The Best Turn Based Strategy RPG You’ve Never Played

As I’ve gotten older, I have less time to sit down and play through 40 hours of RPG story lines. I can get into anything from sports titles to epic MMORPGs. Just like a great book, the games I find myself connecting with the most, are those that you don’t want to put down but you can when life delays your journey to the next chapter. Why am I so hyped up on Valkyria Chronicles? Well I’m glad you asked.

ADVENTURES IN EUROPA

The story line to Valkyria Chronicles (VC) is the bread and butter of this title. Here’s the gist: story begins in the fictional continent of Europa where a college kid comes back to his hometown, tries to give back to his community, home gets destroyed, kid follows in his father’s footsteps as a tank commander, fights to take back his land with the help of a rag-tag bunch of commandos, and then…well, you get the idea.

Character development is very intriguing in the game. You get bits and pieces of their individual histories in the beginning, and then their interactions throughout battle in their war-torn home country bring out new connections to one another. Not only does VC bring up issues of generational differences, but also the degradation of gender norms and issues of oppression/bias between races/cultures and socioeconomic classes. This is what provides the depth to the characters and brings the player closer to them. Outside of the main 10 figures, your other squad mates don’t get much story time, but in all honesty, it’s to be expected. As one of hundreds of thousands of people who got choked up with Aerith’s one-way departure to the life-stream in Final Fantasy 7, there are a few moments in this story that will tug at the heart strings. The chapter navigation in “book mode” is pretty cool too, but I’ll let you find out for yourself.

BEYOND THE CONFINEMENTS OF 3D

Two words: Cel-shading. In a world where PS3 hardware is overloaded with more polygons then you can shake a stick at, Sega brings a visual richness that bridges the gap between electronic gaming and the comic books of yester-year.

Plan your strategy.

VC doesn’t need a bunch of flashy light effects or explosions to get you into the heart of the battle; it does so with artistic use of vibrant color combined with fantastic character and environmental animations. While I understand some gamers need the next-gen CG bells and whistles to make the experience worthwhile, these are not the compelling forces of this title. In their own right, these graphics are unlike anything I have seen; you’ll either love it or just kinda like it.

MASTERING THE TACTICS OF BATTLE

Valkyria Chronicles has a relatively easy, rock-paper-scissors type class system. You have your run-of-the-mill mobile grunt, sniper, heavy machine gunner, armored damage dealer, mechanic, and tanks (we’ll get to tanks in a second). Each class has a strength and weakness in regards to head-to-head enemy confrontations. For example, your scout has fantastic mobility and moderate weapon attack range, but getting too close to a counter-attacking, machine gun toting baddy may result in an abrupt farewell.

No thanks, tank.

The tanks are pretty fun to use. They have a ton of power, create tactical advantages for your squad, and gives you the flexibility of a moving shield for your crew. Later in the game, however, you get a second one that I just found to be a complete waste.

TAKEN TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Like many turn-based, tactical RPG’s, the diversity of your squad and their individual abilities are somewhat important to the completion of objectives in this game. However, if you like to max the attributes of all members of your party, creating this balance can sometimes be a timely and exhausting feat. Sega figured this could get tedious, so even though you only have 2-10 teammates on any given assignment, ALL of your team members (even those back at the barracks) gain the same experience points based on what clases they represent. Instead of leveling the individual character, you are awarded points to your specific classes at the end of battles. You can then choose when to invest points towards the next level. As you get deeper into the game, each level adds a new significance to the class.

The beauty of the game is that there is no insistent grinding or running around to get to level 99. Your entire party levels at the rate of battle, and conversely, so does the enemy and AI. This keeps the tactical part of battles as the emphasis in game play, which is a major positive for me.

Valkyria Chronicles also implements creative “relationship” interactions between your team members. My squad needs to get along to be effective in battle? Strangely compelling. When you place two characters near one another on the battlefield that have positive affinity towards one another, some of their abilities (such as being able to dodge weapon fire more effectviely or the increased likelihood of a critical shot chance) are enhanced. Conversely, some of the characters have folks they don’t get along with. If they get shoulder-to-shoulder in the field, their issues with one another can create less than desirable offensive/defensive penalties. This adds depth into putting together your perfect battle group. I’ve played through the game with the same characters the entire time, and I’ve also mixed and matched throughout. Whether you choose to use the system or not, it’s still a lot of fun.

I'll take the guy with the big lance.

YOU KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE

There are games out there that do a good job of giving the player a reason to experience the adventure a second time, let alone a third, fourth, or fifth. The Valkyria Chronicles story doesn’t change the second time through, but it does make it worthwhile to try it out again. In one play through, it’s impossible to max out the class levels. VC gives you the ability to replay the entire game at the class levels, the weapons and the medals you earned (basically a game+ mode). What’s also great is that throughout your exploits in Europa, you also earn letter-grades (S-D) based on how well you do in each sortie. In the initial run, it’s very difficult to even get a B ranking, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun to keep replaying battles until you get that max rank. I haven’t played a game where I actually enjoyed replaying a scenario over and over again to get that fabled “S” rank. Try out different strategies, throw different characters into the fray, and check out new dynamics that you didn’t get to see the first time through.

You need this game. Regardless of whether you find what I’ve written compelling or not, the fact is this game is so positively different than anything else out there. Once you figure out all of the battle mechanics, it will be hard putting the controller down. You can find this game super cheap ($19-$30) too, which is a ton of bang for the buck.

This article was submitted to us by TheProphet and promoted by a member of The Cursed. If you’d like to submit your own article, please email simon@horriblenight.com.


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