“…You can do this! Believe in yourself!” —Welkin Gunther
Officially, I completed Valkyria Chronicles on the Friday evening leading up to the Victoria Day Long Weekend. Pushing my way through Citadel Ghirlandaio, it was a quick fight to open the rail switches and deliver an explosive device to crack the fortress’ gates. Once inside, I turned Squad Seven’s attention towards defeating Selvaria. Even as a mere mortal, Selvaria has a high health pool and is armed with the Ruhm, an exceptionally powerful weapon with the accuracy of a sniper rifle and firing rate of a submachine gun. However, my own forces were well-equipped to deal with Selvaria, and after capturing bases close to the Selvaria’s position, orders used in conjunction with Rosie ended that fight. Shortly after, Squad Seven is sent to divert the Marmota, a massive land dreadnought, and later, return to the Great Vasel Bridge for one final confrontation with General Jaeger. Besting his tank, Valkyria Chronicles sends Squad Seven on one final mission to stop the Marmota and defeat Maximilian. Despite his powers as an artificial Valkyrie, this mission was completed on short order, as well, and I sat back to enjoy the ending credits as rain began falling outside. After some forty-one hours of time spent in-game and 1.5 years having elapsed since I first bought the game during the Steam 2014 Winter Sale, I’ve finally finished my first play-through of Valkyria Chronicles.
Unsurprisingly, the major thematic element in Valkyria Chronicles is one that figures greatly in Girls und Panzer; strength of arms and brute force are not infallible against the resilient spirit of those who have a powerful reason to fight. General Jaeger outright says this to his men before taking his leave, learning that the Gallians are so effective is because they are fighting to defend their homes. Similarly, Welkin reminds Maximilian that power alone is meaningless; after learning that Alicia is a Valkyrur, he nonetheless chooses to field her as a conventional scout, counting on Squad Seven’s experience and resolve to turn back Maximilian’s war machine in place of the easier route of having Alicia wield her Valkyrur powers. These themes are mirrored throughout Girls und Panzer, and it is perhaps for this reason that Valkyria Chronicles and Girls und Panzer wind up being similar enough for it to have been a recommended anime for me. Back during May 2013, after I had completed Girls und Panzer, I was looking for a similar anime. My initial impressions were that Valkyria Chronicles‘ anime incarnation was dramatically different in setting and narrative, only overlapping in terms of armoured combat. However, now that I’ve beaten the game, these differences are no longer so pronounced. Both Girls und Panzer and Valkyria Chronicles‘ game incarnation have a powerful narrative about how individuals fighting to save what they hold dear to them triumphs over firepower alone. Similarly, both have a diverse cast that takes some time to get used to, but contribute substantially to the sense of unity and determination amongst the characters. While Valkyria Chronicles‘ anime does not capture this theme quite as effectively as Girls und Panzer, the game certainly succeeds; it presents a combination of narrative, emotional impact and gameplay that is successful in captivating the player.
Screenshots and Commentary
- We come to it at last, the final post I will do on Valkyria Chronicles‘ main campaign. I do plan on going through and beating all of the DLC, plus playing through the entire game again to grab all of the A-ranks for each mission at some point in the future, and I imagine that now armed with orders and maxed out characters, this is going to be a walk in the park.
- Demolitions boost in conjunction with defense boost and awaken potential on Alicia turns her into Halo‘s Spartan-117 in terms of lethality: tanks without armoured exhaust vents can now be destroyed in a single action, since Alicia has the mobility to flank the tanks and move around them to reach the exposed vents. Activating her potentials means she further takes on the Master Chief’s capabilities: with her double movement, resist crossfire and mysterious body potentials, Alicia can cover a vast amount of ground, shrug off otherwise-lethal shots and regenerate her health.
- With all of these elements together, I finished the first mission at Citadel Ghirlandaio in two turns, making extensive use of Alicia to activate the rail switches and subsequently deliver a bomb that would blast open the fortress’ main gates. In the absence of orders, Valkyria Chronicles becomes much harder; in addition to scoring A-ranks on each mission, it will also be fun to see how much forward thinking and strats will be needed to score A-ranks without using orders.
- The second Citadel Ghirlandaio mission involves a duel with Selvaria herself. Although possessing the Ruhm, Selvaria does not use her Valkyrur powers here. I made use of cover to capture the bases to the right side of the map, with the intent of calling in shock troopers as reinforcements so they can engage Selvaria.
- Like Wolfenstein: The New Order, each mission in Valkyria Chronicles is memorable, being set in a different setting with a unique atmosphere and feel to it. The presence of full cutscenes and narrative styles inspired by kinetic novels, the story was actually quite compelling to read through and experience, giving each mission additional weight. This approach also strikes a fine balance between excitement and tedium: the game allows players to progress in a more relaxed manner compared to something like a shooter, but is also more engaging than reading text on a screen.
- One of my original strategies was to deploy the Edelweiss and have it cover the area in smoke so that my shocktroopers would have an easier time attacking Selvaria: she does not dodge shots fired from behind and this would have ended the mission quite quickly. However, Selvaria moved before this plan could be executed. Here, I take advantage of the Edelweiss to destroy an enemy heavy tank, and it appears that I’ve captured one of the Edelweiss’ piercing rounds leaving the barrel to impact the enemy armour’s radiator.
- In response to the changing situation, I pushed Rosie to the front, giving her the orders to increase defense, increase attack power and ignore enemy defense. Three consecutive attacks ended the duel, completing this mission on relatively short order. I’ve heard much about how Valkyria Chronicles can be unbalanced in some areas, and while this is true (the game does encourage expedience over elimination), that there will be a new game plus mode after everything is done means that one can replay missions to try different or unusual strategies without worrying about combat performance.
- The mission to divert the Marmota was one of the most straightforwards one in the game, bringing to mind the mission to rescue Princess Cordelia from Federation kidnappers. Set in a canyon, the goal is to trigger the right number of rockslides, pushing the massive land-dreadnought into a section of the canyon for attack by Gallian forces. Because characters splattered by the Marmota die instantly, this mission is best carried out with only Rosie, Largo and Zaka in the Shamrock: they will retreat when the Marmota runs over their position.
- Making use of Alicia and the Edelweiss is all that is necessary to complete this mission: once Alica takes down the barricades, the Edelweiss can roll over the landmines and detonate them, allowing Alicia safe passage. While the Marmota is a vast weapon far larger than anything Squad Seven has experienced in previous missions, it is by no means intimidating: its large guns are fired after a turn is ended, and these are easily avoided.
- Once players reach the end of the objective, it’s a matter of ending the phase, allowing the Marmota to drive forwards. This is easily the most tedious part of the mission, but if all has gone well, the Marmota will reach the target point after eight turns, the number of turns required to secure the A-rank in this mission. The cutscenes show that the combined firepower of the Gallian forces is insufficient, but Squad Seven is tasked with returning to Randgriz and engaging it from there.
- It’s been some 14 months since I played the battle for the Great Vasal Bridge, but here, we’re back to take on General Jaeger and his Lupus a second time. In this showdown, the Lupus is equipped with heavy armour that absorbs damage the tank takes per turn. From what I’m hearing, the Lupus draws design features from the Soviet KV-2 and German Maus, both of which feature in Girls und Panzer.
- While seemingly intimidating, a shock trooper armed with penetration and demolitions boost allowed me to beat the Lupus in two turns: the first turn was to position the characters and get a kill of one of the level’s aces, then use smoke rounds to conceal Rosie’s position. Subsequently, it was a matter of wearing the Lupus down gradually before the turn ended. It’s been some years since I played something where infantry could disable armour: in games like Halo, I never particularly feared heavy armour because the shoulder-fired weapons (like the M41 SPNKR or the Spartan Laser) were sufficient to defeat armour.
- With the Marmota sustaining minor damage, the aim of the penultimate mission is to board this leviathan and disable the Valkof, a Valkyrur weapon capable of immense destruction. Maximilian uses it to annihilate a mountain top, consuming around a fifth of its charge in the process. The blast is enough to vapourise the mountain and probably has a yield of around 200kt, so a full-power shot would yield 1 MT.
- When I wrote the first impressions post for Valkyria Chronicles last year, the post came shortly after I set up a 2009 Mac Pro, attended a talk on software analytics and had a fried chicken poutine. This year, I helped one of the summer students set up a better Mac Pro with the ATI 5770; I left a small mess in the demonstration room, where the Mac we use for demos would not boot up properly, but managed to clean that up. Food trucks were on campus today, and I stopped by Wilk’s Booth. Because I was set to drop by the medical campus to attend a talk on business and medicine, I had their Ranchman’s Burger and a side of thick-cut fries this time around. I’ve no photographs to show this time around because the burger a little messy on top of being totally delicious, with bacon, maple-BBQ Chipotle sauce and plenty of onions.
- Today was also the hottest day of 2016 so far, and after the talk ended, I returned to main campus to attend my brother’s graduation, before celebrating with an evening out. I also picked up a small travel bag in preparation for the July conference. Back in Valkyria Chronicles, the penetration and demolitions boost orders are used to great effect in the second-to-last mission: once active, it will take 4 CP to destroy the Valkof. I’ve heard it is possible to complete this mission in one turn, although my Squad Seven roster and setup meant that it took me two turns to complete.
- So, after making my way through the campaign, I come to it at last: the ultimate showdown between Squad Seven and Maximilian. Although the anime made this fight more dramatic, the game incarnation is superior, having Squad Seven take on Maximilian’s Artificial Valkyrur system. Capable of reproducing the Valkyrur’s power, Maximilian’s system depends on external generators to keep him powered up, so it’s quite natural to attack the power sources.
- After blowing out three of the generators, Maximilian becomes vulnerable to fire. I’ve not used a sniper properly since mission seven, but in this final mission, I deploy Catherine to accurately take out a distant generator, before using Largo to dispatch the other two. Destroying more towers than this is a waste of CP, since the other towers will regenerate on Maximilian’s turn.
- Once the barrier protecting Maximilian is lowered, like the Rebel Fleet does in Return of the Jedi, it’s time to commence attack on Maximilian himself. I used attack boost, defense boost, penetration and awaken potential on Rosie, then pounded the living daylights out of him to end this mission in a single turn. It was back in May when I beat this: it was a Friday evening, and the skies were heavy with cloud cover. After firing the last of the shots that defeated Maximilian, rain began falling and the credits rolled.
- This is the end of my first journey with Valkyria Chronicles, and it’s a little surprising to see just how much time has elapsed since I picked this up. When the game entered my library, I was finishing my first term as a graduate student and was preparing to go for a winter tour of Taiwan. I fired my first shot in the game as I was ending my second term of graduate studies, and finally finished a year-and-a-half (well, 17 months) after buying it. It was a fantastic journey, and with this one finally in the books, it’s time to go and make some headway in Alien Isolation.
Taken together, Valkyria Chronicles is a game that stands as one of the best titles I’ve experienced, and overall, it is very easy to recommend this game to individuals, even those who are not familiar with Japanese turn-based tactical RPGs. With generally solid gameplay, a fantastic art style that captures the nostalgic, old-time feel of an alternate universe, one of the best soundtracks composed for a game and a compelling story that allows players to truly feel like Squad Seven’s commander, Valkyria Chronicles is what a game should be: capable of immersing players in another world, in the process allowing them to empathise with the protagonists and feel clever for completing a particularly difficult mission. Furthermore, there are plenty of extras in the game: successful completion of the game unlocks the story missions for replay, and the Steam version provides free DLC that further augment the experience. While the game is not mechanically flawless (the AI is deterministic and movement can be a little unsmooth), its presentation and content overall means that for its price, players get more than their money’s worth for Valkyria Chronicles. Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that Valkyria Chronicles‘ Steam copy has sold over 800 000 copies as of this May. This is a game that thoroughly earns a strong recommendation, so for those who’ve not played it, one could go so far to say that they’re missing out. The game only goes for around 20 USD in the Steam Store and moreover, only requires a GTX 280 to play on full graphics; any modern computer will have no difficulty running this game, so unless one has but an integrated GPU, there’s no real excuse not to pick up Valkyria Chronicles and give it a spin.