Taking a Fresh Look at a Classic War Series

I enjoy strategy as well as war games. Columnist Vincent Mahoney recommended Valkyria Chronicles to me many years ago, and I loved it. It has a very interesting combat loop as well as likable characters. Additionally, it allows for strong tactical combat without the random number generator being as unforgiving as in XCOM.

Recently, Valkyria Chronicles 4 was on sale and, once again, Vincent bought it for me. The first Valkyria Chronicles set a really high bar for me, so I was going to hold this one to a high standard. It blew it away. The characters are interesting and very likable. It was hard to pick the character I liked the most. All of the main characters are interesting from beginning to end. There are even a couple of waifus (Kai and Riley) thrown in for good measure lest we forget this is a JRPG.

What made Valkyria Chronicles 4 different in the series is that the support characters have depth and personality. Before, it was more like the Expeditions: Conquistador series. What I mean by this is that the support staff and soldiers were just names with back stories that didn’t really add anything to the plot. Even in the first Valkyria Chronicles, if you were not talking about one of the main characters, then nothing mattered except for their stats. I understand why grunts in XCOM don’t have a lot of personality since most are randomly generated, but I always like having characters with depth. It makes it so there is more risk when fighting on the battlefield.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 even has squad stories as unlockable content. This content is unlocked as certain characters are deployed and promoted. This allows you to learn more about these other soldiers that make up your squad. Additionally, they are often a part of the main storylines as well. I actually felt as though they were almost equal with the main characters, rather than the typical, expendable Star Trek-like red shirts in most titles.

The story was well crafted too, although I figured out some of the plot twists many chapters earlier. I enjoyed how Valkyria Chronicles 4 also introduced a grenadier class. In almost every strategy game I play, I utilize artillery. And the grenadier class is the closest you can get in Valkyria Chronicles to having that. I decided to play Valkyria Chronicles 4 after my PlayStation membership ran out, and the next thing I knew I lost a whole weekend.

One thing I have said throughout my tenure at GiN is that at the end of the day, a video game needs to be fun. It can have horrible graphics, a goofy storyline, or bad audio design and still be fun. If after playing a title you want to beat it again (like Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was for me), then it’s a good one. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is so much fun, I am going to go back and replay the first Valkyria Chronicles in the series once again.

I also like how Valkyria Chronicles 4 used a pseudo world war backdrop without it feeling tired and hackneyed. The main character, Claude, grows over the story and reflects on how the war is changing him often. It is an interesting angle on a protagonist that I haven’t seen done this sincerely in a long time. Now I am hoping for a Valkyria Chronicles 5 to get made, although to my knowledge it has never been announced.

I still have not beaten Final Fantasy XIII.

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