Valkyria Revolution Review

Let’s get this out of the way first; Valkyria Revolution is a radically different game from Valkyria Chronicles. Revolution, for all intents and purposes, shares no relation to Chronicles outside of a few key terms and carrying the Valkyria brand on its title. It also lacks the charm that I’ve come to admire from the Valkyria games as well.

Even when I separate it from its predecessors, Valkyria Revolution is a massive disappointment in most aspects. Revolution’s shortcomings are glaring and prevalent.

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Revolution’s story revolves around the Kingdom of Jutland and its Liberation War against the invading Ruzi Empire. Unlike Chronicles, Revolution’s world treats ragnite ore as a fundamental component for alchemy rather than just a fuel source. There’s a world shift to a more fantasy-oriented setting rather than a set militaristic one.

It is framed as a retelling of events about its main characters, the Five Traitors. Richelle, the narrator, shares the actual truth behind the war and these treasonous individuals to a curious student versus what history books tell of them. There’s an initial sense of wonder behind its premise, thought it’s quickly squashed a few minutes upon starting.

Prepare to watch long stretches of cutscenes often. Revolution is no stranger to frequent spurts of them and some will leave your controller inactive upwards to half an hour. I usually like watching cutscenes in games, but Valkyria Revolution somehow found a way to make them as dull as possible. It often drags its feet by needlessly drawing them out. Much of the cutscenes amount to mundane chattering; a few of them attempt to bring forth some political intrigue and it falls flat on that too.

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These constant cutscenes highlight Revolution’s lackluster visuals. I was reminded that everyone looked like eerie porcelain dolls plastered with an additional coat of vaseline. Facial expressions are practically nonexistent, so emotional cues that were supposed to drive home the tragedy of war were simply… not there.

Camerawork in Revolution’s cutscenes did little to make them engaging either. Almost every cutscene in The Traitors’ Hideout is introduced with the same five-second camera pan. Scenes depicting meetings with NPCs deliberately had them face away from the camera at all times and typically had identical character models from other NPCs around them.

Story cutscenes aren’t the only thing I had to worry about. Several events could only be viewed in the main storybook after a chapter’s section was over. Why these scenes were arbitrarily cut from playing alongside the others doesn’t make much sense to me. Perhaps they didn’t want to subject me to an additional five minutes of boredom on top of the half hour they already burned off. How considerate of them!

Another notebook in the main menu unlocks miscellaneous scenes involving your squadmates. More of these open up depending on how often you use them in combat and how many enemies you’ve killed with them. Just in case I hadn’t had my fill of cutscenes, Revolution was there to reward me with more. Hurray.

It’s all blatantly sloppy and I can’t say I enjoyed viewing any cutscenes in this game. This is a problem, since Revolution’s structure is about 70% cutscenes and 30% gameplay.

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When I was finally able to play Valkyria Revolution, signs of its troubled development were obvious. Several alpha and beta tests of its battle system were conducted prior to its Japanese launch - even a few months before it in some cases. Its final form comes off terribly tedious and monotonous.

Revolution disposes of Chronicles’s turn-based tactical battlefields for a new action RPG battle system. I could roam around with my squad of four without any movement restrictions. Attacking, casting spells, and using items are all tied to a little AP gauge on a character’s portrait. You can freely switch control to other squad members too. This stuff sounds great on paper, but its execution faltered and soured my already miserable experience.

I spared little thought formulating my combat strategy in Valkyria Revolution. Forget hiding behind cover or planning out tactical formations. Run towards those opponents with guns and swing your gigantic sword at them. My squad is usually tanky enough to take many hits. I found myself rolling and rolling throughout combat zones to swing my melee weapon on foes hiding behind cover. Attack animations in it are comical for the wrong reasons; swinging a massive sword felt more like whacking someone with a toy.

Spells, guns, grenades, and items can be accessed behind a circular battle menu once the AP gauge is filled. There is an elemental affinity system that can be taken advantage of, but it does little to make battles more thrilling.

Valkyria Revolution’s class system is much like what’s found in the Chronicles series. Scouts and shocktroopers are back while shieldbearers and sappers work to supplement the new battle system. Classes affect what kind of ranged weapons a character can equip. There’s some neat ideas in place, but since any character can equip almost any spell with enough work, much of their uniqueness is lost. Characters also level up individually instead of allotting EXP points to a class.

"Even when I separate it from its predecessors, Valkyria Revolution is a massive disappointment in most aspects."

The most strategical elements in Revolution’s battles were stacking debuffs on foes to slow down their AP bar. Slaying Commander units would inflict fear into nearby units and sped up my AP rate so I could attack more often. Several encounters with huge mechanical bosses showed some promise for enjoyable fights; instead, it looped into a wearisome cycle of blowing up a part, attack its core when it’s on the ground, rinse and repeat.

When I wasn’t ready for the next chain of cutscenes in Revolution, I delayed the inevitable with its repeatable free missions. They all took place in the same small pool of environments with identical mission objectives - much like the main missions. Valkyria Revolution’s combat system is riddled with confusing design choices that makes it feel unsatisfying to play.

There are two things I like about Valkyria Revolution - its music and its localization. Yasunori Mitsuda’s composition is absolutely fantastic boasting a full orchestral approach. The chimes and sounds are reminiscent of 19th-century Europe. It isn't enough to rectify the game’s flaws; perhaps closing your eyes during cutscenes will make for a more enjoyable experience.

Meanwhile, its localization does an admirable job trying to spice up the tiresome pace. Hearing excitement from the voice actors accompanying a static facial expression is disheartening. I grew to like a few characters due to their mannerisms in dialogue. Revolution supports dual-audio as well for those who want to hear the original Japanese voices.

I do genuinely think that the story itself is serviceable, but its presentation absolutely destroyed my interest in it. There’s some merit behind constructing a band of characters manipulating an entire nation for their own purposes. It’s a nice change of pace from typical RPG protagonists and though all the story beats aren’t all that good, there were intriguing ideas behind it all. It’s difficult to recommend Valkyria Revolution if you’re looking for an enjoyable game. This was an ambitious direction to take the series to and I don’t think it was the right call.