that crosses his path, to the sniper Kai, who doesn’t seem to care about anyone. Each character is well written to varying degrees. Some are better than others, but each one has their moment to shine throughout the story. Each chapter is told through Claude’s diary, something that reminds me a little bit of Moss. It’s a little more heavy-handed here, and not done as well.
As players complete a scene, Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes you straight back to the diary pages. Each page can house a few important scenes, and they can vary in length as well. These scenes are mostly selected through poloraids on each page, which adds a level of age to the setting a narrative. It’s a little frustrating sitting through loading screens between each cutscene, but those times weren’t as bad when I knew I was moving into a battle sequence.
I mentioned the artstyle at the beginning of this review, and I’m going to reiterate now: this game is absolutely beautiful. The world is vibrant, the characters are well animated, and the colors almost literally jump off the screen. Characters have gotten a lot of love and attention to detail, and not one of them feels weaker than the others. Slight cel-shading effects appear on the characters, giving them an additional layer of depth to their animations. The story is bleak, but despite this the world around them is still a living, colorful world. Scenery almost has a water-color feel to it, almost making it feel like a water-colored comic book.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 feels like a cross between Advanced Wars and the Tales of… series. Players move different characters around the battlefield with a set travel difference for each infantry type. Attacks have chance of hitting enemies depending on distance and weapon type. Instead of just putting a percentage on each attack though, bullets or missiles fired from weapons have a chance of hitting anywhere within a positioned reticle. As with most shooters, headshots do more damage, and even though this isn’t a shooter per se, it definitely has some aspects that harken to that type of gameplay. Positioning attacks on enemy bodies may have a better chance of landing, a single headshot could be the difference between a few body shots.
The battle system does a really good job of making the player feel like each bullet hit or miss has less to do with luck, and more to do with positioning in this aspect. The RNG is something I’m used to out of titles from this genre, and Valkyria Chronices 4 is a breath of fresh air for the genre.
In battle, Claude actually doesn’t play like any other class of fighter. Instead, he takes control of a tank that is actually pretty nimble and has a high distance rate. The caveat here, is that there are specific areas of the map that the tank physically cannot go. Claude’s unit feels a bit overpowered than the others, but the rest of the characters feel pretty well balanced. Careless mistakes can cost you units very easily, so paying attention to enemy locations is important.
Both walking in front of enemies, and enemies walking in front of you causes characters to open fire. However, it only happens when the characters are moving, and once the movement phase is over, characters stop shooting. Another new addition to players’ arsenal is the grenadier. Other than the sniper class, the grenadier is the only class that has a decent weapon range. Enemies that are hiding behind sandbags or high up on battlements that overlooks the battlefield are easy targets for the grenadier.
A small misstep for Valkyria Chronicles 4 actually revolves around the grenadier class. Enemy tanks have a weakspot on the bank of them, and is the only spot where players can damage them. The arc of the grenadier’s weapon actually makes it so players can take out tanks from any direction. This ultimately renders the lancer class useless. Their weapon, a rocket launcher type weapon, was very useful early game for taking out enemy tanks or fortified enemies. After the grenadier is unlocked, not so much.
Different characters in the roster have different positive and negative effects too that can affect the tide of battle. This generally comes in to play when two linked characters are in play, but occasionally pops up to offer various accuracy up or down stats. If a character does end up dead in battle, players have a couple of turns to position another character near them in order to evacuate them from the battlefield. If nobody is nearby or you can’t make it in time, that character is gone.
Outside of battle, players can level up the handful of classes back at the main base. When a class levels up, all units in that class gain access to the bonuses rewarded for putting the XP in. This is another thing I really liked about Valkyria Chronicles 4, as it helps ease some of the burden of levelling up individual characters. The R&D station can be used to upgrade weapons and Claude’s tank at the base as well. There’s a decent amount of customization here, and players can equip new weapons to their favorite characters to give them some extra firepower.
My biggest complaint here is a pretty terrible menu system. Navigating through the various menus of chapters, side missions, and different areas of the base is pretty terrible. Equipping weapons doesn’t result in an icon saying that it’s equipped to another character, so if you only have a couple of new toys, it’s easy to forget it has already been attached to someone else. Honestly though, this is a small complaint compared to how absolutely enjoyable the rest of the experience is.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, it just refines a bit of what made the original so great. A strong cast of mostly likeable characters reinforce incredibly deep tactical gameplay, and the death system adds a weight of importance in every move. The beautiful visuals showcase some stunning environments for our cast to traverse. Anyone who likes strategy RPG’s should give this one a spin, because Valkyria Chronicles 4 feels like it could be top of its class.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.