I’ve been meaning to get to Valkyria Chronicles 4 Complete for awhile now, but I always seemed to be distracted by something else as it remained warm on the back burner. Now that I’ve actually gotten it onto the screen in front of me, I realize that this was a mistake and that I’ve been missing out on an excellent tactical RPG with a story that’s more engaging than most. It’s setting not-so-subtly hints to World War II and yet it’s shockingly fresh with characters that grow on your as you progress. Throw a unique combat system into the mix and you have a title that’s worth every minute that you put into it.
Not Quite Hearts of Iron
Valkyria Chronicles 4 tells the tale of Squad E, a Federation unit that repeatedly shows their devotion and valor to the cause, willing to sacrifice everything that it takes to halt the Empire in its conquest of the continent. It’s a story of the underdogs who overcome setback after setback to do what is right against insurmountable odds. Although it’s a distant alternate history of sorts, the narrative is a fresh one that pulls you in and doesn’t let go with a very human element to it.
Flashbacks are commonplace and they further expand upon your knowledge of the main plot as well as offer surprisingly in-depth character development for the members of your squad. Some of these are known as squad stories, optional story arcs that are great not only for further developing every member of your squad, but also for improving them with new bonuses, sometimes even removing old flaws. This makes them useful for both those who are invested in the characters and want to know more about them and for those who are looking for the more functional purpose of improving the efficiency of their squad.
Rolling Deep With The Squad
The characters were the main pull of Valkyria Chronicles 4 for me. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character, Claude, I’m usually not when it comes to the anime template so this came as no surprise to me. Truthfully, character conflicts, designs, and behavior all fit into that mold, though it’s written well enough in a style that I ended up enjoying. At least, it was for the most part. There were plenty of corny slice-of-life mixed in as well that I couldn’t rush through fast enough.
I was impressed with how different each and every member of the squad was from the next. First and foremost, the vast majority of your squad is infantry and they are divided into six classes: scout, shocktrooper, sniper, lancer, engineer, and grenadier. Scouts are fantastic at gathering intel on the battlefield and have a sizable pool of action points that allow them to cover great distance each time they are activated. Shocktroopers wear heavier armor and lug around automatic weapons that make them ideal for close range encounters. Snipers bring no surprises here; they’re not the most mobile or durable unit, but they pack a serious punch at long range. Lancer carry rocket launchers to that deal heavy damage to tanks while wearing the heaviest armor available to soak of the damage they face during such an endeavor, but tend to be a poor choice for eliminating enemy infantry unless they’re at nearly point-blank range. Engineers lack any direct combat capabilities, but are very useful when it comes to support as they are able to repair tanks, fully heal infantry, and supply much needed ammunition to the rest of the squad. Finally, grenadiers act as artillery, raining down indirect explosive fire that can be launched over obstacles that would otherwise be in the way. These classes are supplemented by a handful of tanks with varying strengths and weaknesses that can be tailored to your liking as you advance and equip them.
Your characters are further differentiated from one another by their potentials which are traits that come in both beneficial and detrimental varieties. My personal favorite character, the old mercenary, Ryan Ford (who most certainly does NOT look sixty-three years old!), has four potentials that make him stand out from his fellow shocktroopers from a gameplay standpoint: independent, war-torn life, legendary mercenary, and sugar withdrawal. Independent activates when he’s not near any allies and boosts his defense, war-torn life increases his evasion, legendary mercenary is his powerful squad story unlocked ability that allows him to recover both ammunition and action points after attacking, and sugar withdrawal is his flaw that reduces his accuracy once his AP has fallen to below half of its capacity. Every character has several of these that make them fill their role in a way that only they can, and their excellent voicelines, personalities, and visual designs make it so that each of them stands out in one way or another.
Red Light, Green Light
Combat stands out as quite unique in Valkyria Chronicles and this entry is mostly more of the same for the series. Units have their AP which determines how far they can move per activation, and each activation comes with one action that can be taken, like shooting or throwing a grenade. They can be activated multiple times based on the number of command points that you have available and once you’ve used them the enemy makes their moves.
An activation consists of you taking direct control of a unit as they maneuver around the battlefield. You’ll enter a third-person view that feels more like an action game than a tactical RPG and you’ll be attempting to avoid enemy retaliation fire that triggers automatically if you enter their line-of-sight. You’ll even aim their weaponry which adds a certain level of immersion and excitement that you don’t often find in the genre. There are few things that feel more fulfilling than a perfectly executed headshot by a sniper that takes out a key enemy, or a grenadier dropping explosive down on well fortified enemies to soften them up.
The Bottom Line
Valkyria Chronicles 4 Complete is a strong showing in the tactical RPG genre that stands out not only for its unique hybrid of action and turn-based gameplay, but also because it has particularly impressive plot and character development. I don’t tend to jump for anime titles, but this one is an excellent experience that hooked me from the start and didn’t let go. If you enjoy tactical RPGS, strong character development, or even just the usual anime template in general, pick this up and you’re not likely to be disappointed. At the very least, it’ll be a fresh experience for you.