Valkyria Chronicles vs Eurogamer

After being amazed by Valkyria Chronicles on the PS3, I was surprised to read this somewhat critical review on Eurogamer. The review starts out promisingly, but ends with a list of grievances about the combat system. Having loved the game so much, I’d like to examine them:

The AI is far from stellar…

The Valkyria Chronicles I played is not about outsmarting the AI, it’s about finding a way to get an “A” score on each mission. Certainly, the AI is a piece of garbage. It’s horrible. But forget the AI – the real challenge in this game is to find a way through the enemy’s larger numbers and stalwart defenses in the fewest number of turns possible.

If you want the game to be about defeating the computer in tactical combat, then yes, you will be very disappointed. The computer isn’t going to defeat anyone despite it’s massive advantages in equipment and personnel. And yes, I was initially disappointed by this. But once you realize that each mission is more of a puzzle, not a battle, you begin to really enjoy yourself.

With absolutely no multiplayer options, experienced strategists will be less than satisfied.

Admittedly, I am disappointed by the lack of multiplayer. A human opponent would certainly give this game an exciting new flavor.

Having an enemy break through your lines because your line of defence was too busy shooting a wall as they ran past is frustratingly common.

In my experience this was certainly not “frustratingly common”. As long as they were facing the right way, my soldiers generally did a decent job with their opportunity attacks while on defense.

And then there’s the strangely inconsistent damage model, with splash damage from explosions proving particularly flaky. Sometimes this works in your favour – magically shielding one of your soldiers from harm – but it’s incredibly annoying to waste both Action and Command Points on a grenade attack that seems to have no effect.

The author might be missing the fact that some enemies with high/enhanced evasion will hit the deck when a grenade explodes. It’s kind of subtle, but you can see them do it sometimes. This might account for the inconsistencies that the reviewer is seeing – I’ve assumed he already took into account that units behind cover have more protection, and Lancers are particularly immune to explosions.

The game often seems too rigidly tied to its rock-paper-scissors attack formula, since a tank shell needs to hit a soldier dead centre to cause any damage purely because it’s meant for other tanks, yet a mortar shell landing in the exact same place can kill several soldiers at once.

This is where I start to see another fundamental difference in the way the author and I view Valkyria Chronicles. To me this game feels like a close translation of a tabletop game with a GURPS-like rule set. The rules are rigidly defined and that can lead to situations that don’t reflect reality.

For example, why can I walk up to an enemy lying in the grass, stop one inch away, empty a machine gun clip into his face, and find that I’ve barely knocked off 1/5 of his life? Well, because whatever defensive bonus he gets from being in the grass happens to outweigh whatever accuracy bonus I get from being right in his face.

In the end, Valkyria Chronicles is more more like a tabletop RPG than a gritty, true-to-life, WWII sim.

Why can’t you duck behind a stone bench, for example? Or that pile of crates? Or that low wall? Or all the other environmental details littering the otherwise well designed levels?

I understand this complaint, but allowing you to duck behind every object in the game would result in all units being in a defensive “crouching” or “crawling” state the entire time. Allowing that defensive boost only in certain contexts creates a more textured experience.

… only the scout class has any real movement range…

The scout and the engineer both have solid movement range. If the other classes had that kind of range, then the game would go out of balance.

This shortlist of fairly fundamental flaws is sadly just enough to prevent the game from reaching the upper echelons of greatness.

Well, either that or one of the best console games I’ve played in a long time. Granted, the story, music, and visuals added a lot for me. I’ll go ahead and give this one 8.5/10.

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