Driving the series in a bold new direction.
The Valkyria Chronicles series is among the most under-appreciated games from the last generation of consoles. The first title especially is still a gem of a game with gorgeous watercolor visuals that hold up extremely well. It drove the SRPG genre into a whole new direction, freshening up what had become kind of stale.
Enter Valkyria: Azure Revolution, a game that is still a part of the series, but is in its own universe separate from the other titles. That separation is more than just in story and name, it’s now in a completely different genre. I wouldn’t classify Valkyria: Azure Revolution as a strict SRPG anymore. It dives head first into ARPG territory. Luckily though, in the move to a new genre, Valkyria: Azure Revolution still manages to carry over a lot of its strategic elements.
First things first, if you’re a fan put away your pitchforks, Valkyria: Azure Revolution isn’t now a Dynasty Warriors hack and slash. You’re still going to move across a battlefield on foot with a small squad, in an attempt to capture enemy bases. Instead of taking turns though, everything is live action. All of your soldiers are running around, fighting, doing their own things while the enemy does the same. With the press of a button you can switch between your deployed party members, each with their own individual class.
Everyone we got to use had a melee weapon which was their basic attack, and carried their own ranged weapon (called sidearms), that could be used as well, along with grenades and other items. A hulking tank class carries a massive shield and a rocket launcher, while the sniper has a staff and well, yeah a sniper rifle. Using a weapon pauses the action and allows you to line up a shot, similar to the previous games. Ammunition is limited, so you need to be careful about when and where you decide to spend it. While controlling your own character, you can customize the behavior of your AI allies to take actions such as following you around, acting based on their class role (snipers in the back for example), to fan out, etc.
Depending on how you approach engagements with enemies you can alter how they behave and fight as well. For example, taking out a squad’s leaders first will cause “fear” in the rest of the squad, lowering their effectiveness. On the flip side though, if you choose to take out the filler enemies first, the final squad leader will be inspired to fight even harder, making it more difficult to take him/her down.
Battlefield characteristics also still play a part as well. Open fields with snipers require you to dash from cover to cover, or use smoke grenades to give you an opportunity to get in close. I was also able to shoot some conveniently placed explosive barrels to soften up enemies before charging in to finish them with a melee assault.
I’m really not a fan of mindless ARPGs, but instead, am a huge fan of slow-paced (and even chess-like) SPRG games like the original Valkyria Chronicles and classics such as Tactics Orge. So you could imagine my dread when I heard and first watched Valkyria: Azure Revolution’s gameplay. However, I walked away from Tokyo Game Show 2016 very pleasantly surprised. The gameplay is a lot different for sure, but even in a short 10-minute demo, I was still able to experience a lot of strategy. Apparently, this wasn’t always the case, so kudos to SEGA for making the right changes.
Keep an open mind VC fans. Just as Valkyria Chronicles opened up, and sped up the SRPG genre to great effect last generation, Valkyria: Azure Revolution seems to be on the right track towards slowing down, and smartening up ARPGs. The only thing you should be nervous about is that there is still no release date outside of Japan.