The Infinite Zenith

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Metro Exodus: Crossing the Volga by Winter

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” –Andrew Wyeth

After the events of Metro: Last Light, Artyom grows weary of the infighting amongst the Metro. Abandoning the Spartan Order, he makes frequent excursions to the irradiated surface to listen for signs of communication from the outside world using a radio. His wife, Anna, and her father, Colonel Miller, grow tired of his insistence. When Artyom is captured by Hansa soldiers on one excursion and Anna is captured, Artyom sets off to rescue her and in the process, manages to destroy a radio jammer, revealing that humanity had not gone extinct. The two manage to capture a Hansa train and take it out of Moscow with the Spartan Order, knowing that Hansa will execute them for discovering the truth. As it turns out, during the war, the Russian government decided to jam transmission in Moscow and feign destruction to stop the destruction. After reaching a bridge crossing the Volga River, Artyom disembarks in search of a way to lower the bridge across. He encounters religious fanatics, and rescues a mother and daughter. After Artyom secures a train car and speaking with the religious leader, they cross the Volga River and head towards the Mount Yamantau complex, where radio transmissions suggest to Miller that the government remnants may be taking refuge. This is Metro Exodus after its first quarter: while the game begins conventionally, with Artyom wandering through the ruins of Moscow and its cavernous metro system, after Artyom frees Anna from Hansa captivity and steals a train, Metro Exodus brings players to quasi-open world. This represents the first time where players are free to explore a space to the extent that Metro had envisioned when the Metro: Last Light ten-minute demo was released six years previously; a far cry from the claustrophobic tunnels and narrow streets of Moscow, the level of freedom and opportunity to explored a landscape dotted with ruins makes Metro Exodus a first in the series, providing players with a refreshing new experience.

Besides an increased degree of freedom, Metro Exodus also differs from its predecessors in that the old inventory system has been given a dramatic overhaul. Pre-war grade bullets no longer act as a currency, and ammunition found throughout the game now is merely ammunition. The inventory management system has been expanded so players can craft resources depending on necessity, making use of metal scraps and chemicals to create various items. Vital elements such as filters and medical kits, plus reserve ammunition for the Tikhar pneumatic rifle and throwing knives can be crafted on the fly. Dedicated workbenches allow for repair of damaged gear, cleaning of dirtied weapons and crafting of powerful items (ammunition and explosives), but they are much rarer. The more involved inventory management system comes into play with a more flexible weapons attachment and modification system: while Metro Exodus is like its predecessors in having weapons modifications, it also provides the means to change out weapons in the field, allowing players to very quickly customise their weapons to fit whatever their needs are. The basic revolver, for instance, is a powerful close quarters weapon, but with a stock, long barrel and optics, becomes a makeshift sniper rifle. The plethora of options in Metro Exodus far exceeds those of its predecessors, and the game appears to have finally reached the level of openness that previous titles strove to achieve, striking a balance between linear, action packed segments and the opportunity to explore the ruins and quiet of the Russian countryside.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Moscow looks more or less the same as it did in previous Metro titles, and consequently, while I made my way through Metro Exodus‘ first section, there aren’t many screenshots that were particularly noteworthy. These sections are very linear, although players still have the option of using stealth and non-lethal take-downs on the Hanza soldiers. The benefits of this option is two-fold: besides saving ammunition and preventing unnecessary combat, it also helps Artyom’s karmic balance positive.

  • After stealing a train from Hanza, Artyom and his fellow Spartans end up at Zavodskoy Rayon, on the outskirts of Saratov some seven hundred kilometers away from Moscow. Here, the Volga reaches a width of three kilometres in width, and there are indeed small islands that dot the river’s main banks. By winter, the Volga is covered in ice and snow, reminiscent of the Volga map of Battlefield 1. As the first truly open area in Metro Exodus, players will have a chance to explore, but shortly after disembarking from the train, Artyom follows Anna to a large church on an island.

  • In this church, the goal is to reach the tower and scout around. The fanatics will be hostile towards Artyom and shoot him on sight, but they aren’t the enemy, and a stealth approach will be preferred. I traditionally map my key bindings so that the knockout key is easier to reach than the kill key so I don’t accidentally use lethal force on an enemy. Upon ascending the tower, Artyom will find a mother and her daughter, whom he rescues and brings back to the train.

  • With the scouting done, Artyom can take a boat to traverse the frigid waters of the Volga. Rowing the boat is extremely slow, so I fell back on using the boat to only cross bodies of water and then leg it where possible. By day, the number of monsters is fewer, and visibility is better, but there still are the shrimps of old. The Kalashnikov I have here is a decent enough all-around weapon for combat with both monsters and human foes, and in the beginning, I equipped it with the suppressed barrel and red dot sight. The basic 20-round magazine is not suited for sustained combat at close range.

  • Climbing to the top of a tower to meet a local named Krest, who despises the fanatics and wishes to lend his mechanical skills, I am afforded with a stunning view of the Volga region. The clouds are very lifelike, matching the quality of those seen in the Frostbite Engine. Compared to the narrow confines of the tunnels and Moscow streets of earlier titles, Metro Exodus offers true open areas for players to explore, and by day, the reduced number of mutant wildlife means it’s possible to truly take in the scenery. On the matter of taking in the moment and enjoying things, I’m finally done with constructing the new furniture and now have a dual-monitor setup, plus additional space for a mousepad. When August started, I built a new desk and closet wardrobe: the latter was tricky and took an entire day to assemble. After stopping for a delicious lunch of fish and chips with both potato and yam fries, I then worked to finish the drawer, enjoyed some cheesecake and Roobios tea and then played through Metro Exodus.

  • The revolver is one of the most enduring and reliable weapons of Metro, and in Metro Exodus, it begins its journey with a meagre three-round capacity. Depending on its setup, it can be a dependable backup weapon for close quarters stealth engagements or even a mid-range solution that allows Artyom to put rounds downrange more accurately than the Kalashnikov. I typically carried a Kalashnikov for its all around versatility and then swapped out weapons as I needed, using the revolver for open areas and switching to the Ashot shotgun for close quarters engagements. Despite its commonality and simple design, it packs a punch and is well-suited for dealing with mutants.

  • The Bastard Submachine Gun also makes a return, and unlike its Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light counterparts, is now chambered for the revolve ammunition rather than rifle ammunition. Performing more like a pistol-carbine in its base form, it can be upgraded to become a respectable weapon with a high rate of fire for close quarters engagements. However, it also burns through pistol ammunition quickly, and in general, the Ashot’s lower rate of fire is preferred because ammunition in Metro Exodus is even rarer than it was in its predecessors, so making each bullet count becomes even more important.

  • The low reliability of the Kalashnikov at range meant that for my part, I kept the revolver kitted out for intermediate-range combat. Metro Exodus has bandits camping at certain points in the map, and there’s no penalty for taking them out. However, after Artyom eliminates a certain number of bandits, the others will surrender. They stop being a threat at this point, although I will still knock them out for their supplies.

  • The wide open spaces of the Volga represent a first for the Metro series, and it was worth the time it took to climb to higher places and admire the scenery. Exploring the maps are also important: Nastya will ask Artyom to find her stuffed bear, a gift from her parents, and one can locate this at an abandoned chemical plant. There’s also a guitar hanging around: after freeing some fanatics from bandits, Artyom can retrieve it at his leisure.

  • Here, I wield the Tikhar pneumatic rifle, a custom-built weapon that fires steel balls at high speeds. When fully pressurised, the Tikhar can be devastating, although as it is fired, it becomes increasingly less effective. The initial tank cannot be overcharged, as it will leak, but at a pressure of anything past six, it is fairly effective, acting as a totally silent solution for dispatching enemies. Because ammunition can be crafted in the field, the Tikhar ensures Artyom will always have a ranged weapon to use.

  • Sunsets in the Volga are stunning, as every bit as impressive as the Volga map in Battlefield 1 was. It turns out that for all of the exploring I did in the Volga, however, I did not find several gear pieces that may have been helpful for later. One aspect of Metro Exodus that I am thoroughly enjoying is the well thought-out side-grade system: different gear pieces have different attributes, and since Artyom can only swap them out at workbenches, it becomes important to consider what scenarios one might encounter before picking gear. My goal moving through the Caspian will be to do more exploring for these pieces.

  • Once the mechanic is rescued, Artyom is tasked with retrieving a train car located in an abandoned factory that’s flooded. While I would normally prefer to complete story missions by day for their improved visibility, excitement meant that I chose to push forwards and visit the factory by night, with the invariable result that there were numerous mutants to fight off. I’ve never been fond of fighting mutants, since they attack via brute force and do not drop anything, so every confrontation translates to a net loss of resources.

  • The Ashot is the best weapon against mutants: the buckshot does massive damage and will deal with weaker enemies in one shot. While its default configuration only allows for a shot before reloading, it can be fitted with a double barrel. In this form, it is superb for dealing with mutants, and having gone through the process, I find that having plenty of shotgun shells is imperative if one prefers to play during the night hours, since the shotgun is the most effective means of melting through mutants.

  • In the flooded, derelict factory, stealth actually doesn’t really mean anything, but repeated confrontations with mutants left me desperately short of shells, forcing me to switch over to the Tikhar. By this point, I had found the sealed mechanism and could keep the weapon pressurised: it turns out that the Tikhar is effective against mutants, although it is still better to engage them from a medium distance. The weapon has a respectable firing rate and one will quickly burn through ammunition, plus lower the air pressure from firing quickly.

  • In the factory, Artyom will have a chance to use a trap and neutralise the giant mutant catfish that’s been stalking him throughout the Volga. Worshipped by the fanatics, the catfish actually is of some help to the player, as it will take out shrimps and other mutants. Careful timing is required to properly make use of this trap – if one can time it correctly, it will drop a massive weight onto the catfish that finishes it off. After finishing this segment, I was stuck trying to get the rail car out, only to realise that I needed to open a great gate before I could leave the facility.

  • While most players dislike the hitmarkers, I personally find them to be immensely useful to determine whether or not I hit my mark, and if so, whether or not it was a regular hit, headshot or killing shot. The hitmarkers of Metro: Last Light were not aesthetically pleasing, but in Metro Exodus, they are smaller and much more useful. Knowing what a shot did means I can plan ahead: seeing a kill marker is important, as it means I can stop firing on a target and shift my attention elsewhere. This feature is immensely valuable in Battlefield: since Battlefield 4 implemented context-sensitive hitmarkers, I’ve always used red to indicate a headshot and green to indicate a kill.

  • Because I was foolhardy enough to attempt the rail car mission during the hours of dark, I had to contend with the anomalies, which are floating balls of electricity that deal massive damage: an unfortunate mutant gets too close here and is ignited. There is no way to deal with these, and having not played the Metro: Last Light DLC, I’ve not seen these since Metro Redux 2033: the only way is to go around it and give it plenty of space.

  • The way back to the Spartans is fraught with dangers, including one section where one has to fight their way through a bandit camp. I ended up clearing the camp out after stealth failed, and made use of the Kalashnikov against the human opponents. While ineffective against mutants, carefully-placed rounds from the Kalashnikov are excellent for bandits. I ended up finding a thirty-round magazine and extended magazines for the weapon, plus a long barrel, allowing it to be turned into an RPK. While increasing its firepower and range, however, extended magazines and a long barrel also reduces its handling, lowering accuracy and increasing reload times.

  • I actually picked up Metro Exodus early in June during the Epic Sale: while I had intended to buy this for Steam, it became an Epic exclusive. My final decision was that, since the Epic sale put Metro Exodus as being less expensive than the Ace Combat 7 season pass, I would pick Metro Exodus up first. While folks have been unhappy with the exclusivity, my work with Epic and the Unreal Engine during graduate school meant I actually still had an account I could use. I updated my launcher, picked up the game for 28 CAD and started the party after finishing Valkyria Chronicles 4 in June.

  • With the train car secured, Artyom heads off to convince the fanatics to lower the bridge. While I equipped the Tikhar here, I ended up knocking out any and all opposition I encountered. Combined with my other actions earlier on, I managed to confront the fanatic leader, who reluctantly lets Artyom lower the bridge without further incident. I now enter the spring phase of Metro Exodus, and so far, I am very impressed with the game for introducing new settings that really change up the experience while at once, refining the core experience and gameplay.

Whereas the first two Metro titles were set in Moscow, moving Metro Exodus into the countryside pushes the series into a realm I’ve longed to explore. There is a great deal of intrigue in the remote wilderness of Russia, as well as surrounding abandoned structures. Previous titles were more limited in their setting, so the change of pace has allowed Metro Exodus to highlight the diversity of the Russian landscape, which remains one of the most remote and least densely populated places on Earth. As I made my way though the watery expanse of the Volga, I took the time to explore the map, finding some upgrades to my gear and even a small child’s teddy bear in the process. However, the open world presents new threats, and so, I took to exploring by day, where visibility was improved. After becoming more familiar with the crafting system and weapon customisation options, I felt comfortable in pushing onwards: after locating Anna and then stealing a train car, I saw Artyom push to the bridge, where he stealthily confronts the cult leader and persuades him to allow the train safe passage. Winter will give way to spring, and I am greatly looking forwards to seeing what Metro Exodus has in store as I press forwards into the latest instalment to a series I’ve come to greatly enjoy and respect.

Valkyria Chronicles 4: Squad E, To The Beach!, and a reflection on the Summer DLC

“A simple life is good with me. I don’t need a whole lot. For me, a T-shirt, a pair of shorts, barefoot on a beach and I’m happy.” –Yanni

Shortly after the Siegval offensive concludes, Squad E is tasked with severing the Empire’s supply lines at the knees. Upon reaching their destination, they find the battlefield to be a beach with white sand. While engaging Imperial forces, Squad E finds additional “equipment” that turns out to be suited for their locale. Raz is particularly pleased and looks to start a beach party, but additional Imperial forces appear, forcing Squad E back into combat to repel the attackers. With the Imperials dealt with, Claude and the others set about enjoying the beach party: Claude and Riley go for a race, while Kai beats up Raz for staring at her assets. Minerva is initially too embarrassed to participate, but her curiosity gets the better of her, and she tries on one of the gear pieces dropped from an Imperial soldier from earlier, only to come face-to-face with the entirety of Squad E. Feeling that Minerva had also wanted to unwind, Claude authorises the group to enjoy their day at the beach for a while longer. This is the summer DLC for Valkyria Chronicles 4, which adds additional cosmestics to the leader units for Squad E and provides Valkyria Chronicles 4 with light-hearted comedy before the more sobering events that take place as the Federation forces are routed by Imperials once the winter sets in. Since it is the middle of summer, it seemed appropriate to go through this side mission and enjoy the more comedic moments amongst the members of Squad E (and Minerva) again.

While locating all of the enemy aces that drop gear is said to be a challenge, the coastal map that the side mission is set on is actually quite small, and moreover, recycled across the two missions. On my first attempt, I finished the mission with defense boost and two command points’ worth of expenditure, only for Valkyria Chronicles 4 to inform me that there was more to the mission. The trick with the first part lay not in swift completion of the objective, but progressing through the map and locating all of the enemy aces, who are rather well-hidden in the nooks and crannies of the map. Investigation and exploration allowed me to find all of the items in short order. The second mission thus unlocked, and this time, I set about clearing the way to find the final gear piece, which is located at the western edge of the map behind an entire column’s worth of tanks. Moreover, enemies carried special ammunition that could instantly deprive my units of any consumable ammunition. While seemingly difficult, I managed to get to the end of the map making use of Raz and demolitions boost. Subsequently, capturing the enemy base became a trivially simple task to accomplish, and I managed to earn a special emblem for the Hafen, as well as a special ending. Returning the mission to secure the A-rank, I wrapped up within the space of one turn, and over the course of ninety minutes, I smashed my way through Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s most well-known DLC to unlock some rather aesthetically pleasing comestics for Riley, Kai and Minerva, as well as enjoy a few laughs here and there.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Squad E, To The Beach! is nothing like Normandy, and with Battlefield V not delivering an authentic D-Day experience insofar, it appears that the only means of landing at Omaha would be to pick up Call of Duty: World War Two, where the campaign provides such an experience right out of the gates. Instead, in Squad E, To The Beach!, the mission is so straightforwards that one could complete the missions in one turn without any orders.

  • I initially did this and wondered why the DLC was so short, but then recalled that there’s an entire area behind where enemies were hidden. The first sign of this is an enemy elite on the path leading away from the beach into the interior: once defeated, he drops some gear that ends up being Claude’s swimsuit. With this, players must then push inland and explore the trenches and other areas to find aces. They can be well-hidden, so effective use of scouts and the direct commands are useful.

  • In the first mission, there are four swimsuits that can be collected. Squad E, To The Beach! can be played after the tenth chapter in Valkyria Chronicles, and having beaten the game already, there wasn’t anything in this map that proved to be a threat even while hunting down the different aces, who are well-hidden. Most of the enemies deal negligible interception fire damage, and potentials, plus base stat improvements mean I can run across the map and ignore almost all damage taken.

  • Finding the elites is a matter of understanding what would take the most AP to accomplish: because Valkyria Chronicles 4 is about optimising turn count, AP and movement distance management is central to victory. It therefore stands to reason that the elites would be placed in places that take the most AP to reach. This particular aspect of Valkyria Chronicles 4 means it’s fairly easy to find a global optima for completing a given mission, and one wishes that there were alternative game modes that encouraged destruction of enemy materiel over speed.

  • Of course, the efficiency-based combat is likely a reminder of Japanese perceptions of warfare – similar to Ace Combat, players are rewarded for efficiency rather than destruction, indicating a respect for doing the minimum to complete an objective without unnecessary collateral damage. Once all of the aces are downed, a single scout could capture the enemy point to swiftly bring an end to the first mission.

  • After Kai, Riley, Raz and Claude change in preparation for enjoying the quiet, additional Imperial soldiers appear. There’s no time to change back, and players must continue fighting. Implausibly, but fortuitously, the swimsuits are purely cosmetic and do not appear to impact one’s defense or resistance to damage to a significant extent. Of everyone, Kai is the most entertaining to operate during the second mission, but her limited movement range and finite ammunition make her decidedly less effective.

  • The enemies of the second mission have a unique attribute: their weapon fire will immediately drain out a player’s ammunition reserves to zero, including sniper rounds, mortar shells and grenades. On the other hand, the scout’s rifles and shock-trooper’s primary and secondary weapons are immune to ammunition depletion, so they are unaffected. Thus, for this mission, a pair of scouts and a shock-trooper is all one really needs to complete the mission with haste.

  • Using two scouts and a shock-trooper will allow for the second mission to be finished within one turn. However, there is one additional elite hidden on the map. Because of my own haste, I did not switch out Riley’s mortar to an anti-personnel variant and therefore could not eliminate the enemy elite located on the most distant corner of the map. Anti-armour shells do next to no damage against infantry, and so, I rendered Riley useless during my playthrough.

  • However, appreciation for the scout and shock-trooper classes allowed me to reach the target without too much trouble: enough enemies are behind cover such that having a flamethrower makes this particular mission much easier, since the special ammunition the Imperial forces have do not impact the ammunition available to players. Most guides recommend bringing an engineer along to replenish ammunition in response, but strictly speaking, this is not necessary.

  • Claude’s beachwear is unremarkable and the first to be recovered from downed Imperial forces. While it makes sense for them to have men’s swimwear, one wonders what they are doing, since they also drop swimsuits for Riley, Raz and Minerva. There’s also the question of hygiene (i.e. whether or not it’s a good idea to wear swimsuits captured from enemy forces when one does not know where it’s been), but given that this is wartime and fiction, such elements are not particularly worrisome.

  • Ordinarily, once players reach the north edge of the map, it’s time to capture it and bring the mission to a close. While this assures the A-rank, one is unlikely to have picked up Squad E, To The Beach! simply to humiliate Imperial forces in a showdown: the goal is to give Valkyria Chronicles 4 a more summery feel through Riley, Kai and Minerva. In the mission’s second half, Minerva’s swimsuit has yet to be retrieved, and while the mission itself is direct, finding the elite that drops her swimsuit takes a bit of time.

  • Raz and demolitions boost makes for a hilariously effective and overpowered way of defeating all enemy armour and gatling cannons along the route, while applying all units defend bolsters durability. Unlike the DLC of Valkyria ChroniclesSquad E, To The Beach! actually has access to orders, which shift the mission overwhelmingly in the player’s favour: the gatlings and tanks would ordinarily shred anyone passing through, but the right orders allows Raz to completely and totally eliminate all obstacles with ease.

  • Right around this corner is a pair of gatling guns. While normally a threat, having a demolitions boost-equipped Raz deal with them neutralises the problem in an expedient manner. I originally had planned to bring Claude closer so the direct command could be used on him but quickly changed my mind after seeing that Raz actually had enough AP to make the distance and moreover, was capable of handling the tank at the end of the road.

  • I ended up leaving Minerva at the capture point such that once I eliminated the elite, I could bring a quick end to the mission. On my first attempt, I finished in four turns for a B-rank, but with superior map knowledge, I’m certain that if I were to go back and get all the elites on top of the base objective of seizing the enemy base, I could probably now finish within two turns: a straight run without care for the elite means this mission, similar to the first, can be completed in one turn.

  • The final elite is actually hidden behind some sandbags, and therefore, it is imperative to bring Raz (or another shock-trooper) to the table such that their flamethrowers may be used. Because the elite is an elite, it will take two actions to finish him. Once done, Minerva’s swimsuit drops, and players can wrap up the mission to enjoy the cutscenes, which is precisely what one presumably came for when picking up Squad E, To The Beach!.

  • Two-piece swimsuits have existed for quite some time, but strictly speaking, the bikini was named after the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, where atomic tests were being done. The name subsequently caught on as a catch-all name for two-piece swimsuits after the design was shown in Paris during 1946. The caveat is that in Valkyria Chronicles, the Valkyrur and the powers that they channel through ragnite do not appear atomic in nature. Thus, there is a lack of atomic devices, and presumably, no Bikini Atoll either. Yet, the swimsuit Riley picks out is called a bikini.

  • Kai goes with a one-piece suit optimised for swimming, and immediately sets about going for a dip in the waters. However, when Raz runs afoul of her, Kai schools him off screen, leaving players to wonder how exactly she managed to subdue him long enough to bury him in the sand. More modest in design, a one-piece suits Kai’s personality and does nothing to diminish accentuating the most noticeable aspect of her figure, although one might surmise that a two-piece would also work for her.

  • The last swimsuit found is less modest than Riley’s, and its mere presence is something that greatly embarrasses Minerva, who promises to disposes of it accordingly. However, when the final cutscenes are watched, it turns out that Minerva had other ideas in mind. Claude interprets this as Minerva wanting in on the fantastic weather and solitude of the beach. Of the characters, Minerva has the most oscillation, and when she scores a kill, the physics functionality of the Canvas Engine is put to good use in animating this.

  • While normally stuffy and formal, Minerva reveals a more bashful side of her personality, as well. With all of the swimsuits unlocked, I also earn a hibiscus emblem for the Hafen: this means that I’ve done Squad E, To The Beach! to full completion, and with this DLC, I also obtain access to A United Front With Squad 7, which will allow me to play as Welkin, Alicia, Rosie and Largo in the updated Canvas Engine. After seeing what Valkyria Chronicles 4 looked like, it is not difficult to see that a remastered Valkyria Chronicles would look stunning.

  • Kai and Riley encourage Minerva to join the others, bringing the DLC to a close, and while I will be returning to write about A United Front With Squad 7 at some point, there is another special summer-themed post in the works. Once that’s done, I’ll be turning my full attention towards writing about and experiencing Metro: Exodus; having finished the winter quarter of the game, there are some thoughts on that I’d like to share. The fact that there are no seasonal posts scheduled for August means that I also should have some time to do a Terrible Anime Challenge post, as well as a Masterpiece post.

The practicality of these new cosmetics in standard gameplay notwithstanding (besides the disparity between the cosmetics and their environment, there aren’t very many moments in Valkyria Chronicles 4 where one could rotate the camera and admire the polygons that went into making these cosmetics, which put those of Battlefield V to shame), Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s DLC proved to be a short, but highly amusing addition to Valkyria Chronicles 4. In particular, seeing the more everyday, ordinary side of each character reinforces the idea that behind every gun sight, is a human being, and that everyone has their own stories to tell. Japanese titles have always excelled in creating highly compelling characters whose backgrounds and reasons for fighting are every bit as engaging as the gameplay mechanics and skill-driven aspects of the game. With this DLC in the books, I intend to return to Valkyria Chronicles 4 once more for what I would consider to be fanservice in its purest form: for purchasing Squad E, To The Beach, I also received A United Front With Squad 7, the legendary group that fought through Valkyria Chronicles into the annals of history. I can’t wait to see Claude and Welkin fight alongside one another to repel the Empire, and Alicia will make a most welcome return, as well.

Valkyria Chronicles 4: Final Review and Reflection at the Endgame

“What have I become? This war’s made me a monster!” —Claude Wallace

With Walz and Crymaria departing for a new life outside of the armed forces, Claude and Squad E turn their attention on making their way towards Schwartzgrad, the Imperial capital. Imperial forces prepare a trap for the Centurion, stopping the cruiser with an electric net. Claude reluctantly authorises a mission for Raz, who disables the power supply to the net but is surrounded by Imperial forces and subsequently is killed. Squad E takes the central plaza in Schwartzgrad in preparation to detonate the A2 device, a powerful weapon capable of levelling entire cities, which is revealed to be Angie. Forseti manages to board the Centurion, and reveals that he had been sickened to see what the Federation was doing with the United States regarding Valkyrur technology. Wrought with guilt, he defected to the Empire and sought to rescue Angie. However, before he is able to do so, Kai shoots him. Claude prepares to detonate the A2 device, but the Empire sues for peace. A desperate Minerva begs Claude to detonate the device anyway to avenge the fallen, but Claude refuses, knowing that to wipe out an entire city after a ceasefire was declared would be genocide. Lord Heinrich Belgar appears, and declares that he intends to capture the Centurion to further his own research and perfect the Valkyrur technology. After Squad E destroys the harpoons, they engage Belgar’s tank and destroy it. The Centurion begins to sink from the damage sustained over the course of operations, and Claude manages to get Riley and Angie off before it goes under water. In the aftermath, Kai resolves to look after Angie, while Claude and Riley begin relationship with one another: upon reuniting in Hafen, the two embrace tearfully, happy that the war has ended.

So ends Valkyria Chronicles 4, the proper successor to Valkyria Chronicles. Fundamentally similar in every aspect to its predecessor, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a pleasant stroll down memory lane, while simultaneously introducing nuances that makes the game that give players new options. Through it all, Valkyria Chronicles 4 presents to players a familiar story about warfare, its tendency to drive decent people to do indecent things, and ultimately, forces one to question whether or not any side of a conflict can claim to hold moral superiority over their enemy; while the Imperials and the X-0 unit have done questionable things to advance the Imperial war effort, it turns out that the Federation had also been secretly employing similar research with the intent of harnessing the Valkyrur’s power for their own ends, as well. In the end, the Federation are equally as desperate and immoral as the Empire, willing to sacrifice lives to advance their respective war machines. Minerva’s emotional breakdown shortly after the ceasefire is announced speaks to the horrors of warfare: having lost everyone whom she cared about, Minerva desires nothing more than vengeance against those who took away her allies and companions. However, Claude refuses to detonate the A2 device, knowing that they would be acting in revenge, rather than for the sake of their country: having seen the Imperials as little more than an enemy to be destroyed, war has deprived combatants on both sides of their humanity, and as the war draws to a close with no clear victor, the only thing that is apparent is that both Imperials and the Federation have seen their share of death and suffering. Despite being fiction, Valkyria Chronicles 4 draws parallels with actions taken by both Allied and Axis forces during the Second World War, covering the notion that both sides resorted to extraordinary (and immoral) means to win as the war dragged on, but ultimately, humanity still endured.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the Empire deploys electrified nets and trains coastal artillery on the Centurion, issuing the ultimatum that they stand down or be destroyed, Claude’s only solution entails sending Raz out on a suicide mission. He initially refuses this solution, having promised to get everyone in Squad E back home safely, but when it becomes clear the alternative will lead to the deaths of everyone on board the Centurion, Claude reluctantly authorises the mission.

  • Making use of the cover that whiteout conditions, I quickly moved my soldiers into position, deploying Rosetta with Raz to provide Raz with a better idea of what lay ahead. However, as I neared the target point, a large tank occupying the path completely impeded my progress. A second shock trooper armed with the demolitions boost order was able to make quick work of this tank, and I was able to finish the mission without much difficulty.

  • With Raz at the destination, he is able to disable the electrified nets and allows the Centurion to punch through Imperial defenses towards their capital. In the process, however, Raz the Invincible is shot, and bleeds out. The whole of Squad E is devastated, and no-one is more saddened than Kai, who had come to fall in love with him. His death changes her potential such that her attack damage is increased whenever remembering Raz, and this ability is superbly useful. Changing potentials amongst the characters serve to enhance the depth of gameplay in Valkyria Chronicles 4 and ties things in neatly with the story.

  • Once Squad E touches down in Schwartzgrad, Claude must capture critical points in the city center in order to secure it in preparation for detonating the A2 device that will level the Imperial Capital. This mission sees the introduction of Imperial Ultimate Tanks, which boasts a combination of both mobility and firepower compared to earlier tanks. They are, however, still vulnerable to well-placed rounds to their radiators.

  • The capture points in the map are spaced apart, and guarded by multiple forces. Using scouts to rush them is ineffectual, since the Imperial units will be crouched behind sandbags: grenades will only serve to destroy the cover, and then multiple command points must be wasted on clearing them out. Instead, making use of the shock troopers and their flamethrowers is a requirement towards emptying out the capture points.

  • To make things more difficult, Chiara deploys on this map, as well. If left unchecked, she can wreak havoc with the player’s units. I ultimately ended up using my units to distract her, and kept a handful of forces at my home base to defend against Imperial Forces. Having a semi-automatic rifle and interception fire from Kai makes it easier to keep my home base from falling. On my turns, I also made use of Kai’s sharpshooting to pick off enemy lancers, who present a real threat to the Hafen.

  • On my initial playthrough, hunting down and defeating enemy aces was not high on my list of priorities, but when I encountered them, I would engage and neutralise them. I’ve noted previously that the items picked up from defeating aces are not particularly conducive towards my play-style – reduced accuracy means fewer bullets are likely to hit their target even if they do more damage, so I never run with them.

  • The mission to capture the main square of Schwartzgrad was probably the longest mission in Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s final quarter. While by no means difficult, it is a protracted battle to move everyone into the correct positions to finish their assignments. Towards the end of the game, familiar pieces from Valkyria Chronicles‘ soundtrack also make a return in some sequences. While Valkyria Chronicles 4 has its own collection of incidental music that gives the title its own unique atmosphere, the inclusion of familiar pieces serves to remind players of the game’s origins.

  • Ultimately, in the interest of finishing Valkyria Chronicles 4, I decided not to expend any more command points on neutralising enemies: once I moved Lily over to the last capture point, I had one command point left in my turn and could either end the mission by capturing it, or finishing off Chiara for some extra points. I ended up going with the former, since finishing off enemies, even bosses, yields very little in the way of bonuses, and allowing the Imperials another turn meant the risk of losing my capture points or allied forces to enemy action.

  • While Squad E had been busy capturing the Schwartzgrad plaza, Forseti has boarded the Centurion with the aim of capturing Angie. It’s up to Squad E to stop him from reaching the reactor core, and this mission marks the first time where players actually get to fight on board the Centurion, which has, for the better half of Valkyria Chronicles 4, acted as the players’ home base. The blue glow from the ragnite in the reactor gives the engine room an eerie hue, and this mission is another example of what the upgraded Canvas Engine is capable of.

  • I ultimately finished the mission in two turns, first eliminating Nikola to prevent her from running amok and destroying all of my units; if she encounters Claude at any point in this point, it’s game over. As such, it makes sense to take her out before anything can happen. With the right orders, this is an trivial endeavour – once Nikola becomes a non-issue, it’s a matter of running Claude to the reactor.

  • The labyrinthine layout of the engine room makes it easy to get lost: Claude needs to go down a flight of steps, into the lowest levels, then pass underneath the engine to reach the other side of the room. To extend his range, one should equip AP-boosting equipment on him and then make use of the direct command. The right actions will allow players to finish this mission and reach Angie in a single turn.

  • In anguish, Kai ends up shooting Forseti, who had defected to save Angie. War makes monsters of everyone, and even though players have seen things from the eyes of Squad E, a group of soldiers yearning for a swift end to the war so they can return home to their loved ones, Valkyria Chronicles 4 shows that both the Federation and Empire commit morally dubious acts – while the Federation are presented as the “good guys”, Foreseti casts doubt on this and leads players to wonder what the cost for the Centurion-class cruisers and other ragnite research was. The same holds true in World War Two, where mention of Allied acts of injustice are often brushed aside.

  • Claude prepares to prime the detonation sequence of the Centurion’s core that will turn Schwartzgard into a crater, but seconds before he arms the A2 device, an announcement reveals the war has ended, and that the Empire is suing for peace. Despite feeling the pain of the losses from the war, Claude refuses to destroy Schwartzgard even when a grief-stricken Minerva bursts into the control room and holds Claude at gunpoint, demanding that he set the weapon off to avenge everyone who’d fallen to the Empire. Claude manages to calm her down, and in the aftermath, finally meets Walz and Crymaria face-to-face, as fellow humans rather than enemies.

  • However, Lord Belgar is not quite done yet: revealing the Orcinus Magnus, a massive submarine even larger than the Centurion that acted as his private base of operations, Belgar prepares to capture the Centurion. The aim of this mission is to destroy the harpoon cannons keeping the Centurion locked down. Conventional tactics would involve the player running their forces onto the deck and destroying the harpoon cannons one-by-one, but on account of a solid performance during my run of Valkyria Chronicles 4, I had access to the Gautt R for Kai.

  • This dedicated anti-materiel rifle, in conjunction with the order “attack weak spot”, allows Kai to one-shot the harpoon cannons. Having an engineer handy means that Kai is able to eliminate all six of the cannons in a single turn: while Kai has a potential that allows her to regain one shot, I’ve found that this potential does not activate often enough to turn the tides of battle. On the other hand, having ranked the snipers and their weapons up, Kai pretty much never misses, even with the semi-automatic rifles, making her a powerful asset on the battlefield for precision shooting.

  • The final battle is against Belgar’s Lophius, an amphibious tank with armour heavy enough to stand up to even the blast from a Valkyrur. It is nigh-invulnerable and cannot be destroyed by conventional means: it stands to reason that the final mission’s objective is to destroy the Lophius and stop Belgar from realising his plans of studying the Valkyrur and triggering a detonation, once and for all. While the Lophius can submerge and shrug off almost anything the player has in their arsenal, the fight against it and Belgar was actually more underwhelming than I expected.

  • After the spectacle of squaring off against Maximilian and his Artificial Valkyrur system in Valkyria Chronicles, which was protected by a powerful shield, the Lophius felt more like a battle against the Batomys: like every other tank in Valkyria Chronicles, the Lophius has exactly one weakness. In order for it to operate, its ragnite engine produces a prodigious amount of heat that must be vented, and this exposes its radiators. Thus, destroying the radiators prevents the Lophius from operating.

  • Riley, armed with an Elias mortar, blast boost and attack weak spot, can total the Lophius in two shots. Maximilian didn’t go down this quickly, and once Riley destroys the Lophius, appropriately avenging her father and his work, Valkyria Chronicles 4 comes to an end. In the aftermath, in a manner reminiscent of Hai-Furi‘s ending, the Centurion sinks from having sustained so much damage. The crew salute it, and the end credits begin rolling.

  • At this point in time, I’ve finished Valkyria Chronicles 4 in a reasonably expedient manner, and this means I can press onwards into Metro Exodus, where I’ve reached the Volga River. This post also marks my last post of the month – with the ending of June here, and the beginning of July fast approaching, I am hosting the Jon’s Creator Showcase. Once this post is done, the summer anime season begins, and at present, a few series have caught my eye. July also marks the anniversary of a few noteworthy dates, so I am going to have a pair of special posts out marking those dates. Beyond this, the month looks fairly open, and I may step back posting frequency in favour of capitalising on the summer weather to hike and otherwise enjoy the sunshine.

While perhaps not as memorable as its predecessor with respect to its characters (there is no substitute for Squad 7), Valkyria Chronicles 4 nonetheless had a highly gripping story, characters that were immensely relatable, and capitalised on an upgraded Canvas Engine to add new gameplay elements that enhance the game’s overall immersion. My final thoughts on Valkyria Chronicles 4 are identical to those I had for Valkyria Chronicles; like its predecessor, Valkyria Chronicles 4 offers a masterful balance between storytelling and gameplay, but also suffers from deterministic AI and a cumbersome movement system. While Squaad E is no Squad 7 and took some getting used to, by mid-game, I was as familiar with the characters in Squad E as anyone in Squad 7. In particular, I grew fond of Raz and Kai’s dynamics, as well as enjoying the decreasing distance between Riley and and Claude. Like Rosie and Isara, and Welkin and Alicia, Valkyria Chronicles 4 similarly made its lead protagonists people to get behind and root for. While the villains of Valkyria Chronicles 4 are more loosely defined (Belgar never seemed as much of a threat as Maximilian did) and act as an enemy to engage, Walz and Crymaria were excellently portrayed. While fighting for the Imperial forces in name, they remain human and only fight reluctantly to help bring peace about, as well. Walz’s admiration of Claude is another aspect that sets him apart from Belgar, making him an enjoyable foe to encounter for the dynamics the two have on the battlefield. Like Valkyria Chronicles, Valkyria Chronicles 4 has plenty of extra content and replay value. I am considering picking up the summer package for Valkyria Chronicles 4, which should also give me access to playing as Squad 7 for some missions. On the whole, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an excellent successor to Valkyria Chronicles, inheriting all of its strengths, a handful of weaknesses and building on top of it to create a more modern experience for players. I easily recommend this game to fans of Valkyria Chronicles, and for folks getting into the series for the first time, while Valkyria Chronicles 4 has more features and improved polish, the story of the original Valkyria Chronicles is more appropriate as an entry point into this world.

Battlefield V: The Lynette Bishop Loadout, Operation Mercury, Killtastrophe, Rampage and a new Headshot Record

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” —Eliza Tabor

The third Tides of War chapter to Battlefield V introduced a host of new weapons, and the first new map in over half a year: the map Mercury was added at the end of May, and portrays the Battle of Crete, during which the Germans mounted an airborne assault on the Greek island, which was under British occupation. The map itself is beautiful, with blue skies, turquoise waters, Greek-style houses and cliffs that encourage vertical gameplay. Besides a new map, six new weapons were also added. The medic class gains access to the bolt-action carbine weapons, which allows them to hang back and engage enemies at a medium range more effectively. In particular, the M28 con Tromboncino provides medics with a brand-new playstyle, where they can use the integral grenade launcher to damage vehicles. Similarly, the scout class also received two new weapon classes: the P08 Pistol Carbine is the first close-quarters weapon for the scout, bringing back the aggressive recon style gameplay that I was very fond of in earlier Battlefield titles, while the Boys AT Rifle is an immensely powerful weapon that, in addition to being able to decimate infantry, also gives the Scouts the ability to damage vehicles. The third chapter thus provides players with different options for their classes, and this in turn has helped with keeping things fresh, even though the development and release of new content has been at a snail’s pace: by this point in Battlefield 1‘s lifespan, the They Shall Not Pass DLC had released, introducing five new maps, a new tank and six new weapons. However, while things have been progressing very slowly, Battlefield V‘s roadmap for the months upcoming have revealed that the fourth Tides of War chapter will bring at six new maps to the table, including a re-imagining of Battlefield 3’s Operation Metro. Chapter five subsequently introduces the American Pacific and Imperial Japan factions, bringing players to the long-awaited Pacific Theatre. Iwo Jima and the M1 Garand rifle will be introduced, and this is particularly exciting.

Over the past six months, since I last wrote about Battlefield V‘s multiplayer, I’ve now reached the point where it costed me less than a dollar per hour to play Battlefield V, and I’m hovering around a KDR of 0.9, a considerable improvement relative to my performance in Battlefield 1. While Battlefield V‘s consistently failed to deliver on new maps, Tides of War and its weekly rewards have been sufficient incentive to return and complete assignments, encouraging replay. While I’m not particularly fond of the constant introduction of new game modes, and feel that playing the same maps have become very repetitive (DICE would be better served building new maps rather than adding game modes which have had insufficient testing and lack the same scale as conquest), the silver lining is that I’ve become very familiar with the maps, to the point where my performance has been of a consistently high standard. Map and weapon knowledge has allowed me to help my team out, top the scoreboards and generally have a good time while attempting each of the weekly assignments. With the improvement in familiarity comes a few new personal bests. The close-quarters chaos of Outpost allowed me to score a killtastrophe (a multi-kill of eight, equivalent to killing 8 opponents within 4 seconds of each previous kill in Halo 3). The Valentine Archer tank, introduced during the second Tides of War chapter, has been my go-to vehicle. Despite its lack of a rotating turret, the Archer’s loadout is incredibly effective against infantry and vehicles alike. I’ve gone on multiple 15-streaks with the Archer, and my current best is a 23-streak (equivalent to Halo 2’s Rampage). Knowing the weapons better have allowed me to best my headshot record by one metre using the Lee-Endfield No. 4 Mk. I — my headshot record is now 258 metres, up from 257. While the maps have not been something to write home about, new weapons also have kept things satisfactorily enjoyable: the P08 and Boys AT Rifle are especially fun, adding a new dimension to the scout class.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I open this post up with a killtactular I got while operating a Tiger I against a loaded transport. During my time with the Tides of War, I found my skills tested not against other players, but with the assignment requirements themselves. Most challenging was the assignment to unlock the StuG IV, which entailed using a passenger gun to kill enemies while attacking an objective – I ended up finishing this assignment and grabbing my StuG IV (an upgrade the the StuG III that the history team of Girls und Panzer operate) before DICE modified the assignment and accidentally locked people out of it.

  • The De Lisle Carbine is one of the few suppressed weapons in Battlefield V, and while it marks the first time that the medics got access to something new, the weapon is also remarkably difficult to use, being ineffectual at close quarters, and demanding superb aim to land medium range shots. However, in offering something new to the medic class, Battlefield V shows that with the right content, the game has the potential to last quite a while.

  • While the StuG IV was an interesting vehicle, the Valentine Archer is perhaps the most overpowered vehicle in the game, even following the patch. Before, with the right specialisations, the Archer could hold a total of 50 rounds: 40 standard shells for its QF 17PDR and an additional ten APDS rounds. Combined with a high mobility, the Archer becomes the perfect tank for delivering an incredible volume of fire downrange – while limited by the fact that it has no rotating turret, the vehicle has extreme endurance, and I had no difficulty in going on long the equivalent of a Running Riot even with the base Archer. So effective is the Archer that I’ve been accused of cheating while using it: when used as a long-range solution, the Archer is untouchable.

  • The longest killstreak I’ve gone on is with the Archer: during a match, I ended up going 23-0 with it, which is equivalent to Halo‘s “Rampage” killstreak. The Archer was subsequently nerfed to carry less ammunition, but even then, it remains terrifyingly powerful. Despite the updated Archer carrying a maximum of 32 shells for the QF 17PDR for a total of 42 rounds, down from its original 50, the Archer still has exceptional endurance in combat. For my part, I play the Archer as a sniper: if one is assured some security from the rear and flanks, no other tank comes close to it in performance.

  • After putting in over eighty hours into Battlefield V, it’s become apparent that cheating is a much greater issue here than it has been with previous titles: low level players with scores and KD-ratios that far exceed what is feasible in-game very are encountered frequently. Low levels translate to less time spent learning weapon patterns and reduced map knowledge, so doing unrealistically well is an indicator I am dealing with someone who is employing some sort of client-side modifications. While I ordinarily quit out of games with such players, the Tides of War assignments often require that I stay to completion, which makes for a frustrating experience. Conversely, in game where there are no cheaters, I perform modestly well.

  • The Boys AT Rifle was the most welcome addition to Battlefield V thus far: I’ve long desired to run with the Lynette Bishop loadout in Battlefield, and after unlocking this gun, immediately set about putting it to the test. With a fire rate of 10 RMP, the Boys AT Rifle fired a 13.9 mm round at 747 m/s in real life, and could punch through up to 23.2 mm of armour at 91.44 meters. The weapon was initially effective against lighter tanks, but improvements in German armour meant the Boys AT Rifle was no longer as useful, and eventually became replaced by the PIAT. In Battlefield V, the Boys AT Rifle fires at 22 RPM and has a muzzle velocity of 400 m/s, but can be upgraded to fire at 26 RPM and rounds that travel at 460 m/s.

  • In Battlefield V, the Boys AT Rifle is useless against tanks, can deal reasonable damage to light vehicles (a few shots will destroy them) and is obscenely powerful against infantry under 100 metres, being able to one shot anyone with a body shot. To run the most authentic Lynette loadout possible, I opted to equip the machined bolt to improve the Boys AT Rifle’s firing rate: Lynette typically uses magic to increase her Boys AT Rifle’s fire rate, as well as to stablise her shots and aim at longer distances. Since magic isn’t a feature in Battlefield V, I decided that a good set of optics would need to replace Lynette’s ability to resolve targets at great distances.

  • One of my favourite moments with the Boys AT Rifle is getting a double kill with one shot on enemies in a narrow street in Rotterdam. Getting kills with the weapon is incredibly satisfying. While capable of downing infantry in one shot under 100 metres, the Boys AT Rifle is balanced by the fact that it has a very slow muzzle velocity, low firing rate and demands a bipod to operate accurately. Setting the weapon up is a challenge and leaves one exposed: in exchange for its great power, there are concessions that must be made. As such, I find that the Boys AT Rifle is well-balanced, and not overpowered. In the right situation, it is devastating, but not sufficiently so as to change the outcome of a game. I believe that an issue where the Boys AT Rifle had inappropriately good hip-fire accuracy has since been addressed.

  • Set on Crete, Mercury is the first new map to grace Battlefield V since Panzerstorm came out back in December. Filled with cliffs and set alongside the coasts of Crete on the Mediterranean, Mercury is a beautiful map that offers a brand-new atmosphere to Battlefield V. My first kill on the map was with the Panzer IV Ausf. H, Miho’s preferred tank as Girls und Panzer progressed: the Ausf. D configuration was originally intended for an anti-infantry role. On the topic of Girls und Panzer, it appears that overseas viewers have begun flying over to Japan for Das Finale‘s second part, and if what I’m hearing is to be believed, at least one individual intends to do this for the remaining four parts. I’ve mentioned this numerous times that I don’t get this behaviour, since the payoffs of seeing a film ahead of everyone else are not worth the price it takes for such an endeavour.

  • I’ve always been practically-minded about these things: assuming a cost of around 2500 CAD (including flights, ground transportation, accommodations, food and the movie ticket itself), seeing all six parts of Girls und Panzer: Das Finale would cost 15000 CAD. I get that there are people who are dedicated to Girls und Panzer, but spending this much money just to see a military-moé series ahead of everyone else cannot be considered wise, especially since watching the movie in theatres does not allow one the option of taking high-resolution screenshots and generating interesting discussions as one might see here. Instead of attempting to match the folly that some might have, I’ll take a more practical route and for the present, focus on enjoying Battlefield V and the other things in the now. Here, I run with the Bren: Perrine H. Clostermann’s weapon of choice, the slow-firing and hard-hitting Bren has quickly become my favourite LMG of Battlefield V for its reliability at medium ranges.

  • The turquoise waters off the coast of Crete are stunning, and give way to the verdant cliffs players fight on. The map greatly resembles Battlefield 1‘s Achi Baba, which was located on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. However, whereas Achi Baba is located inland and features narrow canyons, rocky hills and ruins, Mercury has villages and a spectacular view of the water. Battlefield V is definitely more colourful than its predecessor, but has had very little opportunity to show off what the Frostbite Engine is capable of primarily because of its limited map selection.

  • Besides a lack of maps, every patch of Battlefield V also introduced a series of unusual bugs that negatively impacted performance and user experience. This aspect of Battlefield V makes no sense: DICE has already proven that the Frostbite Engine is capable of excellent net code, managing 64 players seamlessly and ensuring hit detection is accurately reported. As such, when things like TTD are still a problem in Battlefield V, I cannot help but wonder if core aspects of the game will be improved; while my experiences have been reasonably smooth, that DICE continues to encounter these problems is not encouraging.

  • Having reached rank twenty for the medic, I finally unlocked the M1928A1 Thompson Submachine Gun. Better known as the Tommy Gun, this weapon was an iconic part of American history, known for its use by bootleggers during the Prohibition era. The basic Thompson has a 20-round stick magazine and handles similar to the Suomi, but once upgraded with its 50-round drum magazine, the weapon becomes a powerhouse weapon for the medic.

  • Its effectiveness has quickly made the Thompson my favourite of the medic weapons, and rendered the journey to reach rank twenty worth it. Up until now, I predominantly ran the MP-40 and ZK-383: the former is reliable and consistent, while the latter packs a punch and is suited for slightly longer ranges thanks to its bipod. While the medic class had started Battlefield V as an ineffectual one, updates to submachine gun performance and access to weapon specialisations have come together to make the class much more viable.

  • Addition of the M28 con Tromboncino (an upgraded version of Battlefield 1‘s M91 Carcano Carbine) to the medic class finally provides one with the option of medium-range combat. The bolt-action carbines for the medic class exchange raw damage, range and accuracy of the bolt-action rifles for a higher firing rate; they have a straight-pull bolt, and so, one can continue firing without zooming out, making it possible to land follow-up shots more effectively.

  • Lacking the same limitations as the De Lisle Carbine, the M28 con Tromboncino is the first proper medium-range weapon for the medic, and it is a great choice for maps that have wide open spaces. While medics can typically get around by making use of smoke and relying on their teammates to provide return fire at range, there are situations where being able to reliably hit back is valuable.

  • The M28 con Tromboncino also has one additional feature that makes it an attractive weapon: it possesses an integral grenade launcher that was originally intended to extend the firepower infantry could carry without relying on mortar support. In Battlefield V, the integral grenade launcher handles similarly to the support class’ AT grenade pistol, and gives medics the option of engaging light vehicles, as well as discouraging tanks. Here, I managed to destroy a tank that was low on health using the M28 con Tromboncino’s grenades.

  • Outpost is the latest game mode to join Battlefield V, and while it is focused on smaller-scale combat, I feel that the radio tower construction/destruction mechanic adds a bit more engagement to capturing points: one must actively build or destroy a radio tower to control a point. The mode was surprisingly fun, forcing a different play style compared to standard conquest, and the aggregation of players on a capture point also makes reinforcements highly useful. My original wish for more reinforcements was realised: smoke barrage and artillery strike were added to the game during the second chapter, and it appears that spotting aircraft and flamethrowers could make their way into the main game in the future.

  • All that’s left would be a 4-player strategic bomber like the B-29 that can deal massive damage and provide several gun turrets similar to Call of Duty WWII‘s B-17 Ball turret kill-streak. The tradeoff would be that the B-29 flies extremely slowly and would be vulnerable to AA guns, as well as enemy aircraft. here, I score a headshot with the Gewehr M.95, a weapon with a fast muzzle velocity. The headshot I refer to in this post’s title was actually scored on Arras with the Lee-Endfield No. 4 Mk. I, where I landed a particularly lucky shot from the church tower close to the B-point on a player standing at the C-point. Considering the difficulty of sniping in Battlefield V compared to its predecessors, I’d say that this isn’t too shabby a feat.

  • My most impressive moment in Battlefield V actually comes a few days ago, after the third Tides of War chapter ended. I was messing around on Arras and had gone on a short kill-streak with the Valentine Archer, but was unceremoniously killed by a player who got lucky with the sticky dynamite. Spawning back in close to where I’d died, I noticed that the enemy team had begun swarming the A point and immediately called in a JB-2 rocket. When it struck, I got eight kills simultaneously, which is counted as a Killtastrophe in Halo 3.  The skill-based aspects of Battlefield V means that I’ve actually improved much more quickly than I did with Battlefield 1, and with this in mind, while Battlefield V had been off to a weak start, the recent announcements about chapter four in Tides of War, and confirmation of the Pacific Theatre has me very excited. Despite my disappointments, I remain optimistic that DICE will turn Battlefield V into a superbly enjoyable title, much as they had for Battlefield 3Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1 before it.

For the past while, I’ve thus been running the Lynette Bishop loadout: the addition of the Boys AT Rifle into the game has finally made it possible for me to run around as my favourite Witch of the 501st, and it has been quite exhilarating to make the Boys AT Rifle work. Blessed with the ability to one-hit-kill anyone from under 100 metres owing to its .55 Boys ammunition, the Boys AT Rifle is constrained by low muzzle velocity, fire rate and the fact that its bipod must be deployed for it to be effective. For the most part, since I don’t happen to have magic that allows me to use the Boys AT Rifle the same way Lynette does, I need to place myself strategically to make the weapon work. However, when positioning is good, the Boys AT Rifle is a beast: to match Lynette’s abilities, I run the Boys AT Rifle with Slings and Swivels (faster weapon draw), flashless propellant (reduces muzzle flash), the machined bolt (increases firing rate) and high velocity bullets. While its damage makes it a terrifying weapon to square off against, the Boys AT Rifle’s limitations means that it takes a bit of skill and patience to properly wield the weapon: missing a shot is unforgiving, and having the bipod deployed makes one vulnerable to counter-snipers. On the whole, however, the Boys AT Rifle has been a fun weapon to use, and Lynette’s loadout is, when played correctly, a viable one in Battlefield V. The upcoming Tides of War chapters look to bring even more iconic weapons and vehicles into Battlefield V, and so, while it is disappointing to see that Battlefield V has remained buggy and lacking in content, the future for the title remains quite encouraging: Battlefield V could still very well become an incredible World War Two shooter, and the Pacific Theatre definitely looks to be helping the game along. If a new elite soldier wielding a katana is introduced in the Pacific Theatre chapter, I would be tempted to drop additional coin for this, as it would allow me to run the Mio Sakamoto loadout.

Valkyria Chronicles 4: An unexpected meeting and destroying a Valkyrur at the ¾ mark

“Claude. I am prepared to do whatever it takes.” —Minerva Victor

Squad E and the Centurion’s crew wonder what to do about their stowaway, who only recalls that her name is Angie. Despite lacking any recollections of where she’s from, she busies herself with helping Squad E and the Centurion’s crew in their comings-and-goings, quickly earning everyone’s affection. While Angie’s presence brightens everyone’s day considerably, the Centurion also faces the sobering fac that its provisions are dwindling. Claude plans an offensive to storm an Imperial warehouse, smashing a coastal fortress to ensure the Centurion does not come under fire. During the operation to recover supplies with help from resistance forces, Angie sneaks on shore and meets Crymaria. Meanwhile, Claude is shocked to learn that the original Kai is now Forseti, having defected to the Empire and having coerced Leena into relaying the Centurion’s position to him. Leena renounces Forseti and rejoins the others to help save a resistance member, before turning their attention towards rescuing another ship that has come under fire. While Squad E repels the Imperial forces, the Federation vessel prepares to self destruct. Angie re-enters the Centurion’s reactor core in order to give the ship enough power to evacuate the blast radius, tearfully bidding everyone farewell. Claude is assigned to command the operation, reluctantly agreeing to lead the operation to annihilate the Imperial capital, Schwartzgrad, with the Centurion’s core. While Walz and Crymaria confront him, Squad E bests them, leaving the two to be open with how they feel about one another: Walz and Crymaria leave the battlefield and promise to find happiness together. The three-quarters mark of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is now in the books, and with it, Squad E is a stone’s throw away from turning Schwartzgrad into a pile of glowing rubble. While it is easy to desire this outcome, considering how the Imperial forces treat one another and civilians, this prospect is tempered by the fact that Angie will need to be sacrificed to end the war.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 introduced an unexpectedly emotional element in its game through Angie: her optimism and innocence stands in stark contrast with the atrocities committed during the course of the Second Europa war, and also acts as a foil for Crymaria. While both are Valkyrurs, Crymaria lashes out because this is the only treatment she knows. Similarly, having been treated with kindness and knowing family, Angie is gentle and kind, being willing to give up her happiness for her family’s sake. While I’d been pushing through Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s campaign at breakneck speed with the intent of making it to Schwartzgrad, suddenly seeing that the special weapon the Federation plans to detonate there involves Angie making the ultimate sacrifice makes this prospect a lot more difficult to accept; the sense of conflict in players grips Squad E, as well: they begin wondering what the war’s cost will be even if they do win. Valkyria Chronicles 4 thus comes to find its own way to engage players with Claude and his squad the same way Valkyria Chronicles had done so with Welkin and Squad 7. While both stories take their own approaches towards humanising the characters to the extent that players care for them, the end result is an immensely captivating story. One of the lingering doubts I had going into Valkyria Chronicles 4 was whether or not it could tell a story as engaging as Valkyria Chronicles: Welkin, Alicia, Isara and the others had been exceptionally well-written, after all. However, Valkyria Chronicles 4 would find its own approach, creating bonds between Claude, Riley, Raz and Kai. In particular, the declaration of love from Raz to Kai was particularly moving, as he reassures her that Forsetti or not, nothing will change the fact that they’re family now, and that he’s in love with her. With Squad E feeling every bit as fleshed out as Squad 7, I now enter the final quarter of Valkyria Chronicles 4.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As Valkyria Chronicles 4 continues, environment hazards continue to impact gameplay as much as enemies. During the mission to destroy a coastal fortress’ batteries, a heavy fog covers the fortress’ lower sections. Players start on the western battery, which can be destroyed in a single turn. The trick in this mission is moving along the lower walkways to reach the second battery. It ended up taking me three turns to destroy all of the artillery.

  • While I’d come this far without touching the direct commands, they turn out to be immensely valuable for bringing assets along and putting them into position. For weaker armoured enemies, lancers are the most effective choice: they can destroy the batteries in two shots. While shock troopers can neutralise almost any armour in one go, deploying demolitions boost on them means an expenditure of three command points, whereas using a lancer allows players to do the same in two command points.

  • Once the batteries are destroyed, Claude must escape and reach the extraction zone. I decided to bring Raz along with him, since that would make it possible to easily eliminate any enemies along the way without forcing Claude to expend his grenades. Like Valkyria Chronicles, the shock troopers have access to an under-barrel flamethrower that can neutralise enemies behind cover in a single shot. Because this flamethrower has unlimited ammunition, a single shock trooper could clear out an entire base on their own.

  • With demolitions boost, shock troopers turn into tank killers, similarly to how the scouts of Valkyria Chronicles could single-handedly run across the entire map. In conjunction with defense boost and awaken potential, a single scout was able to finish entire missions in a handful of turns. By Valkyria Chronicles 4, this is no longer possible, since missions have more varied objectives. However, this is not to say that Valkyria Chronicles 4 is harder than a predecessor: those with a keen eye for novel solutions means that players should have no trouble making use of their other classes to complete objectives.

  • While I’ve opted to only show screenshots of gameplay, the story aspect of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is also compelling enough. When Angie is introduced, her origins are unknown, and like the crew, players are immediately drawn to her innocence and friendly desire to help out everyone. In particular, Riley becomes particularly close to Angie, and when the crew steal Angie away for extensive periods, Riley even throws a minor tantrum. At this point in time, it is clear that Riley is Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s Alicia, even saying “あたしの出番ね!” (atashi no deban ne!, literally “My turn now!”) the same way Alicia does when she’s placed on the map.

  • However, unlike Alicia, Riley’s utility in the actual gameplay is much more limited: I typically equip her as an anti-armour unit, justifying this because equipping her for anti-personnel seems a waste of ammunition. As a result, I typically deploy Riley at the player’s main base for the extra command point, and then leave her there to hold the base with Kai while the other characters do much of the heavy lifting.

  • The twelfth chapter involves landing at the Imperial facility to appropriate the necessary supplies to keep the Centurion going: with the main reactor knocked out, the ship has switched over to a secondary engine that uses Ragnite as a fuel source. Besides a lack of fuel, dwindling provisions is also causing morale on board to plummet. While such an operation would typically not be considered, the stakes to the Centurion are very real, and they count on an Imperial resistance member to help them pull the operation off.

  • The precise location of the warehouse holding the supplies may make this mission tricky: it’s located on the eastern side of the map, and is heavily defended. Running defense boost and making use of the direct command will allow players to move their scouts to the warehouse on short order, but caution should be observed, as enemy mortars will rain down on the player from afar. Mortar fire from grenadiers is actually quite an irritant in Valkyria Chronicles 4; they randomly push the player back several steps, wasting action points, and may also slow them down.

  • The next morning, Squad E returns to help rescue a resistance member in the besieged town. While the game suggests taking the Hafen down the main avenue, there’s actually a much easier way to quickly finish this mission: I placed Minerva and Raz in the Cactus, drove them to the first base on the west side of the map, disgorged Minerva and then had her run to the enemy base on the next turn. There’s a massive tank here, but a conveniently placed explosive Ragnite barrel allows her to effortlessly toast the tank.

  • Once the lone scout is dealt with, Minerva claims the base and it’s another effortless victory. I’ve heard complaints that once the game introduces elites, interception fire becomes much more lethal to the point where Valkyria Chronicles 4 becomes unplayable, but I never found this to be the case. Some gaming journalists have griped at the difficulty, citing some missions as taking up to an hour to complete. Valkyria Chronicles was my first time at the rodeo and therefore was more challenging, so coming back, I had no trouble at all with any of the missions, all of which could be finished in under half an hour.

  • After clearing the town out and saving the officier, the next mission involves Squad E fighting their way to another ship of the Centurion class to save its crew. Set among derelict ruins of some sort, the object of this mission is to capture all enemy camps. I divided my forces into two and conquered the camps quite easily. Once the camps are captured, X-0 appears. This marks the first time that Crymaria appears as a mobile enemy; she previously sat behind the frontlines and provided supporting fire, but she can and will eliminate all carelessly positioned allied units.

  • Once X-0 show up to the party, the mission objective becomes taking out Walz and his Vulcan. On some occasions, engaging him was optional, and I would choose to leave the Vulcan alone in favour of completing the mission, but since besting the Vulcan is mandatory, I called in several lancers. Using the direct commands, I positioned them in the elevated ruins, activated demolitions boost for all of my soldiers and proceeded to pound the Vulcan into oblivion.

  • To make this process simpler, having an engineer constantly resupplying the lancers allowed me to continue hammering the Vulcan; its unique radiator has an unusual hitbox, and hitting just behind it will cause critical damage. It is preferred that one focus on finishing this mission quickly, since Crymaria will annihilate most anything and is immune to all forms of conventional attack.

  • Once the Vulcan is destroyed, the mission comes to an end. While Valkyria Chronicles 4 has superior mechanics overall, I found that Valkyria Chronicles‘ boss units were much more terrifying to fight – the Batomys was so challenging that I took a year-long hiatus in Valkyria Chronicles, whereas in Valkyria Chronicles 4, even if I got wiped during a mission, I simply re-evaluated my strategy and reattempted a mission.

  • During the fifteenth chapter, the object is to engage two boss characters, one after another. First up is Walz and his Vulcan Procus, an upgraded Vulcan that can utilise Valkyrur power to eliminate almost anything that moves in one go. However, Walz only has access to this on his second turn, and requires an order to make this happen, so the name of the game here is really to destroy the Vulcan Procus as quickly as possible before that can happen.

  • The key here is to use the Cactus to move a host of grenadiers and engineers to a camp on the southern edge of the map, along with an additional lancer to deal with any enemy armour that may destroy the Cactus prematurely. In the event that the Cactus is destroyed, Dan will retreat, along with anyone who was on board, and while one loses no members of their roster, it does leave one under-manned as a game progresses. Spending points on improving the Cactus’ durability and carrying capacity is the most effective way to capitalise on its usage.

  • Once the camp is captured, it’s a matter of using the grenadiers and all units demolish to hammer the Vulcan Procus until it is destroyed. I ended up switching between Riley and Aoife on my second turn, alternating between the two to deal damage to the Vulcan. With demolitions boost enabled, and the Elias series of mortars, I whittled down the Procus’ health without too much difficulty: on my play-through, Aoife was perfectly positioned so that her shots dealt critical damage.

  • In the end, it was Riley who got the kill on the Procus, bringing an end to the first half of chapter fifteen. I admit that I’ve been running Valkyria Chronicles 4 with the aim of finishing the game, rather than for a completionist run, and so, have not given too much effort towards hunting down the enemy aces, which drop special gear when defeated. For the most part, Imperial equipment sacrifices accuracy for damage – the end result is that Imperial gear is more unreliable, but when it connects, it can bring down enemies more readily.

  • Crymaria subsequently goes berserk, and her powers begin running out of control when she realises that Walz might be dead. The second half of chapter fifteen is more challenging in this regard: the blood-red blizzard Crymaria conjures will slowly whittle away at players’ health if they are in the radius, and Crymaria herself has access to incredibly powerful attacks that will destroy anyone in one shot. The key here is to use the LF-ASR series of rifles to disable Crymaria’s staff and the take advantage of this time to push a shock trooper closer to her.

  • With attack boost enabled, Raz can effortlessly do the rest of the work, bringing this mission to a close. I certainly did not run into any issues as some games journalists did: their response to the “difficulty spike” was to write politically-charged articles about Kai rather than rethink their strategy in finishing this mission. Once Crymaria is downed, Squad E retreats and Walz climbs out of the Vulcan’s ruins, promising to be by her side forever. It’s a rather unlikely romance, but Walz always did come across as being more friendly and reasonable among the Imperial forces.

With three quarters of Valkyria Chronicles 4 under my belt, I’ve maintained a perfect streak of A ranks, effortlessly destroying Walz’s ultimate Vulcan Procus and even Crymaria herself. This means being able to unlock the various mission bonus rewards and earning sufficient experience points to always keep my classes up to date, and my equipment at the best conditions possible. However, the approach I’ve taken has also been quite unlike anything I had access to in the original Valkyria Chronicles: thanks to the direct commands, I’ve been able to bring other classes with me into areas far exceeding their maximum movement distance. This mechanic becomes an essential feature in helping maintain that perfect A streak, and clever use of direct orders have been instrumental in moving critical assets into the right spot. With this being said, I’ve not once made use of the ship orders, which are similarly powerful if used in the correct conditions. While these new mechanics do help players, old tricks remain as effectual as they did in Valkyria Chronicles; defense boost in conjunction with attack boost and demolitions boost has allowed soldiers to shrug off interception fire and wreck havoc with enemy assets, both armour and infantry alike. One touch I’ve found to be enjoyable in Valkyria Chronicles 4 are how character potentials can change in response to story events; aside from adding to the sense that they’re growing as characters, changing potentials also alters their worth during a mission. Given that Valkyria Chronicles 4 does not appear to have the equivalent of Valkyria Chronicles‘ Barious Desert mission, I enter the last quarter of the game with the (not unfounded) expectation that I will be wrapping things up very soon.