This post was authored by Alissa McAloon.
I love my Playstation Vita and thus I can probably be a little generous with my opinions on the games that are released to the system. Valhalla Knights 3 will not be seeing any of that forgiveness. I had expected it to be, at the very least, an average JRPG. What I hadn’t expected was the amount of crap I’d have to wade through in order to uncover that experience. Between tedious mechanics and an overwhelming amount of sexist and rapey comments directed at females, I had a really hard time finding any generosity during my playthrough.
I’ve said before that any game with a solid character creator will earn my love fairly quickly, and the character creator in Valhalla Knights 3 delivered on everything I could have wanted from it. First time players can select from 4 typical fantasy type races–human, elf, dwarf, and halfling–with placeholders for races to be unlocked as you progress in the game. You have the ability to select between male or female, each sex with a number of options for voice, hair, eyes, facial features, makeup, warpaint, scars, tattoos; the whole 9 yards. Female characters are exclusively given access to a breast size slider, which ranges from small to comically large bust options. While a little strange at first, this slider would quickly become one of the more tame sexual references the game contained, but more on that later.
Fans of DnD will feel right at home within the classes and statistics of Valhalla Knights 3. Each character selects from a list of classes, including Prisoner, Archer, Fighter, Mage, Priest, Thief, Akatoki/monk, and several hidden options, with the option to either switch classes or pick up a subclass later in the game. Initial character creation will give you points to allot to different stats. Additional points are given at level ups. Skills are also gained as your character levels up, through points called “SBP” which accumulate as you gain experience. These points can be spent on upgraded and new skills. If you weren’t expecting to already, I hope you’re ready for a grind fest. Experience is gained by landing hits on enemies and can be chained and multiplied through combos. Even then, you’ll be spending a chunk of your early free roaming time just grinding out levels to avoid being stomped by the first boss.
Following the creation of your character, you find yourself being thrown into Carceron Prison to live out the rest of your days. Your grand entrance to the prison is accompanied by five characters. Three of those five are immediately claimed as victims to the lawless prison city with two (the men) being murdered almost immediately by thugs and a third (the woman) being kidnapped by the murderers to “make use of them assets.” Oh yeah. Casual mention to rape. It may be the first instance, but it certainly won’t be the last.
The prison is structured as a city and will function as your hub for the duration of the game. Notable attractions are shown such as the guild, the shops, cosmetic surgeon, and the love hotel. Yes, a love hotel. Shops such as the guild and surgeon are run by an entirely female staff, all wearing just about as little clothing as possible. Flirting with these NPCs is possible, and heavily recommended. Interactions with female shopkeeps happen in what is literally called ‘Sexy Time’ mode. You are able to buy the girls gifts and flirt with them to build relationships, ultimately resulting in lower prices for goods and the ability to take them across the street to the Love Hotel. Many games have features where you can build relationships with shopkeeps for perks, but none prior have felt this, well, creepy. The game is fully aware of how creepy this mechanic can be, with one of the party members initially confusing the guild for a brothel and chasing one of the hostesses around proclaiming that he ached for her. Yeah.
Unfortunately, the “Sexy Time” mode only applies to female NPCs or I would have spent all my efforts seducing the crap out of the priest. The priest is your one stop revival and curing shop. You’ll be seeing a lot of him as you progress in Valhalla Knights 3 because as party members die he is literally the only way to bring them back to life. Though the cost of these revivals scales according to the level of the dead character, the service is still crazy expensive, especially early game.
If you spend any time exploring the city at all, you’d best get used to loading screens. Enter a store? Loading screen. Be greeted by an NPC. Loading screen. Stop interacting with NPC. Loading screen. Leave the shop. Loading screen. I’m not even joking about this. The screens are mostly short and each come with little text factoids about the game, but after a while they really start to get old.
As the plot begins to take form, you discover that you and your partner are spies sent into the prison in hopes to find a magical artifact to turn the tides of the war raging outside the prison walls. The two of you undertake quests as a means to this goal, all while dancing around the politics of the factions within the prison. Quests take your party out into the fields surrounding the main prison. Exploration and combat are all grounded in a free roaming environment. A minimap and waypoints serve to keep you moving toward your goal, but the bulk of the world is free to wander. Enemies are plentiful for all your grinding needs, though enemy AI both in and out of combat leaves something to be desired.
Getting into a battle is hard, even with aggressive enemies. Out of battle, enemies are represented in the world by a single NPC. Combat is started by dealing damage to that enemy avatar, but more often than not, one attack is not enough. This, coupled with the fact that lock-on doesn’t work outside of combat makes numerous misses frequent when even attempting to enter combat. Enemies that should aggro you will only start to chase your PC if you literally run directly into them, which only sometimes works. Once they start running after you, you can either outrun them easily or just run in circles for a few seconds until they lose interest. In combat, AI is no better. Enemies attack with seemingly random goals and have been observed to swap targets for no reason, even if they were one hit from KO’ing their old target.
Combat on the player’s side of things is surprisingly well-structured and probably one of the best things about Valhalla Knights 3. Despite being absolutely stupid sometimes, enemies actually present a challenge. You and your party of up to seven guild members all can participate in battle at once. You are not limited to only your custom character and can actually play as any member of your party by cycling to them via the select button. Each character has a normal attack and a hard attack, along with the ability to counter or parry enemy attacks. Special abilities and items both are assigned to eight slots, tied to the d-pad’s directional buttons and L+directional buttons. Abilities are very easy to use on the fly and are displayed right on the screen if you forget what’s assigned where. My one gripe about this system spawns from the item assignment. Items can only be used via the d-pad. Once an item is assigned to a character that item is off-limits for every character, even if it remains unused. I had assigned my one revival item to the d-pad of my main character and as a result was unable to bring her back to life in combat after she died and my control swapped to a different character.
If your party is wiped out, thats game over. You’re given the typical game over screen and asked to continue, load, or quit. The subtext for Continue claims you will keep all exp gained but resume play having lost all items consumed. It fails to mention that your party, save your active character at the time, will remain dead. The continue option also drops you right outside the instance you previously died in. The only way to revive dead party members is back at the priest in the prison, so you’ll have to walk all the way back with only one functional character just to revive your team after death.
In short, beneath the loading screens, cumbersome death consequences, and casual extreme sexism is a solid game. If you can get past all of that, you’ll find a good, classic JRPG in Valhalla Knights 3. Personally, I’m just not really sure that its worth digging down deep enough to find it.
[+Indepth Character Creation] [+Class System Allows for a Variety of Play Styles] [+Classic JRPG Feelings Throughout] [+Sexy Time is interesting] [-Sexy Time is creepy] [-Women are sexualized, demeaned, and objectified at every turn] [-Serious uncomfortably casual rape conversations] [-Enemy AI leaves something to be desired] [-Item assignment is a pain] [-Death is needlessly tedious]