“All right, we’re set to begin. Good luck!” —Captain Varrot
The same evening the Calgary Flames fell to the Anaheim Ducks during the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, I found my previous strategies were inconsequential against the Batomys, a behemoth of a tank encountered during the seventh chapter. Subsequent attempts to best it also failed, and the timely release of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood resulted in my setting Valkyria Chronicles aside. I returned some nine months later, armed with a renewed resolve to burn the Batomys and continue on in the game. However, before we get to that point, the last post I did on Valkyria Chronicles was back in late April (and the screenshots are dated in March); since then, I’d recaptured the Great Vasel Bridge in Operation Cloudburst, captured the Imperial Base at the Battle of Kloden Forest and finished the first mission in the Barious Desert. Up until this point, Valkyria Chronicles is reasonably straightforwards, but once Maxmillian rolls the Batomys into the seventh chapter, things suddenly take a turn for the challenging. My early strategy of wiping the guns out failed, and so, on my second attempt, I used the snipers and scouts to quickly dispatch enemy infantry in the north-east edge. Subsequently, I spent all my command points to blow away the Batomys’ secondary guns and managed to knock out two of its radiators. By this point, Selveria made her first appearance and promptly massacred any of my units out in the open, forcing me to use the Edelweiss as mobile cover. I eventually boxed Selveria into a corner (the Edelweiss is invulnerable to her attacks, unlike the anime), and a concerted bombardment soon took out the Batomys to end this mission.
Subsequent missions follow Alicia and Welken after they get separated from Squad 7, and after they reunite, Welkin is sent off to a banquet at Randgriz to meet the Princess. She’s kidnapped by government agents, but Squad 7 rescues her. Compared to the average shooter, Valkyria Chronicles has been a most cathartic game so far (even with the intense battle in Barious): while most of the game is centered around each chapter’s battles, the cinematics add substantially towards the world building, and bit by bit, the nature of Gallia’s war with the Imperials is revealed. In contrast to the anime, the members of Squad 7 feel much friendlier and less skeptical of Welkin’s abilities as a commander. Similarly, Rosie’s dislike of Darcsens, though present, is less pronounced. On the Imperial side, while Maximillian’s anime counterpart seems as haughty as his game personality, his generals do not have as menacing a feel to them: I was particularly pleased with the moments that Welkin and Alicia share during their return to the Kloden Wildwoods. Here, they give an Imperial soldier a proper burial after attempting to save him, and later, General Gregor thanks Welkin and Alicia. It stands in stark contrast to what I’d expected from him given his dossier, adding more depth to the game.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I still remember the day I played this mission for the first time in the campaign: it was a Thursday, and during that term, I had classes and a tutorial section to teach in the afternoon. Because progress was moving along reasonably well, I could afford a morning off. About halfway into the morning, I got a phone call asking about the Giant Walkthrough Brain, so I finished the mission and set about making updates to the UI so it’d work with a different screen setup.
- The Imperial forces in Valkyria Chronicles might be thought of as “agents” in a sense, since they have a set of situations they can exist in (proximity to my forces and their allied forces), a set of values for their internal data (health, inventory, coordinates), a set of actions (move, shoot, switch weapons, retreat) and some sort of decision function mapping their internal data and situation to a particular action.
- Tanks have a
thermal exhaust port radiator that is vulnerable to anti-armour munitions: hitting a tank here will mission-kill it in a single shot, and while initially, lancers are needed to deal this level of damage, with the appropriate orders and equipment later on, other classes can do serious damage to armour provided they hit the radiator.
- The classes in Valkyria Chronicles start out as being well-balanced for the most part; scouts have a massive range of movement but carry weak weapons, while shocktroopers have limited movement but utilise automatic weapons that can counter other shocktroopers. Lancers, engineers and snipers have more dedicated roles and are useful in fewer situations, while the Edelweiss costs two command points per turn and is not an overwhelming asset.
- Conversely, once the classes begin leveling up, the scouts become the superior choice for most operations: their underbarrel grenade launchers confer exceptional firepower, and orders can confer status boosts that further increase their effectiveness. Consider that I’m able to now beat this mission in skirmish mode using only one scout and one lancer on a single turn, using the characters reasonably expected of someone whose reached the game’s halfway point.
- While the Imperial forces satisfy the general definition for an agent, they do not appear to exhibit any complex cooperative behaviour and instead, appear to converge on a local optimum as far as countering the player goes. Knowing these limitations does make some missions easier, and there are cases where the enemy forces will be unable to make an effective move, ending their turn quite quickly.
- The Edelweiss is actually not particularly useful as an antipersonnel asset, and instead, I’ve found that its greatest utility is to act as a mobile shield: it is capable of repelling most small arms fire and even Selveria’s Valkyrur lance cannot do too much against it. This came as somewhat of a surprise to me, given that her power in cutscenes and the anime appear several orders of magnitude greater, but for this, I am grateful.
- The snipers are a curious class: unlike the snipers of a traditional FPS, whether or not the sniper’s shots hit in Valkyria Chronicles is determined by probability based on level and weapon attributes. They’re a tricky class to utilise but for the most part, snipers excel at long range engagements; I typically field them to pick off enemy lancers or place them in a counter-sniping role.
- The artwork in Valkyria Chronicles is charming and well-suited for the game’s atmospherics, making use of gentle watercolours in conjunction with simple but clean 3D graphical assets to create the game world. While it would have been nice if some high-resolution textures were available, news has reached my ears that a remastered version will be released at some point in the future, so that could be quite interesting to check out.
- During the missions, enemy aces may be found, and dispatching them will unlock Imperial weapons for the player to use. These weapons are generally inferior to the Gallian weapons on the virtue of having inferior accuracy; even though they hit harder, I prefer weapons with more precision, and so far, have spent most of my research points on increasing weapon accuracy.
- From what the documentation reads, ranks (correspondingly, experience points) are conferred on the sole basis of number of turns taken, so hypothetically, one could adopt an extreme strategy that allows them to complete a level with the minimal number of turns at the expense of their forces. This brings to mind the application of a learning multi-agent system that was once entered in a contest to design an optimal naval fleet, and the algorithm’s result (a group of kamikazi boats) managed to defeat every other entry.
- Thus, while Valkyria Chronicles rewards expedience over everything else, there is a bit of fun in figuring out how to effectively use one’s assets to eliminate all of the enemy elements on the map. During the first of the desert missions, I capitalised on shocktroopers to keep my tank safe, and utilised the scouts to quickly capture the enemy base.
- Each of the turrets on the Batomys requires three rounds to take out from an non-augmented lancer or the Edelweiss. I found the best trick in this mission was to eliminate all the foot-mobiles first, and subsequently pound each of the guns to oblivion. Shooting at the debris on the map is said to help slow the Batomys down, but the main reason one should do so is because the Batomys will fire its main cannon, exposing three radiator openings.
- Dumping a
proton torpedo down the thermal exhaust shaft hand grenade down the exposed radiator plate will cripple the Batomys, and after all three radiators are destroyed, the tank becomes vulnerable to anti-armour munitions at last. However, things become more complicated after Selveria and some Imperial reinforcements arrive.
- Selveria can be seen in this image’s right-hand side: if I were to move any closer, my characters would be eliminated in a matter of seconds. I lost half my units in this manner, and while I was able to extract them from combat, it cost me several turns to do so. Eventually, I boxed Selveria in between the cliff wall and ruins using the Edelwiess, which answered her threat and allowed me to finish the mission.
- I made use of Largo to fire the killing blow that would finally end what was the toughest mission in Valkyria Chronicles up until this point. Fortunately, once the Batomys is immobilised and Selveria is blocked from moving (she’s invulnerable to any craft the player possesses), making use of the remaining command points and a full squad of lancers will finally stop this behemoth, and for me, lead to the completion of a mission I had slept on for eight months.
- The eighth chapter’s first mission is a relatively simple one: the goal is to get Alicia and Welken away from the mortars to a safe zone. Although Alicia starts out with an ankle injury, plants along their path will help Alicia regain her endurance. Although Alicia might be injured, her aim is still true: in conjunction with Welkin taking point, the pair will make it to the level’s end without too much difficulty.
- The trickiest part of the mission is on the third turn: a shocktrooper and scout will be present just around the corner, and their weapons will tear Welkin or Alicia apart. Instead, both should be positioned strategically so that the shocktrooper’s shots wind up hitting nearby trees, and a few carefully aimed rifle rounds will put both the shocktrooper and scout away. The remainder of the mission thus becomes relatively straightforwards.
- During the second mission of the eighth chapter, the first priority will be to get Alicia and Welkin back to the Edelweiss. Once this is done, the mission becomes trivially easy: the lancers can be picked off, and the Edelwiess must then be moved forwards after one uses their own lancers to destroy enemy armour. I lost of my units and had one scout left, but a bit of persistence allowed me to bring the scout up to the base after it had been broken down using the Edelweiss.
- Lacking the “Damage boost” and “Demolitions” boost orders, I was unable to complete the ninth mission in one go, but still managed to beat it in four turns to earn an A-rank. Reading Week affords me some breathing room, and given that today was quite productive, there might be a few openings here and there to finish the upcoming posts. Looking ahead, I’ve heard that Anthem of the Heart (Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda) will be releasing on BD/DVD on March 30, so a review will probably be written shortly after I check that out.
Looking forwards, I’ve now the remaining half to complete. After reaching the tenth chapter, my scouts are elite status now, and my shocktroopers are approaching level eleven, as well. I imagine that the game will only get tougher from here on out, but faced with the prospect of wielding Alicia as a Valkyrur and unlocking the order that activates potentials, things do look to be quite exciting. Given that the missions are the sort of thing that will necessitate sitting down with a fair bit of time, I’ll progress through Valkyria Chronicles at my own pace. With that being said, while I probably won’t finish this game in the next half-year, I do promise to finish before, say, when Half-Life 3 or Girls und Panzer Der Film is released (in fact, I wager that the former will come out before the latter, given the latter’s secrecy on the matter). On an unrelated remark, there was another post at this blog titled “Valkyria Chronicles: At the halfway point“, and it even had the same slug. I only just realised that and have since modified the title so it reads slightly differently. Looking back, I never really expected to have the opportunity to play Valkyria Chronicles for myself, but here we are at present.