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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.

Valkyria Chronicles 4: Fire and Ice At The Halfway Point

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

—Robert Frost

An Imperial surprise attack annihilates the Federation camp, setting it ablaze. In order to cover for allied forces, Squad E stays behind to fend off the Imperials. Claude engages Klaus Walz and manages to elude him, impressing Klaus: the actions of Squad E allow Federation forces to retreat, but the frigid Eastern winter arrives, slowing their progress to a halt. Imperial forces capitalise on this to assault the Federation soldiers, and Squad E is forced to flee. Claude decides to head for the coast, and along the way, destroy an Imperial munitions depot. While waiting for Claude to return, Raz shares a story with Riley about Kai’s origins: she was originally Leena, Kai’s sister and joined as a replacement after Kai decided to leave for unknown reasons. To help her through training, Claude and Raz risked expulsion in a test course, but it turns out that Leena was a crack shot. Back in the present, the intense fighting annihilates Squad F before Squad E can reach the coast, and an embittered Minerva blames Wallace for the outcome. However, when it appears that the Imperial forces have surrounded the remnants of the Federation forces, Federation snow cruisers appear and drive them off. After boarding the Centurion and meeting Captain Morgen, Wallace prepares his Squad to work with the naval forces, and liberate a village in the process. Meanwhile, Walz is assigned to lead special operations unit at Lord Heinrich Belgar’s request, and they begin an operation to capture the Federation cruisers. Valkyrur Crymaria is sent to participate but disobeys orders, seemingly sinking one of the cruisers. However, the Centurion had merely been damaged, and Wallace leads Squad E in repelling an Imperial assault while Riley fixes the main reactor. In the aftermath of the battle, the Centurion is able to escape, and Squad E finds an amnesiac girl sleeping in the engine room. At this point in time, I’ve reached the halfway point of Valkyria Chronicles 4, and have found myself thoroughly impressed with the successor to Valkyria Chronicles; Valkyria Chronicles 4 has done a phenomenal job of keeping me engaged and entertained with its mechanics and writing.

At Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s halfway point, my appreciation of the upgrades to the Canvas Engine have increased tenfold as I’ve seen more of the game. At the forefront of everything are the improved visuals: while Valkyria Chronicles 4 is definitively sharper and more detailed than Valkyria Chronicles, other updates to the engine have been much more subtle. These details, while minor, do much to bring Europa to life; higher environmental details and nuances add depth to each mission, conveying the sheer weight of the battle against Squad E at every turn. From the flaming desolation caused by the Imperial raid, to the frigid wastes of the Empire’s territories, and the unearthly blue snow surrounding Valkyrur Crymaria, each mission captures the environmental extremes Squad E has found itself in as a Soviet Winter™ closes in on them. The snowfall brings with it additional challenges: blizzards hamper visibility and even reduces movement distance, taxing Squad E’s members. The extreme cold reduces survivability, and downed allies must be retrieved more hastily, lest they succumb to elements. Soldier movement leaves tracks in deep snow, and mortar fire places craters in the ground. The weather conditions are visibly felt, and Valkyria Chronicles 4 leverages new mechanics to keep players thinking ahead, keeping the game fresh. Further accentuating the challenge is the introduction of Crymaria, an unstable Valkyrur who is beholden to the X-0 unit. She is accompanied by Nikola and Chiara, two enforcers carrying electric crossbows. However, players gain access to new assets, as well: the arrival of the Centurion and its state-of-the-art combat systems allows players powerful new strategic options – a cool head and an eye for optimisations allow for missions to be efficiently completed.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • By the virtue of being powered by the Canvas Engine, the atmosphere in Valkyira Chronicles 4 far exceeds anything that came before it. While the earlier missions had shown improvements to the sharpness and draw distance, it was during the sixth mission where the changes became most apparent. When the mission starts, players are presented with fire and fury as far as the eye can see, with glow from the fires illuminating the smoke billowing into the night skies. Foot-mobiles cannot pass through fire, but vehicles can, and my first move was to move the Hafen forwards and flatten an enemy tank.

  • While scouts in Valkyria Chronicles 4 have been balanced out with lower accuracy than their Valkyria Chronicles counterparts, they remain effective with the right upgrades. I’ve been spending more of my in-game currency on upgrading the Lenfield’s accuracy, reasoning that harder-hitting bullets don’t mean a whole lot if they can’t actually hit their mark. I’ve generally focused on accuracy and range, except for the shock troopers’ submachine guns: here, upgrading their damage per shot allows these front-line units to hit harder.

  • The Vulcan makes yet another appearance, although at this point, it is fortunate that its main cannon cannot deal significant damage to the Hafen this early in the game. With this in mind, its radiator is located at the top of the tank, requiring players to make use of Riley’s anti-tank mortar rounds or move a lancer into the right position for a better shot. Missions no longer singularly revolve around capturing an enemy camp: some missions will involve holding out against waves of enemies.

  • I ended up applying demolitions boost to Riley to help her smash the Vulcan, and then turned my attention towards neutralising the remaining enemy forces. Demolitions boost was incredibly overpowered in the original Valkyria Chronicles, to the point where for each mission after I had it, I could simply run Alicia around the map and have her single-handedly wipe everything that moved. Between her Valkyrur healing boost, double movement and abilities as a scout, Alicia was so powerful that nothing phased me.

  • After exiting the flaming inferno of the burning camp, players are next dropped into a snowy, icy map. The goal here is to move three teammates towards railway tracks on the far side of the map, and to exacerbate Squad E’s low morale, the weather has increased the risk of avalanches. Players must now fight the environment in addition to enemy forces, and in this mission, a group of Imperial forces lie in wait at the far side of the map, covering a bridge players must cross to reach the railway tracks.

  • My strategy this mission was simple enough: move three scouts close to the target point, alternating between advancing the objective and positioning my other units to mop up any hostile forces that could down my units. Enemy grenadiers are a nuisance owing to their interception fire, and I make it a point to actively eliminate them: their shells inflict debuffs, and I’m beginning to recall the days of Valkyria Chronicles 4 when enemy units could lower my units’ defenses with their weapons.

  • I ended up applying defense boost to Teresa and had her fire on the ragnite container, eliminating the need to move Kai up to a suitable spot for that shot: there are enough forces camped out on the ridge so that it’s not practical to engage them one at a time, but the same avalanche conditions that made the match more difficult also gives Claude an idea. Once the enemies are gone, moving my remaining scouts across was trivially easy.

  • The next mission involves sneaking through an Imperial munitions depot and blasting it sky-high to prevent the Imperial forces from using the equipment to launch an assault on Gallia. The map is covered by armoured trains, and engaging them is an exercise in futility: using the Cactus to move players from cover to cover is the way to go, and here, I stopped to again, admire the lighting effects in Valkyria Chronicles 4Valkyria Chronicles looked great, but compared to 4, feels distinctly flat.

  • The armoured personnel carrier becomes an indispensable tool, and having seen how fragile it is, I immediately went about upgrading its durability. While survivable against all small arms fire and Gatling guns, the Cactus is easily melted by enemy armour, anti-tank munitions and bosses, so the trick is to only use the Cactus to get through areas with light interception fire, and then disgorge troops.

  • After moving a pair of scouts across the map, I had enough firepower to close the distance and reach the enemy camp. Using defense and attack boost on Millennia, I was able to run right by the hostile Imperial forces, eliminated the forces chilling in the enemy camp and then captured it. One longstanding complaint about Valkyria Chronicles that endures in 4 is that players who prefer a play-style allowing them to destroy everything that moves on a map are not rewarded: Valkyria Chronicles 4 continues in the vein of its predecessors and scores players primarily based on how quickly they complete the mission.

  • With Squad F gone, Minerva and tank operator Ronald Albee joins Squad E and resolve to fight for their fallen comrades. Their first operation with Squad E is in a training exercise, allowing players to get a feel for how Minerva and Ronald handle. Players are also introduced to ship orders, which allow players to call upon support from the Centurion. These powerful orders can shift the tide of battle, but are extremely limited in use. I’ve not made use of them yet, having found the missions quite manageable so far, although I bet that a few levels later down the line could really test that.

  • We’ve now crossed the halfway point of the month, and with my being halfway through Valkyria Chronicles 4, I feel that I’m making excellent time in the game. I expect to finish Valkyria Chronicles 4 by July. In the meantime, it’s been an eventful week and some back since F8: besides watching Avengers: Endgame over the weekend, I also enjoyed a delicious steak dinner at The Keg, where I had their Baseball Steak cooked to medium rare with sauteed mushrooms, seasonal vegetables and their house special twice-baked potato. These cuts are so thick that medium rare is actually the maximum they can be cooked to. The cut offers best of both worlds, with the seared parts being very flavourful, and the heart of the steak is tender and juicy. Steaks are much rarer in Valkyria Chronicles 4: Kai favours bread and becomes uncharacteristically angry when there’s no bread around.

  • The weather this week’s been more similar to the moody skies of Valkyria Chronicles 4, even though the weekend’s been more seasonal and sunny. Back in the game itself, when Imperial forces arrive, they bring with them Chiara and Nikola. These arrogant enforces have the mobility of scouts and can one-shot the Hafen if allowed to roam the map unchecked. Fortunately, I found that even without any orders, a shock trooper can mop the floor with the two.

  • Once the Imperial forces arrive, the objective shifts towards moving the Hafen back to the evacuation point. A host of Imperial lancers are covering the route, along with an anti-armour mortar that can slow the Hafen down considerably. I made it a priority to eliminate the grenadiers first, and then made use of Raz to take out the lancers along the way. For the most part, I’ve found that while Valkyria Chronicles 4 does attempt to balance the scouts out, one can still move a small number of characters across the map to finish things swiftly.

  • Here, a crater in the ground from mortar fire is visible. While nowhere nearly as sophisticated as the destruction effects in something like the Frostbite Engine, the Canvas Engine’s upgrades are very apparent, and Valkyria Chronicles 4 looks as well as it handles. Games of late that have done well have consistently been games that have taken a “back to the basics” approach, favouring skill-driven mechanics that are easy to learn and require an investment to master. Admittedly, modern titles have very complex mechanics that come across as being little more than gimmicks distracting from game-play, and a return to simpler, but tougher mechanics results in more rewarding experiences.

  • The ninth chapter involves capturing an Imperial base in an effort to hold off the Imperial forces, who intend to capture the Centurion. While seemingly a straightforward mission, Valkyrur Crymaria appears for the first time. Her interception fire is downright lethal, being able to destroy the Cactus in one shot if one is careless. Unlike the Barious Desert, I was unfazed by the appearance of a Valkyrur: this mission can be finished in two turns without using the Cactus at all if one is playing strictly for A-ranks.

  • On my first turn, I moved Minerva to the base on the Western edge of the map and wiped out the grenadier sitting here. Walz will call in an order that revives everyone, making it quite unnecessary to kill anyone else, and then on the second turn, it was a matter of running Minerva, armed with defense boost and attack boost, to the enemy camp. More complex strategies will accommodate for players destroying the Vulcan for additional points. When players capture the base, the mission ends, and the Imperial forces will fail to capture the Centurion. In frustration, Crymaria will open fire on the Federation cruisers, seemingly sinking them.

  • However, this turns out to be a ruse: the Centurion is still intact, but its main reactor is down. While Riley sets about repairing it, Imperial forces mount an attack, dropping bombs with the aim of destroying it. The object of the tenth mission is to prevent any bombs from impacting the Centurion: snipers are invaluable in this mission, and I decided to use a pair of snipers: a sniper on the southwestern high point, and then another on the east high point.

  • Because of the deterministic AI, Chiara and Nikola will both go after the sniper on the southwestern edge. I moved Raz to the southwest to provide support, and an engineer to the eastern point so that sniper could be perpetually topped off with ammunition. Once Chiara and Nikola’s asses are beat, the mission becomes a straightforward matter of preventing bombs from landing. Players must eliminate bombs on the turn that they appear: any bomb that isn’t dealt with will hit the Centurion on the next turn.

  • I’ve been consistently scoring A ranks on all missions: Valkyria Chronicles 4 seems to be easier than its predecessor, which had stricter requirements, although this could also be nostalgia and experience talking. I am moving through Valkyria Chronicles 4 much more smoothly than I did through the original, and at my current rate of progression, I am hoping that I will complete this game before Halo Reach for the Master Chief Collection comes out on PC: once Halo: Master Chief Collection becomes available, I cannot see myself playing anything but Halo.

Insofar, I’ve been deeply enjoying the dynamics amongst Squad E’s members, and more recently, their interactions with the Centurion’s crew, plus Minerva’s gradual integration into Squad E. While warfare is brutal and unforgiving, the friendship and warmth in Squad E seems enough to ward off even the bitter cold of a Soviet Winter™. As navy and army forces set aside their disagreements to focus on a powerful and determined enemy, Valkyria Chronicles 4 shows the evolution of a game whose core mechanics have largely been retained, but also enhanced to give players a new challenge. Each mission is memorable, and Squad E’s members now are as familiar to me as any of Squad 7’s members – Valkyria Chronicles 4 has done an excellent job in warming up players to these new characters, and rolling over the game’s halfway point, the push is on to smash my way to the Imperial capital. My back-to-back scoring of A-ranks in every mission up until now have afforded me enough in-game credits to level each of my classes to elite status. I’ve made much fewer uses of orders in Valkyria Chronicles 4 compared to my run with Valkyria Chronicles so far, but I do expect that the game will only become more tricky from here on out, and having access to every tool will allow me a more diverse range of options to kick names and take ass.

Battlefield V: An Incursion into Firestorm and remarks on Battle Royale

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

– Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire

Introduced with the third Tides of War chapter, Firestorm is Battlefield V‘s answer to the wildly popular battle royale genre. Set on Halvoy, a vast map of snowy forests, lakeside cabins and mountain roads in the Nordic landscape, Firestorm features the biggest map to ever figure in a Battlefield game. The principles are the same: eliminate enemies, stay alive and move to a safe area whenever the ring of fire shrinks the playable area. The mode can be played independently, as well as in squads of two or four people, and for Firestorm, Battlefield V offers a modestly intuitive and efficient inventory management system, allowing players to swap out their gear, use additional support items like armour plates, health kits and gadgets and determine what ammunition they ought to carry. Weapons and gear items come in different rarities, with higher-end items being more suited for their intended roles. However, even low end items can still be useful, and immediately after touchdown, it is important to immediately kit up before seeking out better gear, and making one’s way to the next play area. This is about the gist of Firestorm, and prior to its introduction, I had no inclination to play it whatsoever. Battlefield V‘s Tides of War, however, required that I at least acquainted myself with the mode in order to complete several of the challenges. During my time with Firestorm, I found a mode that was unexpectedly refreshing from the usual tenour of Battlefield V‘s core offerings.

Battlefield has traditionally been about large maps and large scale, setting it apart from the close-quarters frenzies of titles like Call of Duty, and the more tactical, slower experiences that Rainbow Six Siege and Counter Strike offers. Not quite as hectic as an arena shooter, but also faster-paced than tactical shooters, I’ve long enjoyed Battlefield for modes like conquest and domination, which offer large-scale battles. Battle royale modes like Firestorm modify this dynamic entirely, pitting individual players and their map knowledge against other players. The pacing is even slower than that of a tactical shooter, since players aren’t ever really too sure of what lurks around the corner or over the next hill: this sense of foreboding and anticipation creates a suspense that elevates the immersion. With the stunning visuals and performance afforded by the Frostbite Engine, Firestorm offers a unique battle royale experience that has impressed. There are certainly merits to a mode like this in Battlefield V, although the dubious decision to only make this available to existing Battlefield V players means that the mode might not have as much staying power in the long term. For me, the pacing is not something I particularly look for in a game despite being enjoyable and a different experience than Battlefield V‘s traditional modes: I’m more inclined to enjoy modes where I am able to respawn back into intense warfare involving infantry and vehicles.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • During my first match of Firestorm, I dropped into a snowy area, found a common rifle and then proceeded to get melted by another player with an epic weapon. The different tiers are differentiated by the specialisations and optics on the weapon, with rare tier weapons having better characteristics. Epic weapons have two specialisations and an optic that improves its performance, although damage is unmodified, and so, players can go toe-to-toe with other players even if their weapon is of a lower tier.

  • My favourite part of the Halvoy maps are set in the areas with less snow, more grass and some of the Nordic-style cabins. The water effects here are amazing, and the houses around tend to old common or rare items. I tend to discard ammunition I find for shotguns, only holding onto ammunition for a weapon that I currently have active.

  • My first kill in Firestorm was using the Sten: this submachine gun has good hipfire performance, and I noticed that another player was hanging around the house I was chilling in. I eventually baited this player into the house, and with the Sten, proceeded to get the kill on them. It’s a bit of a dirty play, since I normally avoiding using camping techniques in normal play – Firestorm encourages the camping approach.

  • Besides healing pouches and armour plates, I usually make it a point to carry anti-personnel explosives if I can find them. I’ve not encountered any players in vehicles, mainly because the solo game mode means players going on foot rather than use vehicles and attract attention to themselves. This means that anti-armour weapons are usually of lesser use, although they can be useful in blasting open houses enemies are camping.

  • While battle royale intrinsically is more suspenseful than any other gamemode in Battlefield V, the scenery is exceptionally good, and Halvoy is beautiful. The diversity of landscapes and terrain on Halvoy allow everything from snowy fields to lakeside cabins to be portrayed in beautiful detail, and there’s an unusual tranquility on the map found nowhere else in Battlefield V. It would be worth going into Halvoy and avoiding enemy players just to explore the different points of interest.

  • My typical strategy for Firestorm is to drop where players are not, and then continue moving through cover to avoid being shot at. Since the objective of the solo game mode is to avoid death for as long as possible, keeping away from unnecessary combat and letting other players whittle one another down. Of course, if I do get the drop on another player, I will opt to eliminate them if it is safe to do so.

  • In a straight-up confrontation, I usually end up winning owing to a combination of superior reflexes and weapon understanding. Where I unexpectedly come under fire, I usually end up losing the firefight if my opponent is more hidden away. While Firestorm uses a completely different health and armour system, the time to kill is still relatively quick.

  • Every battle royale game involves a shrinking game area. In Firestorm, a literal ring of fire surrounds the map and burns areas inland as time wears on. Players are eliminated instantly from this inferno, so it is imperative to always continue moving inward as time wears on. This naturally increases the risk of running into other players, and having good weapons becomes more important as a match progresses.

  • During my best match, I found an epic FG-42 with 3x optics, and it was a superbly effective weapon that allowed me to score three kills in total. I had secured the requirements for the Tides of War achievement, but was also desperately low on ammunition for the FG-42. I ended up dying in an ambush. While I’ve not put enough time into Firestorm to win a match, it is fun to see how far I can progress.

  • Supply drops become available in Firestorm that act as mini-objectives – offering superior equipment, they also give incentive for players to converge on a point and engage one another for better equipment, as well as to score a few kills before moving on. I’ve never been close enough to these supply drops to do anything meaningful with them, such as taking potshots at enemies or securing better gear.

  • Firestorm did allow me to utilise the M1928A1 Thompson, which I’ve still yet to unlock in the multiplayer proper. This iconic submachine gun is one of the best weapons available to the medic class, and its base version is fairly powerful, having a high fire rate and good accuracy. While stymied by a low ammunition capacity, the weapon can be upgraded to have a fifty round capacity. At the time of writing, I’m level nineteen with the medic and will be unlocking the Thompson shortly.

  • On the whole, I’d say that the simplified experience that Firestorm offers, in conjunction with being powered by the Frostbite Engine, makes it the superior battle royale game compared to the likes of Fortnite or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, which have comparatively more sophisticated mechanics and therefore, has a slightly larger learning curve.

  • The Bren Gun excels at medium ranges: while it has a slower rate of fire, it is accurate and hits fairly hard, making it a solid choice for maps with wider open spaces. Its main limitation is its top-mounted box magazine, which severely obstructs visibility. Perrine’s weapon of choice in Strike Witches, the Bren has served her well in missions against the Neuroi, although like most movies, Perrine is shown operating it for much longer than its box magazine allows.

  • I’m almost certain that carrying a Liberator pistol around is meant to be a joke: the weapon does pitiful damage and cannot kill with a single headshot. Hampered by an uncommonly long reload time, the Liberator lacks the Kolibri’s headshot damage multiplier and firing rate (a skillful player can kill up to two opponents with eight back-to-back headshots): Hikari used the Liberator to great effect in Brave Witches in finishing off the Gregori Neuroi Hive, but the incredibly poor characteristics, in conjunction with a lack of behemoths, means that accomplishing what Hikari did in Battlefield V is outright impossible.

  • If the rumours are to be believed, updates to Battlefield V will introduce the American and Japanese factions, plus the Pacific Theatre, in addition to the Boys Anti-Tank rifle. This will allow me to run the Lynette Bishop loadout, where I attempt to run around with the Boys Anti-Tank rifle as a primary weapon as Lynette does, and attempt to snipe enemy players. The inclusion of the American M4 Sherman will also let me run the Kay loadout: if one of the upgrade paths includes a 17-pounder, that would be phenomenal.

  • On the Japanese side of things, being able to utilise the Type 99 Mk. 2 Model Kai would allow me to run an authentic Yoshika Miyafuji loadout. While the weapon is technically an autocannon, firing 20mm rounds, its firing rate is closer to that of a heavy machine gun. The weapon was used in an anti-air role capacity, and this may reduce the odds of it being an infantry-portable weapon. While the Japanese did have their own LMGs and MMGs, they’re quite unremarkable as weapons (the Type 96, for instance, outwardly resembles the Bren).

  • While Battlefield V has continued to suffer from an unclear content release schedule and limited content, I note that Star Wars: Battlefront II has done exceptionally well of late. With sustained new content and a revision of the in-game currency system, Battlefront II has reached its launch player counts and is said to be a solid game that handles well. Continued support for the game after a rough launch has turned it into a respectable title, and given DICE’s track record, I expect that Battlefield V will very likely become a highly enjoyable and solid instalment to Battlefield, as well.

  • The promise of Pacific Theatre content is definitely encouraging, and in the meantime, I’ll periodically play Battlefield V to completely the weekly Tides of War assignments. I am going to have to miss this week’s assignment, which yields the Tromboncino M28 on completion. This weapon is a variation of the Carcano Carbine and has the distinction of being able to act as a bolt action rifle with anti-vehicle capabilities: it fires grenades, as well. Here, I eliminate an enemy in Firestorm using the M1A1 Carbine.

  • We’re now two days into May, and the reason why I’m going to miss this week’s assignment is because I’ve been in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley for Facebook’s F8 conference. I applied back in March and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was invited. The F8 conference represented a fabulous opportunity to speak with Facebook’s engineers, network and also watch their keynotes in person. Aside from the technical presentations and sessions, the conference was a solid opportunity to also converse with other developers, try out the new Oculus Quest and partake in the evening events.

  • With F8 now over, I’ll be offering a few thoughts on my experiences in upcoming posts. I am pushing forwards with Yama no Susume‘s second season and will have my thoughts on the first half in due course. In addition, I am moving through Valkyria Chronicles 4 – the eighth chapter appears to be the equivalent of the Batomys engagement at the Barious Desert, and I’m still figuring out an optimal moveset for finishing this fight. Finally, entering May, I am pleased to announce that I am hosting June’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, an initiative to share and discuss noteworthy blog posts. Come June, I will be gathering posts from the month of May of all sorts. More information on this will become available towards the end of the month, and I will be applying my own unique brand of discussion towards this programme, which is geared towards increasing exposure to different blogs out there.

For me, my lack of patience in gaming means that the slower, methodical gameplay of battle royale games means that I have not particularly found the fad to be one I could get behind. Having only played the solo mode of Firestorm, it is clear that battle royale’s merits come with playing in a squad, where one is able to coordinate with other players to create some genuinely exciting moments of strategy and cunning. As I am very much a lone-wolf player when it comes to gaming, battle royale is a mode I’ve not gotten too much out of. With this being said, Battlefield V‘s implementation shows that the Frostbite Engine is indeed capable of accommodating a technically solid battle royale mode, and with the right adjustments to Battlefield mechanics, battle royale can be quite engaging in its own right. There’s a market for this game type, and while I personally might not be it, rolling out a standalone Firestorm launcher and allowing interested players to play freely would definitely allow Firestorm to reach more players. In the meantime, it’s a mode that remains little more than a curiosity as I push further into the Tides of War programme – the hunt to unlock new weapons has provided incentive enough to continue with Battlefield V even though there’s been no new maps.

Valkyria Chronicles 4: Initial Impressions and Review

“I will see this through.” –Claude Wallace

When the Second Europan War sweeps across Europa, Claude Wallace and his friends Kai Shulen and Raz, join the Federation Army to defend their homeland against the Imperial forces. Despite his record at the military academy, Claude initially has trouble leading his troops, but after earning the respect of his subordinates and successfully completing the Ranger Corps training, Claude is assigned command of Squad E. During training, Kai disappears, and his younger sister, Leena, replaces him. Squad E participates in the Northern Cross offensive, designed to strike at the heart of the Empire. They are joined by Riley Miller, who is hostile towards Claude for having left her family to die during a fire. After liberating a castle and recapturing a town using ingenious means, Riley comes to trust Claude and his decisions. The Federation assign Squad E to capture the heavily defended Siegval Line, and despite the odds, Squad E manages to secure a foothold. They advance into an Imperial town and resupply, with Minerva’s squad deciding to hold a mock battle against Claude’s Squad E. Once the exercise has ended, a snowfall appears, signifying the early arrival of the bitter Eastern Europan winter that the Federation had not been anticipating. At this point, I am five chapters into Valkyria Chronicles 4, the proper successor to 2008’s Valkyria Chronicles. Released during March 2018 for PS4, and then other platforms in September 2018, Valkyria Chronicles 4 returns to the iconic Europa where the Federation squares off against the Empire in a war analogous to World War Two. With nearly a decade since the original’s release, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an incremental upgrade, bringing with it the grenadier class and an armoured personnel carrier that introduces new means to approach each mission.

I come into Valkyria Chronicles 4 as a veteran of the original Valkyria Chronicles, and from a gameplay perspective, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a direct upgrade over its predecessor; while featuring the same general mechanics as Valkyria Chronicles, Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s new classes and vehicle options, plus a handful of leadership mechanics, allow for missions to be solved in more clever ways than previously possible (stacking defense boost, demolitions boost and awaken potential on Alicia turned her into a beast that could solo entire missions in as few as two turns). However, as I’m still early in the game, I’ve yet to explore what all of the new features can do, and instead, my eye turns towards Squad E and its colourful cast of characters. I admit that I miss Welkin, Alicia, Isara, Rosie and Largo: Valkyria Chronicles 4 follows Claude, Riley, Raz and Kai, who are similarly Gallians fighting for their homeland. There are numerous similarities amongst the cast: both Claude and Welkin are attuned to their environment and utilise strategy against a superior foe. Both begin their journey by earning their squads’ respect, and over time, begin fighting more cohesively as a unit to have a tangible outcome in their war against the Empire. Seeing Squad E learn about one another better, as well as each of the characters’ backstories that adds depth to their reasons for being in the war. Within the space of five chapters, I’ve come to understand each of the major characters a little better, seeing how they handle in combat and during times of rest; with the Europan equivalent of a Real Soviet Winter™ coming, I look forwards to pushing Squad E further into Imperial territory, where I will doubtlessly square off against increasingly difficult foes, and where my über micro will be put to the test.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My immediate impressions of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is that textures have seen an improvement in detail, and the amount of objects in the game environment have been increased over Valkyria Chronicles. Lighting has also been improved, and there are real-time shadows now. The game is also rendered at native 1080p, so everything looks sharper: close inspection of the screenshots find that everything looks much more crisp, befitting of a 2018 title.

  • These updates are immediately apparent in the first mission, which acts as a tutorial to familiarise players with the controls, and it marks a welcome return into Valkyria Chronicles for me: I beat the original just before I defended my Master’s thesis. Here, I operate the Hafen, Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s equivalent to the Edelweiss. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles, using the Hafen only requires one CP now, as opposed to the two it took to operate the Edelweiss. The Hafen is a medium tank at the start of Valkyria Chronicles 4, resembling the M4, and was heavily customised by Miles, the mechanic and driver who serves a similar role to Isara.

  • Pushing into the second mission to capture a castle held by Imperial forces, I made use of the game’s classes to continue. This mission requires that players cross a bridge covered by Imperial Gatling guns that can tear infantry apart. I opened by clearing a path for the scouts: Raz is the shocktrooper who fulfils a similar role to Rosie. He wield the Robinson M91, which looks a ways more advnaced than the Mags seen in Valkyria Chronicles and is probably inspired by the Thompson M1921 with a standard box magazine.

  • At the beginning of Valkyria Chronicles 4, there is no equivalent of Alicia, and scouts appear to have been balanced somewhat by varying the mission objectives. With this in mind, scouts remain highly useful for capturing objectives in missions where the goal is simply to occupy an enemy camp. The scouts of Valkyria Chronicles 4 begin their journey with the Lenfield, an obvious callback to the Lee-Enfield rifle, and I found them moderately effective even against enemy shocktroopers right from the start.

  • The grenadier class is a new addition to Valkyria Chronicles: they offer an indirect fire option for bombarding enemies from behind cover, and are limited by their movement, setup time and ammunition capacity. Ideally, they are placed somewhere safe and near an engineer, allowing them to hammer foes at moderate range. Riley is the first grenadier to be introduced, and while sporting a friendly personality, she becomes distant and hostile after seeing Claude for the first time.

  • When Imperial forces begin rolling tanks into a village, Squad E is sent to investigate and identify the positioning of enemy tanks. There are a large number of decoys among the real tanks. Once all of the tanks are found, Squad E will attempt to call in an artillery strike, but communications jamming prevents them from doing so. Claude decides to use the clocktowers instead to indicate to allied forces where the tanks are, allowing them to destroy the Imperial armour.

  • The outcome of this mission is similar to Valkyria Chronicles‘ Operation Cloudburst, where Welkin manages to take a mission-critical bridge in Vasal and in the process, earns the trust of Squad 7. By using the Clocktowers, Claude sets them all to read ‘715’, a number of significance to Riley. Proving that he is both capable, and that he’s not forgotten about the past, Riley reluctantly begins to trust Claude more. The remainder of Squad E have a stronger faith in Claude, and the story for this is explained in an interlude chapter.

  • It turns out that during their time in training, Claude and Raz did not get along, with Raz viewing Claude as a coward. However, determined to unify his squad into a cohesive one, Claude declares that everyone under his command will pass Ranger training. During an exercise designed to stack the deck against Claude, he issues an order to Raz that proves instrumental in convincing the lone wolf that teamwork is essential, but also that he’s an essential part of the team – this allows Raz to reluctantly admit that they can work together, and since then, Squad E has proven to be a solid unit.

  • After a reconnaissance mission goes awry, Claude and Raz are separated from the others during a rainfall. This mission is unique from the others in that one must eliminate all enemy combatants – there are no camps to capture and no special units to neutralise. A combination of scouts, engineers and shocktroopers, plus the understanding that enemies will spawn behind the player’s starting position, is essential to completing this mission in a swift and efficient manner.

  • Only after eliminating the forces behind the starting point, should one begin advancing towards the centre of the map. The scouts are excellent for locating enemies, and in Valkyria Chronicles 4, they seem more effective against shocktroopers than they did in Valkyria Chronicles. After pushing most of my forces to the open area, it was time to halt: enemy grenadiers appear, and their interception fire is deadly. Armed with anti-personnel ammunition, they can quickly destroy careless allied units.

  • Riley’s actually less effectual in an anti-infantry role in that it’s simply not a good use of ammunition to have her deal with one infantry unit per turn, and I intend to specialising her for anti-armour combat once that becomes available. Downed characters in Valkyria Chronicles 4 must be evacuated, otherwise they become permanently dead, and in Valkyria Chronicles, I made it a point to evacuate everyone, even if it cost me a higher score. Later mechanics will introduce second winds and the like that allowed downed players to act, although I’ve not made use of this yet.

  • The Siegval Line is a reimagined version of the Siegfried Line: it was built to counter the Maginot Line, and like its real-world counterpart, is heavily fortified. This mission introduces the armoured personnel carrier (Cactus), which allows players to transport allied forces to any part of the map without fear of being decimated by interception fire from small arms and Gatling guns. More lightly armoured than the Hafen, and having a longer range,  it is great for getting through areas covered by Gatlings.

  • The Cactus is equipped with its own machine gun, useful for softening up a capture point before disgorging its payload and allowing them to capture it. Using the Cactus allowed me to beat this mission in two turns without employing any of my other units, at the expense of doing very little damage to the enemy forces.

  • The remainder of the operations at the Siegval Line were similarly straightforwards: a combination of scouts, use of the APC to deliver less mobile forces, and application of the Lancer class, allowed me to complete the next mission on very short order. I ended up using defense boost to advance one of my scouts to the enemy base, ignoring all enemies save those that stood on the base itself to finish the mission.

  • When Kai is injured by an enemy sniper, players must reach Raz and Kai to evacuate them. Klaus Walz’s Vulcan tank makes an appearance, although here, it is not a major factor: Riley is equipped with anti-armour shells and can deal enough damage to the Vulcan, removing it as as threat. From here, use of scouts and cover from enemy grenadiers will allow Kai to be rescued. Lancers from Squad E have much sleeker-looking anti-armour weapons than did the lancers of Squad 7.

  • With the Siegval Line captured, Federation forces push into Imperial territory and reach a town. Their arrival is marked by the near absence of supplies and a cool reception from the citizens, although Claude and Riley are able to purchase Imperial provisions for repairing the Hafen. During this run, a dealer supposes that Riley and Claude are a couple. Elsewhere, Kai tries to rein in a furious Raz when they learn all of the bacon in town has been bought out, only to lose her cool when it turns out all of the bread’s gone, too.

  • When it turns out Squad F was behind this, Kai and Raz challenge them to a faceoff. Claude accepts, and the condition is simple enough – capture three bases that Squad F holds before they can capture the two that Squad E holds. Utilising the scouts, I quickly captured the far right base, then the central base. When the far right base was recaptured, I sent one of my scouts to reclaim it, then moved another scout to the leftmost base. All of this was done within three turns, and by then, I had practically finished the “exercise”.

  • However, I ended up deciding that, since I was here, I might as well blast Squad F’s tank to pieces and take a shot at wiping floor with Minerva herself. Squad F’s tank had made a beeline straight for my leftmost base during their turn, and so, I responded by moving the Hafen from the town square, bringing an engineer along with me to resupply and repair should things go south. I finished off Squad F’s tank off, and then turned my attention to Minerva. While she’s resistant to small arms, tank fire will damage her substantially.

  • With this post on Valkyria Chronicles 4 nearly in the books, I remark that April has blazed by at a speed hitherto unseen, and today, I spent much of the day out and about: the Truck and Auto show was in town, and it was fun looking at the different vehicles, even though my heart is set on a Mazda 3. This was followed by an unconventional Easter dinner whose centrepiece was ginger-and-scallion lobster on a bed of sticky rice. I vaguely recall that the first time I started Valkyria Chronicles, it was after enjoying fried chicken poutine on campus and then spending a good chunk of the day setting up one of the old Mac Pros with a new GPU ahead of my work with Unreal Engine.

  • It is humbling to know that the same engine that powered my Master’s Thesis also drives Ace Combat 7. Back in Valkyria Chronicles 4, I’ll admit that I was not expecting this: after smashing Minerva, either a graphical glitch or dumb luck resulted in her pantsu being visible. With a handful of CP left after defeating her, I proceeded to finish off the mission without a hitch. So far, earning A ranks on every mission has been straightforward, although with the ominous winter settling in, Valkyria Chronicles 4 looks to ramp things up. I know that there will be surprises in store for me as I push further into the game, and a part of the fun will be seeing how my über micro stacks against whatever’s in store for me.

I picked up Valkyria Chronicles 4 during the Winter Sale, but owing to my schedule, I never got around to starting until after I’d beaten the campaign for Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. Now that both titles are under my belt, I’ve begun, and having put six hours into the campaign, I find myself immediately at home with the mechanics, progression system and scoring. The major difference is that system keys cannot be customised, meaning that the space bar I used to advance scenes and activate sequences can no longer be used. It takes some getting used to, but beyond this, Valkyria Chronicles 4 handles like an old friend. By making use of the Headquarters earlier on, I can give my classes more advantages and unlock orders; I’ve not put them to much use as of yet, nor have I attempted the old order stacking tricks, Valkyria Chronicles 4 remains as fun as its predecessor. With improved movement and upgrades to the Canvas Engine, visuals look slightly more impressive than they did, and the game handles very well. Insofar, I’ve not run into the first mission that sent me packing: back in Valkyria Chronicles, the appearance of the Batomys during the Barious Desert campaign completely shut me down, and it took me the better part of ten months to get back into the game. I anticipate that there will be a similar mission upcoming that will similarly vex me, but this time, I am equipped with the expectation of increasingly challenging missions that will test me – with a stronger grasp of the mechanics compared to when I first played Valkyria Chronicles, I’m ready to take on whatever comes my way.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown- Final Review and Reflection at the Endgame

“When I close my eyes, the sky in my dreams…is a deep, dark blue.” ―Avril

With the Osean communications satellites destroyed, the Osean military is unable to organise a response to Erusean actions. Strider squadron is sent out to Anchorhead Bay to cover a defecting Erusean military official. With the IFF system down, Trigger must identify his targets to ensure he does not fire upon friendly forces, and manages to defend the official long enough from attack for him to reach a helicopter, but the Erusean official is accidentally shot down by Osean forces. Later, Strider Squadron heads to Tyler Island to take an airbase close to the space elevator. Here, they destroy occupying Erusean forces, save refugees and manage to protect the Erusean princess, as well as destroy aircraft launched from the mass driver with munitions headed for the Arsenal Bird. With provisions running low, Strider Squadron launches an assault on the Grand Duchy of Shilage to capture a base, and in the process, encounter Sol Squadron. Trigger manages to shoot down Mihaly in a dogfight, and Mihaly’s last wish is for drone production to be halted. Erusean and Osean forces form a coalition to destroy the Arsenal Bird and force the radicals to surrender. After eliminating radical Erusean forces, the Arsenal Bird appears. When saturation fire from ground forces fail to reach the Arsenal Bird, the princess manages to disable the power supply long enough for the Arsenal Bird’s shields to go down. Trigger knocks out its propellers and exposes its microwave powered dome, destroying it to sink the Arsenal Bird. However, two autonomous drones arrive in response to the Arsenal Bird’s destruction. After shooting down allied aircraft, they prepare to use the space elevator to transmit their accumulated data to drone manufacturing facilities around Erusea. Trigger manages to shoot down both drones, but the second drone ejects an ADF-11 unit that heads into the tunnels leading into the space elevator. Trigger and Count pursue the ADF-11 and successfully destroy it to prevent it from uploading its combat data. Both pilots manage to fly through the space elevator’s windbreak, back into open skies. Thus, my journey in Ace Combat 7 comes to an end, and with it, my first-ever experience with a true Ace Combat game on PC.

While Ace Combat games have always been about the arcade experience of taking to open skies and becoming a veritable ace, each of the games (save Assault Horizon) also has a distinct theme. The introduction of UAVs into Ace Combat 7 speak to the current events surrounding the increased presence of technology, automation and artificial intelligence. With UAVs providing Erusea with a powerful air force, Erusean military leaders deemed it prudent to turn their resentment against Osea into a war. While the initial drones are inferior to human pilots in terms of adaptability and creativity, they more than make up for it with superior endurance and mobility, being able to overwhelm human pilots with their numbers and wear them down over time. The lack of a pilot means that drones are expendable, as well. Pilots from both Erusean and Osean air forces continue to express their distaste in drones, feeling that they can never replace human pilots despite their advantages. However, when information from super-ace Mihaly is utilised in powering a new generation of UAVs, both sides, and even Mihaly objects, feeling that improved artificial intelligence and a powerful data set would allow machines to tirelessly fight wars without end, where humans might see the futility of warfare and set aside their differences. The gap between humans and machines, then, is empathy – machine learning algorithms are constantly improving and excelling at their tasks, but they have yet to reproduce the process that make humans distinct. Thus, where a machine might simply fight until its fitness function is satisfied, humans have the capabilities to understand how others might feel and make a decision that machines cannot comprehend. Mihaly recognises this, as do many of the pilots that resent the UAVs for being pale imitation of human pilots. Ace Combat 7 suggests that the most important decisions sometimes do have a human, emotional component to them, and that entrusting warfare to machines may have detrimental consequences that wind up being undesirable for all sides involved.

Themes of the horror and desolation of warfare are also explored in Ace Combat 7 – again, save for Assault Horizon, all of the Ace Combat games give players a glimpse of the effects that conflicts have on civilians. While players might get to fly in the skies, far removed from the destruction on the ground, as players push further into the campaign, it becomes clear that the war between Osea and Erusea is having a toll on both nation’s civilian populations. Erusea is particularly hit hard, and even those in the Erusean military begin to wonder whether or not their war is worth fighting. Anti-war themes are present in Ace Combat games with a degree of irony, suggesting to players that for all of the amusement derived from accomplishing incredible feats in the skies, war nonetheless is more tragedy than glory. This is likely the reason why Japanese games tend to place an emphasis on combat efficiency, scoring players favourably for swiftly completing a mission; the sooner an objective can be accomplished, the lower the odds that unnecessary casualties, both military and civilian, can result. Ace Combat missions are scored based on time, rewarding players for attacking precisely what they need to, and where necessary, do as much damage to an enemy as to limit their ability to wage war elsewhere. This mechanic encourages players to pick their engagements smartly and approach them with creativity, rather than brute force. Instead of destroying an enemy outright, it is preferable to stop them from fighting while other solutions are implemented. In a proper Ace Combat game, the themes of the game are directly baked into the mechanics that create a level of immersion that is unparalleled. With this being said, Bandai-Namco have not sacrificed gameplay in any way with these mechanics – Ace Combat 7 is thrilling, engaging and exciting, providing the first-ever Ace Combat experience on PC that was well worth the price of admissions and then some.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the satellite network goes down, the IFF system is taken down with it, and while the aircraft’s sensor suite thankfully still locates enemies, they are now tagged in yellow as unknowns. Players must fly close enough to them to positively identify them before they can start shooting. Flying closely amongst skyscrapers in the dark of night makes for an exceptionally exciting mission: players are taxed as they must simultaneously determine which targets present a threat to the convoy while at once maintaining a reasonable awareness of their surroundings.

  • Ace Combat 7 really kicks into high gear in its final quarter, and every mission is simply a thrill to fly in. At this point in time, I’ve become sufficiently versed with my controls such that losing sight of the convoy was never a concern – as threats materialised, I simply flew over them, melted them and then flew off to find more targets to ID. While the mission was a chaotic one, at no point did I ever feel like something was outside of my control. This was a problem in Assault Horizon, but by Ace Combat 7, it’s clear that all of the best elements from Ace Combat 5 were brought back.

  • I fly by a cable-stayed bridge en route to tagging unknown targets on my HUD here: this bridge looks like it’s modelled after Shanghai’s Nanpu Bridge, with its spiral ramp. Anchorhead Bay is a massive city, and offers one of the most compelling environments to fly in: when I saw the trailers for Ace Combat 7 and combat sequences set here, I knew immediately that I was going to pick up the game without any question.

  • Much as how I featured an image of an explosion’s shock wave in Assault Horizon, I feature one here from a fortuitous screenshot that I captured while flying low over the bridge and blasted the hostile armour on it. The pressure wave is clearly visible here in the dark of night, and I’m flying low enough so that the different lane markers are visible on the spiral ramp below; while this mission entailed some of the lowest altitudes I’ve flown at, the F-15E Strike Eagle was more than up to the task.

  • After the F-15E’s solid performance in the fourteenth mission, I elected to field it again over Anchorhead Bay; in hindsight, a different aircraft with dedicated anti-ground munitions might have been more effective owing to the abundance of surface targets. While there are enemy helicopter gunships and aircraft, most of the sixteenth mission entails strafing ground targets. The F-15E’s large missile capacity and handling means it’s more than up for the job even when equipped with the 6-target missiles, but specialised anti-ground weapons would make it more straightforwards to clear out ground targets.

  • After the Erusean general makes it safely to the helicopter, an unknown group of aircraft arrive. A few tense moments elapse, and Trigger is given the order to shoot them down. Most of the enemies up until now have been ground targets, and my missile stockpile was dwindling, but I did have a large reserve of the 6AAMs remaining, so I made short work of the remaining fighters in the sky to finish off the mission.

  • The seventeenth mission is set over Tyler Island, Osean territory that has been under Erusean attack since the conflict started. There’s a mass driver here (just visible in the image’s leftmost side): these electromagnetic catapults are used to slingshot objects at high velocities, and the Mobile Suit Gundam series is known for employing them as a practical means of launching craft into space. Ace Combat 7 feels, more than any other instalment of Ace Combat, like a Gundam game in the Unreal Engine with aircraft rather than mobile suits.

  • While a fair portion of mission seventeen deals with blasting ground targets, there is wisdom in carrying a good anti-air loadout: the ground targets are relatively easy to deal with, and as Trigger hammers the Erusean ground forces, their bombers make an appearance. Like previous missions, failure will result if the bombers are allowed to reach their targets, and the bombers come from difficult angles, so making good use of special weapons will allow these to be swiftly dealt with before they can deal any damage.

  • A glance at this blog’s archives show that I began writing the posts for Assault Horizon precisely five years ago. During this time, my application to graduate school was accepted, and I accepted an offer to work on The Giant Walkthrough Brain project. I also saw heartbreak of a calibre I’d never quite previously expected, and in hindsight, The Giant Walkthrough Brain ended up being the tonic that saved me from melancholy – this is one of the reasons why the project had such a profound impact on me, and why I continue to mention the project to this day.

  • In fact, news of the heartbreak came on social media precisely five years ago to this day. Five years since, while things’ve not really changed in that department, I’ve found other ways to turn things around. It’s important to never lose sight of what’s important, and during times of difficulty, regrouping and finding ways to move forward is critical in healing the hurts. Focus on The Giant Walkthrough Brain and graduate school was my answer to heartbreak; I think that after five years and troubling readers with numerous recollections of this later, I’m all the stronger for it.

  • I’m sure readers don’t come hear to read stories on how I accepted my rejection and moved on, so I’ll promptly return the discussion to Ace Combat 7, where I blasted remaining air targets with my missiles after clearing the bombers out. The moody skies of Tyler Island reflect on the general atmosphere surrounding allied forces: despite lacking communications with the military leaders, Strider Squadron and their allies continue to do what they feel is necessary to end this conflict.

  • The mission checkpoint is reached when players are tasked with rescuing Princess Cosette and Avril from hostile Erusean forces. There’s not much time to do this, and players must hasten to reach the two before the timer runs to zero. I quickly restarted from the checkpoint here to reset my damage and restock on munitions: this act is a rather low-handed but effective way to quickly resupply and repair without affecting one’s time spent (and corresponding score).

  • Yellow smoke marks the targets, and once the threats surrounding Avril and Cosette are neutralised, players have one final objective remaining – take out the supply ships carrying parts and munitions for the Arsenal Birds. Launched from the mass driver, players have a  maximum of ten minutes to pursue the ships and shoot them down.

  • In my case, the 6AAMs were more than sufficient in dealing with the supply ships: they turn out to be carrying Helios missiles, and will detonate in a brilliant flash of blue light once destroyed. The challenge in mission seventeen ended up being the bombers that appear mid-mission; they are quite difficult to pin down in the clouds, and so, while I was carrying anti-ground munitions on my first attempts, necessity dictated that I carry good anti-air weapons. I ultimately choose my special weapons based on what the tougher enemies of a mission are, and only use them for these segments.

  • The eighteenth mission is set in a small country adjacent to Erusea: Shilage was once an Erusean state and declared independence. Strider Squadron undertakes this mission with the aim of acquiring provisions, and launch an airstrike against Shilage Castle, a known site where supplies were stockpiled. This mission has some of the most beautiful skies of any level in Ace Combat 7, being set in the early hours of a quiet, misty morning.

  • With all unknowns presumed hostile, the need to identify targets before firing is no longer a part of the mission, and so, players are able to freely fire on all marked targets. For this mission, I chose the F-15C for its superior performance in air-to-air combat; I’d come into the mission knowing that I’d be squaring off against Sol Squadron and Mihaly again, so having a good plane for dogfighting would be critical. The pulse lasers that had worked so well earlier came to mind: unlike missiles, they cannot be dodged, and I knew that Mihaly in particular was every bit as agile as Assault Horizon‘s Markov.

  • The early part of the mission is melancholy – blasting hapless ground targets on a quiet morning did not offer too much in the way of excitement, and I turned the F-15C’s payload against ground targets. By this point in Ace Combat 7, I’ve become accustomed to rapidly switching between targets quickly: missiles will continue tracking the last target with a lock, and most ground targets only require one missile to destroy. With this being said, I’ve heard that tanks can shoot down players if they’re careless.

  • Shilage Castle is based off Slovakia’s Spiš Castle, a UNESCO world Heritage site that was built in the twelfth century as the political and economic center of Szepes Country. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1780, and while the cause is unknown, the castle underwent reconstruction towards the latter half of the twentieth century. It stands to reason that Shilage is probably a blend of Slovakian and Hungarian cultures.

  • With the pulse lasers, Sol Squadron becomes a pushover in air combat. However, when Mihaly arrives, he arrives in style with the X-02S Strike Wyvern, the most powerful aircraft in the game. Armed with an electromagnetic launcher of his own, the Strike Wyvern is a straight upgrade of the Wyvern, featuring improved electronics and flight control surfaces that allow Mihaly to dodge almost anything players can throw at him. The EML will devastate players, and I sustained one hit that brought me to the brink of death.

  • With my pulse lasers nearly exhausted, I managed to get behind Mihaly and downed him with missiles. This fight between two aces epitomises what dogfights in Ace Combat are about – just a player and their wits. Assault Horizon‘s handling of the fight between Bishop and Markov proved to be a chore to complete, and when I completed Assault Horizon, I wondered if I would ever go back on a summer’s evening to fly over Washington, D.C. again. The answer was that, with how ardous the fight with Markov was, I ended up never returning.

  • After Mihaly is shot down, he requests that Trigger, a worthy pilot, put an end to drone production. I never got the impression that Mihaly was an antagonist per se: a legendary pilot fighting for Erusea, Mihaly is not a warmonger or seeking revenge, and flies only for his own sake. His loss here, coupled with the toll of combat on his body, means that he will retire from active service. Beating Mihaly was exhilarating, and I flew off into the sunrise once the mission was completed.

  • We’ve come to it at last: a coalition of Erusean moderates and Oseans cooperate at the space elevator to destroy radical forces and lure the Arsenal Bird out with the aim of destroying it. Fighting over brilliant blue skies, the first part of mission nineteen is an annihilation assignment – players simply need to shoot down as much stuff as they can within the allocated time limit. I ended up returning to the F-15E Strike Eagle; with its larger missile capacity and handling characteristics, it would be well-suited for taking on the large numbers of enemy aircraft and UAVs.

  • Of late, things have been remarkably busy, both at work and outside of work. Yesterday, I took the morning to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair (CYSF): unlike last year, where I was assigned projects from the physical sciences and therefore did not have as strong of a background, I was given biological science related projects this time around, meaning I could engage with the participants to a greater extent. The projects I saw were of a satisfactory standard, save one group that started mere weeks ago; it’s always a thrill to see what young minds are up to these days.

  • Earlier today, after hitting the gym, I attended a volunteer orientation for Otafest. Having been an attendee once, after going to Japan a few years back, it suddenly felt a little hollow to merely be attending, so this time around, I applied to be a volunteer. The convention will be in May on the Victoria Day long weekend, and there’s a bit of time between then and now. My main interest in returning as a volunteer was that I wanted to see things from the other side of the fence: much as how I participated in the CYSF when I was in middle school and then got to judge it, I wished to see the efforts that go into making the local anime convention possible.

  • For the first time ever on PC, I fire the Tactical Laser System (TLS) on the F-15E. Firing a single continuous beam, the TLS was first introduced with the ADFX 01 and 02, then integrated into the Falken. The TLS hits its target instantaneously and deals massive damage, making it the ultimate special weapon that aircraft can carry. At least, this was the TLS in older Ace Combat titles: by Ace Combat 7, a simpler system was developed and could be mounted on conventional aircraft. This TLS feels weaker than the version found on the Falken, but seeing as I would be fighting the Arsenal Bird, which has its own laser weapons, I’d figured that it’d be prudent to bring my own laser to the fight.

  • In the end, I had no trouble shooting down enough aircraft to meet the mission requirements, and evaded the Helios missiles that the Arsenal Bird had hammered the area with. With the skies largely clear, the moment had come at last to utilise the TLS against the Arsenal Bird: despite being weaker than previous iterations, I ultimately found that the TLS proved adequate even without the improved power upgrade part. I entered the mission with the beam expander that increased the hit area.

  • Against the Arsenal Bird, the coalition forces initially cannot do anything to it: the microwave-powered dome provides the airborne carrier with an impenetrable energy shield, and after surface and air forces hammer the Arsenal Bird, the shield absorbs all damage. There’s little point in continuing the assault on the Arsenal Bird at this point, and focus should go towards whittling down the number of MQ-101s in the air.

  • While Trigger and the other pilots fight to stay alive long enough to work out a plan, Cosette and Avril work from elsewhere to disrupt the power supply, which one of Sol Squadron’s pilots explains, is powered from a transmitter in the space elevator. I particularly enjoyed the voice acting here: while Cosette and Avril aren’t seen on screen, their actions are audibly heard. By this point, the MQ-101s are trivial to fight, and once the shields drop, the coalition forces will turn their attention towards keeping the UAVs off Trigger’s back.

  • The time has come to put the F-15E’s tactical laser to use for real: Trigger must destroy the sub-propellers and the main propellers to slow the Arsenal Bird down. The sustained damage from the tactical laser makes this much easier: the propellers can sustain quite a bit of damage, and the Arsenal Bird has an impressive array of weaponry against players. Besides its missile barrage, the Arsenal Bird has a tactical laser of its own, and pulse laser CIWS that can bring down Trigger on short order. Concentrating on the propellers and then breaking off for another run will make more sense than pushing aggressively forward.

  • The Arsenal Bird’s propellers will self-repair, and Trigger is given new targets to hit: after destroying the docking clamps, the final step is to hit the Arsenal Bird’s power supply. Here, I engage the Arsenal Bird’s docking clamps with my laser, while it attempts to fire its laser on me. Moments like these are unscripted and fun: with the freedom to tackle the problem that is the Arsenal Bird however I pleased, I felt like I was shaping my own fate, in contrast with Assault Horizon, which had me on rails during the final fight and therefore, did not give me the same feeling that I’d improved as a pilot through the game’s progression.

  • Hitting the small microwave-powered dome took more skill than any objective previously, but I eventually got a lucky shot off with the tactical laser and brought down the Arsenal Bird. Ace Combat 7 is all about the thrills, and each subsequent mission towards the end made players feel the rush of achievement from pulling off increasingly wacky stunts. In my mind, the story in Ace Combat 7 is average in concept, but superb in execution: in conjunction with exceptional gameplay and visuals, Ace Combat 7 simply works.

  • On a quiet Friday evening two weeks ago, I finally reached the final mission of Ace Combat 7: the sun was setting, and I decided that, since Battlefield V had no active assignments, I might as well finish Ace Combat 7. I had enough of the in-game currency to buy the F-22A, the most advanced aircraft available on the American Tree. Players can also pick up the YF-23 as an alternate American aircraft, or the Su-57 on the Russian tree. Having invested all of my currency into the American tree, I ended up going with the F-22A, and in the knowledge that I was going up against the most advanced drones Ace Combat 7 would throw at me, I figured the time had come to into the cockpit of an F-22A.

  • With the best firepower, defense, acceleration and manoeuvrability of any of the aircraft I’d flown previously, the F-22A is a veritable monster of the skies. I flew the basic version armed with the Quick Maneuver Air-to-Air Missile, but didn’t fire a single one during the final mission’s first phase: while the ADF-11 UAVs are manoeuvrable and can dodge missiles with ease, the F-22A was able to keep up with them. I had no difficulty getting behind them and getting a few good hits off. The ADF-11s are equipped with tactical lasers of their own, as well as smaller drones, but despite being formidable foes, I downed both.

  • As the skies darken, one of the ADF-11s shot down detaches its cockpit unit and flies into a tunnel beneath the space elevator, intent on transmitting its combat data. No options are left to the player, who must fly into the tunnel in pursuit. When I was in middle school, the public library had a strategy guide for Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, and reading through it, I became interested in playing the series: during my time as an undergraduate student some years later, I found the soundtrack on YouTube and subsequently watched some playthroughs when I admittedly should have been studying for organic chemistry and data structures.

  • While a few interesting air combat games surfaced for iOS, none of them had the same magic as Ace Combat, and so, when Assault Horizon was released to PC, I picked it up, feeling that it would be the closest I would get to flying in Strangereal. Ace Combat Infinity was a PS4-only title, and so, when Ace Combat 7 was announced in 2015, my interest was piqued. Four years later, I was able experience this, and my verdict is that it was well worth the wait: the finished product is engaging, polished and fun.

  • No Ace Combat game can truly be considered one without a tunnel flight: Unsung War had players fly through a tunnel to destroy a computer core for SOLG, and the final mission then involved destroying the SOLG itself on New Year’s Eve. Unsung War was filled with symbolism, and a final mission on December 31 was meant to symbolise the wrapping up of loose ends, and preparing for the future. Dates don’t seem to figure quite so heavily in Ace Combat 7: the final mission is set on November 1, 2019.

  • The first part of the tunnel flight isn’t actually too demanding, and using yaw alone, with some pitch, is enough to safely navigate the tunnel leading into the space elevator’s core. The UAV will use its electronics to close the gates leading into the core, and players must quickly decide on which gate is the right one to fly through. Count will follow Trigger into the tunnel, and appears to sustain damage from the UAV despite Trigger being in pursuit of the UAV.

  • With the QAAMs, destroying the ADF-11 becomes too easy: I simply waited for it to fly to just left of the central column here and then wasted it in under five seconds, then blasted the terminals lining the core. The tight confines is supposed to make for a thrilling battle, but the QAAMs are a little too effective and ended what would’ve been an otherwise harrowing dogfight. Destroying the wall-mounted targets brought to mind how Poe Dameron’s flying inside Starkiller Base’s Thermal Oscillator.

  • I don’t mind admitting that it took me a few tries to fly into the space elevator’s windbreak – even with an aircraft as capable as the F-22A, I crashed more than a few times trying to break out of the circling pattern in an attempt to get into the windbreak. However, I managed it in the end, and dodging a few elevator pods, I flew to the top of the tunnel, bringing the mission and game to an end.

  • I am so thoroughly impressed with Ace Combat 7 that I have absolutely no regrets about buying the game at full price: while games will hold their value if I can get a dollar CAD per hour, Ace Combat 7 was so well done that I feel I got more than my money’s worth even at full price. I deeply enjoyed the game – like DOOM and what the Halo: Master Chief Collection will be, classic gameplay with a fresh coat of paint is exactly what is welcomed in gaming of this day and age. While new titles have a great deal of features, sometimes, returning to the roots and freshening everything up can produce unparalleled experiences. With Ace Combat 7‘s campaign in the books, I am turning my attention to Valkyria Chronicles 4 next, and once I have more information on The Master Chief Collection, I can make a decision on whether or not I’ll be buying anything else for the next little while.

Representing a triumphant return of Ace Combat to consoles, and the first time a true Ace Combat title has been available for PC, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is a solid title that brings back the gameplay that made the original titles so captivating, while at once, modernising the game with current-generation visuals and sound. Ace Combat 7 looks and feels great, capitalising on modern game engines to add additional depth to the flight system. The use of clouds and icing as cover, that doubles as an obstruction, is innovative and clever, adding new ways to approach missions. Flying itself is very smooth and precise: even though I was running with a keyboard-only setup, I had no trouble completing even the trickiest of manoeuvres. Enemies were well-designed, requiring skill rather than uncommon patience, to best. A solid upgrade system pushes players to consider their upgrades and purchases, while simultaneously encouraging replay for folks who wish to unlock everything. The soundtrack, while perhaps not as inspired as Ace Combat 5‘s, is nonetheless an experience that captures the different moods of the missions, and the sound engineering is solid; aircraft feel powerful to fly. The English voice acting is also on-point: earlier titles had corny-sounding dialogue throughout, but in Ace Combat 7, the dialogue feels much more natural (even if it does sound somewhat cheesy in a few spots). Overall, Ace Combat 7 is a proper instalment in the Ace Combat series – it was worth the four year wait since the game’s announcement in 2015 to finally be able to fly the skies of Strangereal, and looking ahead, the additional content for Ace Combat 7 is looking quite tempting. I anticipate that I will be picking up the DLCs once they release and I have a concrete idea of what they will encompass, but for the time being, I will be going through the campaign again to earn enough currency to unlock the Strike Wyvern.