Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4

It's been ten years since we got a console sequel to Valkyria Chronicles. After the game was released on the PS3 in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles moved to the Playstation Portable. This was a smart move in 2008 because handheld gaming was the new hype of the moment. Now the latest installment finally returns in the form of Valkyria Chronicles 4. The RPG takes us back to the conflict between the Atlantic Federation and the Imperial Alliance on the European continent. In this World War II-like setting, the series returns in style and how.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place in the same period as the first and third games, but don't worry, if you haven't played these games it's no problem. Reference is only made to the other releases, so the story is separate in this case, entering this world will only have a better picture of the total world and what is happening in other areas.


Story and Graphics
Valkyria Chronicles is set in the year 1935 in an alternate world where Europe is ravaged by war. The Atlantic Federation in the west is fighting the Imperial Alliance in the east. A new resource called 'Ragnite' has been discovered in the past, Ragnite can be used for many different destructive or medical purposes. To get more of the Ragnite, the Imperial Alliance has launched an invasion of other lands. This conflict was also the backstory of the other titles, but this issue focuses specifically on it.

The story takes you on a journey of love and loss with deep and compelling characters, such as the leader Claude, who is somewhat reserved and even wary around the ever deranged Raz. It is inevitable that you will fall in love with the characters you meet and the stories you hear. This is told in a manga style, which should feel like a welcome return to fans of the original. You care for the heroes and love each for their quirks. These newcomers to the series also get their due attention during the cutscenes and side stories of their own. There is a huge and diverse cast of characters in Valkyria Chronicles 4.
Visually, these cutscenes look situational; it almost looks hand drawn. It's stunning and a fantastic way to tell such an emotional story. This visual quality is also reflected in the main gameplay parts of Valkyria Chronicles 4.
Gameplay and music
Valkyria Chronicles is a JRPG that has characteristics of a shooter and turn-based strategy. All this is seen from a 'third-person' perspective, which also includes 'real-time' elements. Of course this sounds like a lot of concepts that don't fit together well, well.
To progress you play cutscenes and missions in a kind of "book mode", a mode in which you determine your own progress. Missions themselves can take twenty minutes to sometimes an hour. These are fairly simple at first and contain "tutorial" elements, but it doesn't take long before any mistake you make is relentlessly punished. Before jumping in like a headless chicken, however, you should think about counter-attacks and the opponent's moves. You control your troops from third person and, with a limited number of action points and shots, you move to your new position. If you come within sight of some troops, they can shoot at you. You can also use your soldiers more than once per turn, but with a handicap.

Bookmode also offers the option to go to your headquarters. Here you can upgrade your squad, instead of upgrading individual characters you can upgrade the character type. This means that when selecting your squad for a battle, you can choose anyone. Unlike many other RPGs, this doesn't neglect or ignore low-level characters.
Characters aren't the only thing that's improved in your HQ. In the Research & Development section, you can also upgrade weapons and vehicles, as well as learn new commands that you can use during combat to boost your squad: improving their precision, for example.
Your squadmates also have friends they love to fight side by side. This can also provide a combo. As you probably understand by now, this is a true narrative tactical experience that we love. Be warned though: if your character dies on the battlefield, you'll lose it forever in Valkyria Chronicles 4. That means it won't appear in cutscenes or anywhere else, and it can get quite emotional because of that.

Verdict
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a stunning and immersive experience, one that will keep you playing for many hours on end. It offers a lot of challenges, gives you a story to think about and is well worth the time it takes. We thoroughly enjoyed our battles against The Empire and it certainly lives up to the expectation we had as fans of the franchise.


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