Valkyria Revolution is a new take on a beloved series, bringing back past games’ many tropes while introducing an action-focused, revamped battle system. I’m all for trying new things, but this is a misstep for the popular strategy franchise. While the new battle system is a bit of a miss, Revolution saves face by getting a bunch of other things right. That’s not a great place to start, but there is at least some merit found within.
Before delving into the battle system, let’s have a look at Revolution‘s story. With a 20-25 hour campaign, it’s an incredibly important ingredient to the overall package. Like Revolution itself, it’s average; another case of being adequate, not stellar. It’s a pretty standard story — a group of underdogs take on the world for a good cause — and while it has its moments, it’s hard to really get sucked in. Part of the problem is the cliché bad guys that slowly but surely increase in both capacity for evil and general douchebaggery. It’s all a little too one sided; a narrative is only as strong as its big bad and there isn’t anything new to see here.
There is a respectable and interesting cast of characters, with many of them playable. It’s hard not to compare Revolution to previous titles like the somewhat recently remastered Valkyria Chronicles. The earlier title has a narrative presented in an interesting way, introducing the impact the characters have had on the world five generations later — you know, like the old lady at the start of Titanic — but the legend is more exciting that the reality.
Both the music and the environments are breathtaking; together, they are easily my favourite part of Valkyria Revolution. The music can go from hectic and chaotic in battle to sombre and stoic when the story calls for it. The overall theme — sort of a steampunk renaissance — is fantastic and both the character designs and the environments are continually cool and interesting.
Design-wise, Revolution can’t be faulted in its visuals.. but that said, it isn’t a technical marvel. It doesn’t look bad — in fact, it focuses on a stylised storybook theme that lets it get away with some underwhelming visuals — but even then, it looks like a cross-gen game from several years ago. I’d surmise this is due to its release on the PS Vita. I can only assume it looks really nice on the Vita’s small screen, but on PS4 it’s dated right out of the gate.
Now, the elephant in the room: that battle system. I completely understand the goal of introducing something new to the franchise, but focusing on action just doesn’t give the same impact as in past titles. It’s a shame; I was really looking forward to a new take on the series, but one for change’s sake isn’t the right way to go about things. The intent is obviously to make the fighting feel more intense and fast paced, but melee attacks and a general active feel just don’t work in a tactical RPG. It feels tacked on like some kind of bonus mode rather than the idea behind revitalising the franchise.
There is still an option for pausing combat and being more strategic but Revolution feels much more geared toward the more active-style battle. Active battle may not feel quite right but stopping combat constantly after having the option feels incredibly slow and less efficient. Sure you have more control but it make the game stop and start and stutter to much.
At the end of the day I have to say that you should really only investigate Valkyria Revolution if you’re a big fan of the series and want to have a deeper look into the lore. If you’re on the fence, either skip it or play Valkyria Chronicles. It’s a far better, well-rounded game that doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel unnecessarily. Revolution isn’t a sequel — it’s a spin off; they all can’t be Frasier, and this one is definitely a Joey.
Valkyria Revolution was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.