Valkyria Chronicles released onto the PS3 a decade ago to critical acclaim. It achieved great success as a strategy role playing game which fused together cinematic storytelling and excellent gameplay. SEGA subsequently released Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 onto the PSP in the years that followed but these games limited the player base to those that owned Sony’s handheld console. Valkyria Chronicles 3 never saw a localized release in the West either. A spin off, Valkyria Revolution was released in 2017 but this received mixed results and average reviews from critics.
Enter Valkyria Chronicles 4 on PlayStation 4 and surprisingly, Nintendo Switch too. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the first main series entry since the PSP only Valkyria Chronicles 3 and is a return to the form for the franchise after Valkyria Revolution’s lackluster attempt. The game follows Squad E, a Gallian Ranger Corp team made up of “misfits, freaks and outsiders”, as one character so eloquently put it.
The story of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set during the same time period as the first game in the franchise. The war between the Empire and the Atlantic Federation has kicked off and heavy losses have been sustained by the Allied nations. In a desperate yet incredibly smart attempt to bring a swift end to the war, the Atlantic Federation has come up with Operation Northern Cross. This operation involving numerous Atlantic forces seeks to travel to the heart of the empire and seize their capital before the war drags out any further.
Squad E, being one of the most talented and elite groups in the Ranger Corp is thrown into the mix. They are tasked with carrying out Operation Northern Cross by completing a series of set objectives culminating in the Atlantic siege of the Empire’s seat of power. However, just like with Valkyria Chronicles 1, things never seem to go to plan and there’s a lot of character growth and development along the way.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 storytelling succeeds in ways that not many other games can pull off. Squad E is composed of numerous characters that the player will be introduced to throughout the story. Claude Wallace is the commanding officer of Squad E and his calm demeanor makes him the perfect fit for his ragtag crew of soldiers. Squad E also contains some of Claude’s childhood friends and acquaintances from his hometown of Hafen. Raz, Kai and Riley join the squad and their backstory is explored through the in-game chapter system via visual-novel animated cutscenes.
Character growth and development is extremely strong in Valkyria Chronicles 4. Squad E’s members aren’t just throwaway characters. They each have stories and personalities that show through in the game and players will easily get attached to certain characters based on their personalities. While playing into character tropes such as having the tough guy main character Raz, Valkyria Chronicles 4 doesn’t fall victim to boring storytelling. The game explores its characters and keeps you entertained throughout.
Gameplay in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is very similar to Valkyria Chronicles 1. Players have a command phase where they can tactically order their Scouts, Stormtroopers, Engineers, Lancers, Snipers or Grenadiers on the battlefield. These of course all being members of Squad E. Taking control of a unit and moving it drains “Action Points” which is represented by a meter that depletes as you move on the battlefield. Players can choose to perform certain actions such as shooting or healing or throwing a grenade with their selected character on the battlefield. Additionally, during the command phase, players can issue orders which drain “Command Points”. These orders perform specific boosts or confer abilities or attributes onto their selected squad members on the battlefield. Moving a unit also drains a command point during the command phase so players need to carefully plan their actions to achieve victory.
Once your command phase is over, the enemy will have their command phase and move their units into battle too. Players can watch this occur and your squad may open fire on the enemy if they have a clear line of sight. A real-time battle aspect is therefore blended into the turn-based action and this can make or break some battles. Characters also have specific personality traits that can be triggered in battles which can either increase their attributes or decrease them depending on the situation and who else is in the battle with them.
Losing a unit to injuries in a battle is something that you don’t want to ever occur. Main characters dying usually results in mission failure while other minor characters will be wiped out from your squad for good should they fall in combat. Players can revive downed squad members, and this is encouraged at all opportunities in the game to signify their worth to your squad.
Missions are varied throughout the entire game and there is never a moment where you’ll feel bored when playing Valkyria Chronicles 4. After a successful mission, players can also head back to headquarters to level up their squad classes with experience points and upgrade their equipment with money earned through battles. Additionally, since Claude is the commanding officer, he pilots a modified tank known as the Hafen, named after his hometown. The tank can also be upgraded with new equipment and is invaluable in missions thanks to its versatility.
Valkyria Chronicles also features a “Skirmish” mode where players can choose a battle they’ve played through before and play through it without any story elements attached. Doing this nets you experience points and money which can be used to upgrade your soldiers but at the risk of losing them due to the increased difficulty of the skirmishes. This is a great place to practice your tactics and a great way to revisit previously played battles.
The soundtrack used in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is excellent with orchestral themes blaring during battle and more relaxed themes for the visual novel segments. The voice acting in the game is well done and characters are believable. The sounds used in battle are also great with explosions and gunfire sounding authentic.
Graphically, Valkyria Chronicles 4 maintains a unique washed out storybook anime water-painting aesthetic that is absolutely gorgeous. Character designs are unique and the armour they wear as well as their weaponry are visually appealing. It does everything right to set itself apart from anything else out there and maintains the distinctly Valkyria Chronicles identity the franchise established many years ago.
Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an excellent title that fans of the franchise will be glad to play. If you played Valkyria Chronicles 1 and enjoyed it, this is a must-buy since it explores a side story yet maintains enough substance to keep you entertained for 30 or more hours.