The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Valkyria Chronicles: Review and reflection at the ¾ mark

“But, it’s like you said, Alicia. We build new things as we lose the old.” —Welkin Gunther

At this point in time, I’ve crossed over the three-quarters milestone of Valkyria Chronicles (or at least, what I presume to be the three-quarters milestone). Fouzen and Bruhl have been liberated, and Valkyria Chronicles‘ own interpretation of D-Day at Marberry Shores campaign concluded quite smoothly. While the Gallian forces gain momentum against the Empire, decisive battles at Naggiar result in narrow victories for Gallia at the expense of incurring a large number of casualties. During the Battle of Naggiar, Alicia is revealed to be a Valkyrur of the same nature as Selvaria, and this leads to a growing rift in the militia. Welkin reassures Alicia that things will be alright and informs Squad 7 that Alicia’s newly-awakened Valkyrur powers change nothing; they will continue with their operations as they always have. So, I’m now set to embark on the Fight for Ghirlandaio to flush the remains of the Imperial forces out of Gallia. Since the campaigns at Fouzen, the game’s progressively thrown more interesting challenges at Squad Seven, and I am quite certain that the remaining four chapters in the game will require that all of my characters be at their absolute best for them to stand against the increasingly deadly enemies that make up Maxmilian’s remaining forces.

The thirty hours of time I’ve spent in Valkyria Chronicles means I’ve finally made use of the different mechanics to effectively direct each character to complete a mission. Weapons are continuously upgraded to ensure that everyone can deal effective damage against the Imperial forces, and through the skirmishes, I’ve gotten each class to elite status. With the classes at higher levels, I’ve unlocked a much wider range of orders and have been employing them liberally in each mission, boosting the statuses of strategically-placed characters to make them an incredible force. The orders are so effective that some missions can now be effortlessly completed, and seemingly-impossible missions suddenly become merely difficult. By this point in time, I’ve also unlocked a larger number of potentials for the different characters; these attributes can confer advantages or disadvantages. In light of ever-increasing mission difficulties, and the fact that I’ve learnt the “Awaken All” order, I’m now looking to reconfigure my line-up to ensure that each soldier is performing at their very best, all of the time. Particularly detrimental potentials, such as Susie’s pacifist potential, have led me to lose CP before; such characters will not be effective in conjunction with the “Awaken All” order. Taken together, the details behind each characters, as well as how their potentials interact with the different abilities and orders gives the sense that Squad Seven’s members are as organic and diverse as real people, further allowing players to empathise with them and play the game in such a way as to keep everyone alive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Liberation of Fouzen in Valkyria Chronicles‘ anime was the first exposure I had to the nature of oppression and discrimination the Darcsens were subjected to, but Valkyria Chronicles makes it abundantly clear that this mistreatment is ill-placed: the Valkyrur were the true aggressors, destroying much of their homeland and pinning the events later known as the Darcsen Calamity on them. A major part of the game is how Rosie gradually comes to accept the Darcsens, and it was very rewarding to see this shift in perspectives.

  • The concentration camps and use of Darcsens as forced labour are a direct allusion to the Third Reich’s actions during the Second World War. This brings to mind my final year of secondary school, where Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel’s Night was on the English curriculum, a novel based on Wiesel’s experiences at Auschwitz camp. In the novel, he speaks of his gradual loss of humanity and even faith, as the inhumane conditions in the camps degraded the human condition.

  • Wile the Imperials mistreat the Darcsens out of malice, Rosie’s own anti-Darcsen sentiments arise from her background; in an Imperial raid that levelled her village, she lost her family and feels the Darcsens are responsible. As such, she’s quite cold to Isara for much of the game, but gradually comes around thanks to Isara’s persistent efforts in trying to reach her.

  • Infiltrating Fouzen was dead easy compared to liberating it, but even this mission was not too bad compared to something like Barious: here, I make use of Alicia to move rapidly around the map to activate elevators that act as shortcuts of sorts, making it easier to move shocktroopers and lancers closer to the frontlines. I absolutely love the cloudy skies in this mission, as they remind me of the moody grey skies seen in Sora no Woto‘s fourth episode and the desert terrain of Break Blade.

  • Enemy armour can be a threat to the Edelweiss and other foot-mobiles, but I usually ignore them unless they’re directly blocking the path en route to an objective. While I remark earlier that the Edelweiss can be a bit of a CP-hog, later missions necessitate the use of the Edelweiss in conjunction with orders and strategies in order to be completed on short order.

  • Enemy aces usually are not on my list of priorities in the sense that I do not go out of my way to hunt them down and kill them, but I will take them out if an opportunity arises. I probably will go back on my New Game Plus to get the rest. They drop Imperial weapons that Squad Seven can use, and while Imperial weapons have terrible accuracy, their firepower is quite good.

  • The objective at Fouzen is to destroy a bridge holding the Equus, a massive armoured train equipped with a 280mm main cannon. While this behemoth looks intimidating, its biggest weakness is its dependence on a rail system. This is exploited to bring the vehicle down, and General Gregor dies in the Equus’ wreckage. It’s a satisfying mission to send the Imperials packing, although Valkyria Chronicles also reminds players that there is a limit to what one can do: prior to fleeing, the Imperials have set the concentration camps ablaze, trapping the Darcsens.

  • The Marberry Shores mission involves storming a heavily-fortified bridge: it’s a direct reference to the Battle of Normandy, the largest amphibious invasion in all of history. Unlike D-Day, Squad Seven is a much smaller force and must make extensive use of the smoke rounds to provide cover: some batteries are invulnerable to all damage and will quickly destroy an exposed foot-mobiles.

  • Once all of Squad Seven clears the beaches, the mission transforms to a close-quarters engagement. It’s recommended not to add only the units that are necessary (Alicia, Rosie, Largo and at most one engineer) in the beginning, as that will require more CP to move everyone off the beaches. Here, I wield a flamethrower, a weapon available to the shocktrooper class after they hit level 11. It’s the perfect close-quarters weapon and can take out an enemy behind cover in one shot, provided that the wielder has not suffered a debuff.

  • Towards the end of the Marberry Shores mission, I eventually ran Alicia up to the enemy base, took out the infantry there and managed to capture it. I can see why scouts, and Alicia in particular, are considered to be overpowered: while Valkyria Chronicles remained reasonably balanced up until the scouts became elites, at this point, scouts, in conjunction with the appropriate orders, become as powerful as Halo‘s Master Chief.

  • In the aftermath of Marberry Shore, Isara is shot by an Imperial soldier and succumbs to her wounds. This marks the turning point for Rosie, who finally lets go of her prejudice against the Darcsens. She fulfills a promise to Isara and sings at her funeral. From here on out, Zaka becomes a permanant member of Squad Seven and rolls into battle in the Shamrock, a light tank has a greater range but lower armour and firepower compared to the Edelweiss. The page quote comes from this mission, following a conversation between Welkin and Alicia to rebuild Bruhl once all the combat is over.

  • The mission to recapture Bruhl was dead easy and required only a single turn to complete. The level was designed so that Squad Seven would all move cautiously forwards, picking off snipers and eliminating opposition until the Imperial-held base is reached, but a single scout with the proper orders can solo this mission and reach the end very quickly. This optimised solution accounts for why Alicia now appears in so many of the screenshots.

  • Besides picking up weapons from downed Imperial Aces, special weapons can also be unlocked for combat efficiency: by visiting Princess Cordelia at Randgriz, she will occasionally bestow medals and weapons for the player. While some of these weapons are inferior to the ones that can be researched via the tech tree, some weapons are superior and can be put to good use in the hands of an effective character.

  • Selvaria appears at the first Naggiar campaign: wielding her Valkyrur powers to their fullest, she becomes a beast that blows away Gallian armour with ease in cutscenes, and even in-mission, she’s far more lethal than at Barious, being able to one-shot the Edelweiss or Shamrock. Fortunately, armed with some orders and an obscenely powerful scout in Alicia, this mission can be finished quite quickly.

  • The traditional approach would be to capture the midway base and then deploy a lancer there, then gradually move him to the camp to destroy the heavy tank camped out there. However, good investment in levels should mean that one already has the “Demolitions Boost” order unlocked. This turns any scout into a lethal tank-killer: their high AP allows them to flank the tank and reach the exposed radiator. After this, a few rifle rounds are enough to destroy the tank.

  • Valkyries are so overpowered that players (rightfully) do not have control over one: after being shot by Faldio, Alicia’s Valkyrur powers activate, and she cleans up a portion of the battlefield before collapsing. It turns out that Faldio’s been ardently researching Valkyria since Barious, after suspecting Alicia of being a Valkyrur when they gained access to the Barious temple. This mission’s initial objective seems simple enough, but after the main base is captured, a pair of Dromedarius-class tanks roll in.

  • The Dromedarius-class are modified heavy tanks with an incendiary mortar that will kill infantry instantly, and their radiators have been modified such that they are bullet-proof. However, two well-placed lancer rockets will be enough to take these tanks out: Dromedarius A is the easier one to defeat, as Largo can be moved within a turn to a good position behind the tank. I realise that this post comes right in the middle of thesis season, and that I should be directing all my energy towards finishing. However, after spending six hours on just citations alone (and two hours performing some duties for the lab’s undergraduate students), I think I’ve earned the evening off. Tomorrow, I get right back to business and will aim to wrap up the citations before this week is out.

  • Valkyria Chronicles rewards combat efficiency over kill-count and unit preservation, but nonetheless, I make it a point to never let any of Squad Seven die in combat if I can help it. As such, I still have access to Squad Seven’s full roster, and I do wonder on some occasion what the War Cemetery would be like if any of my units do fall in battle (at present, it’s a location for learning new orders from the Aged Gentleman).

  • I may have some thirty Steam hours in the game (roughly eighteen from the in-game statistics), but the visual representation of onomatopoeia is always fun to watch and further, is reminiscent of what was done in Haruhi‘s second season opening. I’ve heard that Valkyria Chronicles has a Remastered Edition out for PS4, and from the looks of things, while the graphics have not been improved too much, the Remastered Edition has support for 60 FPS and 1080p resolutions. It’s not quite as dramatic as I had imagined — when I heard “Remastered”, I thought the differences would be comparing Halo CE to halo Anniversary or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to the newly announced Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remaster.

  • I eventually just opted to give the Edelweiss “Demolitions boost” and pounded the Dromedarius B to oblivion from afar: the flames cannot harm armour. At the time of writing, I’m actually only a handful of missions away from finishing Valkyria Chronicles, and it’s been a blast the entire way. I do intend on unlocking all of the Steam achievements for the game at some point in the future, but for the time being, I think I’ll start Alien Isolation once I finish Valkyria Chronicles.

Valkyria Chronicles continues to impress with its solid gameplay and narrative: by this point, it is quite clear that the game stands head-and-shoulders above its anime incarnation. I’ve also begun playing through the different reports that have somehow slipped underneath my notice, and these represent yet another excellent side of the game, giving more insight into some of the backgrounds and characteristics for some of Squad Seven’s members (as well as unlocking more potentials for the lead characters, which are bloody useful). All of the different features in Valkyria Chronicles serve to prolong its playability; the combination of story, gameplay and extras means that from a value perspective, Valkyria Chronicles is easily worth the 22 CAD that it retails for in the Steam store (in fact, I would argue that the title could go for 55 dollars, the same as CLANNAD, and the game would still be worth picking up at full price); this is a game that now stands alongside Deus Ex: Human Revolutions as one of the absolute best games I’ve had the opportunity to experience. As such, I look greatly forwards to finding my own optimisations for the final stages of the campaign that will see Maxmilian defeated and peace restored to Gallia.

6 responses to “Valkyria Chronicles: Review and reflection at the ¾ mark

  1. Edward May 18, 2016 at 04:26

    It’s great to hear that you are enjoying the game a lot. I loved the tactical options offered by the new equipment. The Edelweiss’s smoke was nice, although I rarely used it outside of mandatory areas because of my preference to eliminate the enemy before gaining ground instead of sneaking past in the smoke and ambushing them from behind. I loved the shocktrooper’s flamethrower and the scout’s under-barrel grenade launcher because they were fantastic for dealing with enemies in covered defensive positions. My preference for the Shamrock was to equip a flamethrower. Sometimes, when enemies were close enough to each other, a single flamethrower spray from the Shamrock would get two or three kills.

    Since you mentioned that you accidentally overlooked the character special reports in the main story, I want to remind you that the Steam edition already includes the DLC for Behind Her Blue Flame and Enter the Edy Detachment, both of which you access by choosing “Extra” on the starting screen. Behind Her Blue Flame further develops Selvaria’s character, while Enter the Edy Detachment is a special mission that briefly puts the spotlight on a few of Squad Seven’s side characters.

    By the way, in the picture where you are controlling Ramona and have a Tank Destroyer in sight, it may be nice to point out that the blue glow in the distance is Alicia with her Valkyrur powers active.

    Good luck completing your thesis. When is it due? I’m actually a PhD student myself in my final year, and my thesis deadline is the end of August.

    Like

    • infinitezenith May 21, 2016 at 14:24

      I’m definitely going to play through the additional DLC material: it was very good of them to include that with the rest of the game at no extra charge. As for the image with Alicia in Valkyrur mode, her presence did not have a substantial impact on the way that match proceeded. It was pretty cool to have a Valkyrur on my team, but as is emphasised later in the game, it’s not all about power.

      The defense is tentatively set for late June, and the paper is due quite soon (within a week or so): my supervisor would like to review it as early as possible so I can get a revised version to the defense committee by mid-June. If you don’t mind my asking, what’s your PhD in?

      Like

  2. cloudst12 May 18, 2016 at 06:10

    Haven’t commented here in awhile. Med school’s been pretty busy. Congrats on your conference btw. I liked the Gochiu…. I mean French town pics you took.

    I finished Valkyria Chronicles in March with about 55 hours clocked in. Since you’re at the 3/4 way, I won’t spoil the battles you have in front of you. I will tell you that the last and one particular mission to take down a certain grey haired commander missions are hair pullers though. Took me awhile to finish them and many retries in between. I recommend a walkthrough and grinding the challenge missions if it gets difficult.

    As for weapons, the best set up I feel is the upgraded acc. rifle for scouts and engineers, the extended clip upgrade for shocktrooper assault rifle, ‘that’ one royal lance, and the 2 sniper rifles you definitely want – the royal sniper rifle and the anti-tank sniper rifle (you get this from one of the challenges). I mostly went for acc. upgrades for the edelweiss. (I see that you probably went for defence)

    I’m sure Isara’s death was a tear-jerking moment. It cemented the idea that in war, there will be casualties… Though in my first campaign, I only really lost 2 soldiers (rip Nancy and Herman). The song that Rosie sings also pulls at the heart strings and I think you should listen to the Japanese version on youtube too (Though imo, the english one is done wonderfully).

    This game has a very unique style of play that’s probably annoying at first, but it kinda grows on you. And you wonder why your soldiers die so fast especially from that Valkyrur lance even from half a map away. Despite that though, I found myself finishing the game in one week.

    Well, don’t want to be long winded since I have an assignment to write. Cheers man and looking forward to your next post. May you bring peace to Gallia.

    Like

    • infinitezenith May 21, 2016 at 14:31

      Half of my friends are enrolled in medical school, and they can attest to how busy it is (which is why I generally don’t bother them), between all the lectures, exams and clinical work. I guess you could say that graduate studies is a different kind of busy, and while I allude to that a lot here, it’s actually enjoyable for me (I’m happiest when I’m busy).

      For the game’s loadout, I generally value accuracy over everything else. For the Edelweiss, I prefer defense because I hardly ever use it in an active role unless the mission calls for it. Since it might be vulnerable to enemy action, and the mission fails if I lose the Edelweiss, I try to give it the best passive defense so I don’t worry too much about what happens to it. The gameplay can be a little rough in some places, but for the most part, Valkyria Chronicles handles very well. That it has such a substantial narrative and characters that mean something makes it even better🙂

      Good hunting on your assignment! I’m going to work on a bit of my thesis today (adding things to a LaTeX table, restructuring some stuff) and then take it easy. It’s the Victoria Day Long Weekend right now, and while I am working to get things done, I feel that I’ve earned at least a small break. After that, I’ll be recharged and ready to finish.

      Liked by 1 person

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