After a few interesting directions with the Valkyria series, Valkyria Chronicles 4 returns to its roots of tactical gameplay from the first game but, some features from the prior games in the series was implemented and built upon. Some will say it’s “more of the same” but sometimes, this isn’t a bad thing. I’m not that into the tactics genre and I didn’t play the first game but, I’ll say that this was generally a fun experience. Between the action tactical gameplay and the personality of squad E members, I was engaged the entire time I was playing.
The story for Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place around the same time as the first game which details the story of squad E and it’s commander, Claude Wallace, during the Second European War. After months of defending their dwindling territory from the Empire, the Federation commences “Operation: Northern Cross”, one last gambit that launches a counter-attack against the Empire in an attempt to push them back. The story itself is told in “Book Mode” where each cutscene and battle is separated by “episodes”. This kind of breaks immersion a bit as each time a cutscene ends, it returns to Book Mode and you have to select the next episode. If they stay with this format, I think they should put all of the cutscenes together so they can be watched all in one shot. Outside of the main story, there are specific episodes in a chapter that is not required to progress the main story but, it shines a light on the main cast that builds on their character. There’s also “Squad Stories” which are individual stories that shine a light on the rest of Squad E who may have little to do with the main story. I personally enjoyed this as it doesn’t take away focus from the main plot line but, it allows me to get to know the other squadmates better.
Prior to starting an operation, you are allowed to choose who you want to deploy into battle and where you want them to start at, which is important depending on the mission. You get 6 classes of troops to pick from where some may be strong on some missions while they may be weaker in others. Scouts are mobile characters that can cover the largest distance out of all of the classes and can spot troops that will show up on your map, however, they have weak defenses and doesn’t do a lot of damage. Shocktroopers are machine gun wielding characters that are pretty good at putting down normal enemies but, they have short-range. Lancers are a class that is specifically meant to take down tanks and can withstand explosion damage, however, they don’t counter-attack and can get torn to shreds by a machine gun. Engineers are a fragile class that has the weakest defenses but, they can heal squadmates, repair tanks, fix ladders to forge new paths and remove landmines. Snipers can kill enemies from afar with a headshot but they don’t counter-attack when hit and can die easily if they are approached from behind. Finally, we have Grenadiers, units who can attack in an arc and shoot off a grenade from afar to kill a group of units but, they don’t have much movement and take a while to set up, which leaves them open to intercepting fire.
The game works in a turn-based fashion where it alternates between player turns and enemy turns. How many actions a player can take per turn is based on Command Points or “CP”. CP can be increased by eliminating troops with a badge but, it can also be decreased if one of your key members such as Kai, Riley or Raz falls in battle. Speaking of falling in battle, if a unit falls, they have 3 turns before they die unless an enemy unit touches them and depending on what unit it is, they are either gone for the rest of the game or could spell a game over. If an allied unit gets to them before 3 turns or a medic order is executed, they can be evacuated and will be available again in the next operation.
Later in the game, fallen units are able to pull off a last-ditch effort before being incapacitated which ranges from getting invincibility to attack an enemy unit or giving a buff to someone else. On to Orders, these are special actions that can be executed which requires CP. They range from evacuating a fallen unit, healing a unit who is in danger of dying and giving buffs to a certain unit. More can be unlocked by speaking to members in the mess hall or by leveling up troops. Eventually, you unlock “Direct Command”, an action that cost 1 CP and 1 SP which allows top ranking units to command two other units. This action can help move units with low AP or who have already acted to move as one unit and move further than what they would have alone. The downside is that it groups 3 people together and one mistake can kill all three units so, this needs to be planned accordingly. When moving an actual unit, how far they can move is dictated by “AP” and once it runs out, that unit isn’t able to move anymore but, they can still change the direction they are facing.
Throughout the field, there are various things that can be used as an advantage such as hiding behind a sandbag to reduce incoming damage and grass patches where a unit can crouch in to plan a surprise attack on enemy units. When you are about to shoot a unit, you have two options: shooting the body or going for a headshot. Body shots take more to kill but, have a higher success rate of landing while headshots require significantly fewer shots but, a low success rate which is also affected by distance. A unit also carries a grenade that can do massive damage and destroy cover but, the range is abysmal. With all of this in mind, the game gives the player so many ways to approach a mission and compliments all types of playstyles. The game pushes this narrative as the AI progressively gets better and will eventually start using orders that keep the player on their toes. It definitely jogs the thinking cells and makes us consider every action we take.
After you complete an operation, you get both money (DCT) and experience points which can be spent at headquarters. The Command Room allows you to swap out active members with people in reserve. This is pretty huge as each squad member has “Potentials”, abilities and quirks that can either benefit the squad member or hinder them. These abilities can range from reducing damage taken and restocking ammo to having zero AP and outright ending a turn. Also, certain members like cooperating with other members which can lead to them assisting with cover fire so, you want to tinker with this a lot as you get new squadmates every chapter which could benefit your squad greatly. This may not be new to the series but, I really like how the experience can be applied to an entire class instead of an individual squad member as it gives me the opportunity to change out members depending on the situation. I also don’t have to rely on a specific member, especially if they fall in battle due to a mistake I made. As you level up squad classes, they learn new battle potentials and new orders for you to use in battle. You can also go to the mess hall to interact with other squad mates and people at the base to potentially get the opportunity to learn new orders that require experience as well. In R&D, you can spend DCT to upgrade gear, equipment and buy upgrades for the tank. You can also equip new weapons and accessories although these are limited to how many you have and needs to be equipped to individual members.
During my time with the PC version, I had zero issues whatsoever but this may not be the case for everyone else. My only gripe was that the cut scenes are in 30 fps while the rest of the game is in 60fps but, since this is based on the PS4 version, it’s to be expected. The game supports resolutions up to 4k, the ability to switch which monitor the game appears on without having to restart, multiple screen modes, three target frame rate options, VSync, and a few other options. I ran the game at 1440p with 60 fps target and had no performance drops on a GTX 1070 i7 -8700k PC build. I noticed a little bit of texture pop in on the character details while in battle as you moved closer to them but, this isn’t an issue. Game also supports both Gamepad and Keyboard & Mouse.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a game that returns to its roots and does what it set out to do well. Although I prefer that the cutscenes were bunched together instead of individual episodes, it doesn’t take away from the overall experience and has side stories that provide character development for members that may not be as important as those in the main story. Combat is just as good as it was in the original game and the AI keeps the player on its toes as both sides have access to the same tools. I like the fact that each squad member has different traits and potentials that are realistic to real people. The PC version is just as smooth as Valkyria Chronicles PC version and I suspect that if you were able to run the 1st game, it’ll be the same deal with this game.
If you enjoyed the first game, you’ll definitely like this game and if you are new to the series, I feel the game keeps things interesting enough to keep new players engaged throughout the whole experience.
A review code was provided by SEGA Europe to review
Developer: SEGA Media Vision Publisher: SEGA
Release date: 02/09/2018
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC
Version Reviewed: PC