Valkyria Chronicles 4 review: Learning to survive … on the go

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Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a great tactical strategy RPG and a return to form for a franchise that had seemed to have lost its way.

Title: Valkyria Chronicles 4
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (version reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: September 25, 2018

The Valkyria Chronicles franchise as a whole has had a rough go. The first game was initially exclusive to the PlayStation 3. It presented an alternate history of World War II in the fictional continent of Europa. It was highly praised for its unique and striking art style as well as its tactical gameplay. Despite the acclaim, the first entry in the series didn’t sell very well. There were two sequels made, but both were on the PlayStation portable, much smaller in scope and the third game never even made it over here.

There was some hope of revival for the series when the game was re-released on more current platforms in the last few years. However, the next game in the franchise, Valkyria Revolution, released last year, was an absolutely abysmal game that seemed to have little to do with the franchise it was based on to the point where when an actual proper sequel, Valkyria Chronicles 4 was announced, it was met with at best cautious optimism. Could Valkyria Chronicles 4 recapture what people loved about the first game or was that something that couldn’t be repeated?

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Taking place roughly around the same time as the first game (there is even DLC planned where the characters from this game meet the characters from the first game), Valkyria Chronicles 4 focuses on focuses on “Squad E,” which is an elite company of soldiers with certain class specializations. Tank drivers, scouts, shock troops, engineers (which are also your main healers), etc. Though you can have a couple dozen soldiers, the story is mostly about your company leader, Claude Wallace and his small group of friends who have all known each other since childhood and are in the same unit.

Without spoiling too much of the story of Valkyria Chronicles 4, Squad E is part of the Federation Army that is fighting against “the Empire,” though aside from casting a few key Empire characters as “evil” (though not really except for one laughably bad, evil scientist) neither side is given much of a personality or defined goal. You are one side in a war; they are the other. At best it might be considered a war over certain powerful technology, but both sides have nefarious goals for that technology.

The real focus is mostly the struggles of Squad E and what they go through being in a hard, costly war, often having to follow orders they don’t necessarily understand or agree with, making hard choices that come with being heavily involved in a prolonged war effort, etc. This is a mostly well-told story, the main characters all have pretty well-fleshed out personalities, and even your secondary soldiers often get there own stories known as “squad stories” if you use them enough in battle.

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The one problem I have with this is how the cutscenes are presented, however. The story in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is presented as a book with chapters. You have one or two battles in those chapters, but anywhere from several to a dozen cutscenes, with no option to skip or fast forward at all. I like a good story in my games, however, this is definitely often a case of using say 20+ minutes of cutscenes spread over several different clips when half or less would’ve gotten the point across and moved the game along at a much nicer clip.

There are also a ton of shots in the game that repeatedly focus on breasts … butts or legs along with a lot of objectionable behavior by male characters that are, at best, given exasperated sighs.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 retains the same art style found in previous mainline games in the series. It’s still a unique look that holds up, but it’s also something that we saw a generation ago, and not much has been added. There is a nice variety in the battlefields you fight on that range from forests to frozen wastelands to destroyed cities.

I can’t speak to other versions, but playing mostly in handheld mode for the Nintendo Switch, there is a noticeable amount of frame rate issues when there’s a lot of effects going on (i.e., if there’s a blizzard and a lot of movement is happening at once). It was never enough to ruin the game or affect my playing, but it’s certainly noticeable. I did not notice this slowdown while playing docked but I only tried it on a few of the battles.

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While Valkyria Chronicles 4 tries hard to portray the cost of war, a lot of its serious side is undermined by the objectification of its female cast. One the one side, there’s a fair amount of women in your squad and most of them are your most capable soldiers. There are also a ton of shots in the game that repeatedly focus on breasts (literally the first shot you see of at least one character is her chest), butts or legs along with a lot of objectionable behavior by male characters that are, at best, given exasperated sighs.

This isn’t nearly as bad as it was in last year’s Valkyria Revolution, but it’s not great when you are trying to portray a serious story about war. How much this may affect your enjoyment will vary, but I normally don’t make a note of these things unless it’s to a ridiculous degree, so take that for what you will.

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As mentioned previously, each in each “chapter” in Valkyria Chronicles 4 you get one or two battles. That initially doesn’t sound like much, but there are also “interludes” with their own battles, the previously mentioned “squad stories” all have their own battles, and you can practice/gain experience points and money in “skirmishes” to your hearts content so there’s plenty of battles to be had throughout the game.

How battles work in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is that you have an overhead map that gives you a general idea of your area. Then you deploy your soldiers of various classes, usually up to 10, though there are instances where you are more limited. These classes all have various pluses and minuses against each other.

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A scout can kill a shock trooper, but it’s not wise to take them head-on if possible. Your commander, Claude Wallace, is in a tank for the large majority of the game and while that can lay waste to most types of soldiers, there are two classes that can do heavy damage against tanks, so it all balances out pretty well.

When it comes to actual turns, you have more direct control over your soldier than many other tactical RPGs. You have to run them to whatever point you need to get to, aim with your sights, account a for distance, etc. While the game gives you a little help, indicating how many shots you’ll need from where you are at to kill an enemy, it doesn’t account for things like the aim grade of your weapon, so occasionally you’ll frustratingly miss.

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However, the real twist of fighting in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is that it’s often more about surviving than fighting. Sure, there’s lots of killing other enemies, but taking out every single one is normally not the goal. Indeed, the goal in about 95% of the fights is essentially “capture the flag,” as in you literally have to reach the enemies’ main base, eliminate any enemies close enough to the flag, and “capture it.”

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  • Often the direct approach is not only inefficient but suicidal. You have to make use of the map, really know the strengths and weaknesses of both your soldiers and the opponents. It’s never as brutal as say, the X-Com series, but soldiers can and will die if you are not simply trying to get to that base camp as fast as possible. Even on the rare occasions where your goal is to destroy a powerful enemy, there’s a lot more to it than merely hitting them with everything you’ve got.

    In addition to classes having their pluses and minuses, each character in your squad has “personality quirks” that can negatively or positively affect them in the field. These can range from minimal to in some cases devastating. For example, a quirk that lowers defense can often be managed fine, but others kill your AP (which is how you move) empty your soldiers’ ammo for that round or in one really bad case, have my engineer refuse to heal (this is specific to one type of engineer).

    There are positive ones as well such as an AP boost, undodgeable shots, a full heal, etc. It’s a pretty interesting system that’s been around since the first game, but I also feel like it’s just an unnecessary complication that isn’t implemented as well as it could be.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4 handles experience and upgrading equipment fairly well. The best thing it does as far as leveling is that you do not level up individual troops, you level classes. So it isn’t the end of the world if your high-level soldier is killed, you have several more. If you aren’t careful, you might lose too many, but it’s not overly punishing about it like in some games.

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    You also get currency from fighting battles which you use to upgrade weapons, armor and tank parts. Strictly fighting through the story will not give you enough to get the best equipment, and I would say a little grinding is necessary, but not much. Playing through squad stories and skirmishes as they came up usually gave me what I needed, I didn’t have to do them repeatedly though maxing out everything would certainly require a bit more.

    One thing that is a little suspect is how experience and currency gained are determined, however. You get a letter grade for each battle. This greatly affects the amount of experience and money you get. Nearly all battles have 20 turns for you to finish with a couple of exceptions. If you finish a battle in five or six rounds, you will still most likely get a “D” grade for your efforts. It’d be nice if the game at least outlined objectives to receive higher grades even if it’s just “capture the enemies’ base in three turns” or something.

    Sega /

    In spite of the attempt at a serious story about war being undercut by what can only be considered “fan service,” Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an extremely satisfying tactical RPG that requires plenty of critical thinking and offers lots of variety. Though the genre is hardly dead, there are few newer games out there like this right now so if you are looking for an incredibly solid tactical turn-based RPG that really does it’s own take on the genre and does it well this is one of the best ones out this year.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4. 8.5. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is arguably the high point of the series with great and varied tactical action and customization. However, its attempt at being a serious drama about the high cost of war on both sides is undercut by a ridiculous amount of gratuitous objectification.. Sega.

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.