I’ve been spending the past two weeks burning my way through a long list of backlogged games I want to clear before school starts and I lose my NEET badge, including Shadow of the Colossus, Red Dead Redemption, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 2 and L.A. Noire.
Valkyria Chronicles 3 is one of them. And this time I am actually reviewing it in an almost timely fashion and nowhere close to the release date of the next game. Go me.
VC3 takes place at the same time as the original VC, during the war between Gallia and the Empire. It’s a side story about a black ops Gallian military unit that was secretly responsible for many of the greatest blows dealt against the Empire that were never made known; this kind of makes you wonder just how much good Welkin and friends really did if so much important shit went on behind the scenes without them knowing. This is the problem with side stories.
The unit, known as Nameless, is basically a place where the army sends misbehaving soldiers to die in futile suicide missions. But many (i.e. all) of these criminals were actually misunderstood victims of military politics or corruption and all they really needed was the competent leadership of Kurt Irving, the main character, to lead to them to great untold glory. What a heart-warming story.
The squad members consist of the usual assortment of anime stereotypes who definitely do not look like they belong to such a sinister secret military unit of ill repute. Breaking with the franchise’s tradition, there are two heroines this time: Imca, an unfriendly emo Darcsen girl who ends all her sentences in negatives, and Riela, a long-haired red-eyed girl who somehow survived the total annihilation of all the units she had ever been assigned. (Can you guess who is the Valkyria in this game?)
The writing is okay. It’s definitely a huge improvement from VC2, but that’s not saying much. The missions are much more story-driven this time, but overall the epic feeling of the original VC is just not quite there.
Interestingly, the Calamity Ravens, the main antagonists in the game, are a secret Imperial military unit consisting entirely of Darscen soldiers who are fighting for an independent Darscen state. This sounds insane when you consider that the Darscens are supposed to be the Jewish people and the Empire they are working for is based on Nazi Germany.
That is until you realize that this was exactly what the Zionist militant group Lehi tried to do during WW2 when they asked to be included in the Axis team in return for Nazi assistance in expelling Britain from the Palestine Mandate. And of course the real hilarious part is where former Lehi leader Yitzhak Shamir later became the Prime Minister of Israel. Oh nationalists, you so silly. But I digress.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 was quite a huge departure from the original VC; pretty much the entire battle system was revamped in order to accommodate PSP’s technical limitations.
The changes from VC2 to VC3 are however more evolutionary than revolutionary, which is unfortunate in my opinion as I had expected a bigger shift back towards the feel of the original. I suppose it can’t really be helped.
There is a long list of small changes, but they don’t really add up to much. For example, you can now have 9 units on the map compared to 6 in VC2, but you still can only have a maximum of 5 per area so the tactical considerations aren’t that different. In fact, many of the area designs are copied wholesale from VC2 with some cosmetic changes added to make things look darker and grittier. There are some new area designs that look bigger at first, but are really the same size stretched thinner; imagine if the original areas in VC2 were 4×4 units big and in VC3, you get some that are 2×8 and 1×16. Big whoop.
There are some new types of mission objectives but they aren’t that different. Also, all vehicle chassis only consume 1 CP now, so the trade-off between heavy and light tank is now limited to speed. This makes the heavier chassis viable options for those tough missions with tight S-Rank requirements.
VC2’s horrible, horrible branching class system that forces you to train four of every class in order to get all the elite class types has been completely abolished and replaced with something that more closely resembles the original VC.
The list of classes in VC3 is: Scout, Shocktrooper, Sniper, Support, Lancer, Machine Gunner, Armour Tech, Fencer.
The veteran and elite statuses unlock access to new equipment like in VC; variants such as grenade-launcher scouts, anti-tank snipers and anti-infantry mortarers are back to being weapon options instead of class options.
There are some minor adjustments done to the retained classes, some good and some horrible.
Scouts have been nerfed and die a lot faster now so they can’t do point rushes like they used to, at least not until you train them to elites and upgrade their HP enough. This actually makes some of the earlier missions quite difficult if you are used to the weak damage enemies dished out in VC2.
Armour Techs now deploy their shields in front of them at the end of their turn, forming a barrier that other characters can hide behind. This makes them a heck lot more useful than in VC2. Also, their hammer attack is needed to deal insane damages to a new type of mission objective that you have to destroy.
Fencers are no longer bulletproof like they used to be when they were an upgrade from Armour Tech. They basically take damage from bullets like Shocktroopers now. They still move as slowly. I have no idea why they were nerfed so horribly in this way as they were already highly situational in VC2. Now they are utterly useless and you are almost always better off with a Shocktrooper instead.
For the perfectionist gamer out there hell-bent on maximizing his characters’ Potentials, VC3 introduces a new system that allows every character to become any class in the game. A new class-specific Potential is unlocked with each level of class progression.
For example, you can turn your elite Scout into a newbie Lancer and retain the Scout-specific Potentials that it has earned, such as “Power Scout”. This creates many cross-training combos where certain Potentials work best with a class they do not belong to.
The game keeps track of the level attained by every character in each class and it is possible to train a single character to be an elite in every class and gain all the Battle Potentials in the game. (But you can only have four active at a time so that would be a really dumb idea.)
The three main characters, Kurt, Imca and Riela, also have access to personalized special attacks after certain points in the story are reached. Using special attacks consumes 1 CP and 1 SP (Special Point). Unlike CP, the number of SP is restricted per battle and does not regenerate between turns. You usually get anywhere from 1 to 3 SP per battle.
Kurt’s special attack, called “Direct Command”, allows him to have any two squad members to “group up” with him and assume direct command of them. They will move together with him for that turn and shoot at whatever he shoots at, excluding classes that do not normally perform suppressing fire, such as Lancer and Fencer.
This is a possible way to kill some enemy named elites or to have slow-moving units like Fencers move forward quickly. However, once you unlock Imca’s special attack, Kurt’s becomes just a complete waste of SP.
Imca’s special attack is called “Open Fire” and it’s basically like one of those multi-target-missile-lock-on thing that mechas in sci-fi do. You have to get all her targets into one single screen, so the angle and position matters, but if you do it right you can wipe out the whole area in one cluster shot. Tanks hit by her Open Fire attack take damage as if they were attacked from the back.
I’ll leave it to your imagination what Riela’s special attack entails…
Consuming an SP also causes the character to ignore the diminishing returns of AP and he/she can move for a full AP bar for that turn. This can be used tactically to great effect, especially if the character is a Scout.
The problem with me and Valkyria Chronicles 3 is that I played the first game. On its own, VC3 is an amazing PSP game and a fine improvement over VC2. The in-game art and atmosphere are so much more stylized and detailed compared to VC2. Unfortunately, it does not ever quite manage to recreate the same feeling of epic-ness of the original PS3 classic. It’s just too immersion-breaking when battles are confined to tiny claustrophobic rooms masquerading as villages or valleys.
The difficulty curve and balance in VC3 are also much, much better than facerolling VC2 and many of the fights pose a genuine challenge.
At the end of the day, VC3 is really not that different from VC2. The improvements are mostly cosmetic and the combat and class changes do not alter the basic feel of the gameplay.
So yeah, definitely pick up VC3 if you loved VC2 or if you are just a Valkyria fan boy like me. But if you hated VC2 and hoped for a shift back to the original, you will be sorely disappointed. Even with the tweaks to the class system and a better story, VC3 is ultimately just VC2 in a fresh coat of paint.
A crap load of extra screencaps because I overdid it as usual.
I am really itching for Mass Effect 3 after finishing the second game. Damn it. I just want to see Tali’s face…