Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Role-Playing & Strategy
Release Date: September 25, 2018 (EU & NA) / September 27, 2018 (JP)
Turn-based war is here and it is glorious.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 centres around a bloody war between the Federation and the Imperials. The Imperial army is deep into Federation territory, and the Federation are making a desperate push to take the Imperial capital deep behind enemy lines. If the Federation succeed, they may turn the tide of the entire war.
The story focuses on Squad E, led by Claude Wallace, and follows their journey through this lengthy campaign. Each of the characters in Squad E are brilliantly written, full of heart and personality. Even the generic soldiers under your command get some characterisation and backstory, and each form his or her own bonds with their squad-mates. That said, the main focus is on those close to Claude, namely Raz, Kai and Riley.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a strategy game with some role-playing elements, similar to XCOM or Fire Emblem. You choose what soldiers deploy on the battlefield, choose actions to take on an overhead map, and once your turn is over your enemy then gets to make their moves. This goes back and forth until you either succeed or fail in your mission.
Where Valkyria Chronicles 4 differs from an XCOM or Fire Emblem game however, is that when you move your troops, you take control of the actual unit, moving across the battlefield in a third person perspective.
This gives you a much more urgent feeling to how you move your troops and gives you much more control than most other SRPG’s out there. If you round a corner and start getting blasted by machine gun fire from a unit you didn’t know was there, you can duck back around the corner instead of resigning to your fate.
You cannot move around the battlefield in this way indefinitely. Each turn grants you an AP bar, which empties as you move your unit. After selecting a unit to move, you can choose to move anywhere you would like to go, provided your AP bar doesn’t run out.
You also get to take one major action, be it firing your weapon, throwing a grenade, or healing yourself or others. You can choose to move the same unit again, but you will have less AP than the first time, and you have limited ammunition each turn.
There are many different units available to you, each with widely different utility on the battlefield. Scouts can move the furthest out of any unit and can spot hidden enemies more easily. This makes them effective at allowing you to gather the whole picture of the battle at hand, and pick the best way to attack each situation.
Snipers are your long-range infantry killers. Set them up on a hill and one-hit the enemy’s troops as they move out of position. Shocktroopers are your main infantry attackers, with sub-machine guns that will tear through troops. They also make for great defensive units, killing any enemy troop that tries to storm your position.
Engineers are your best support unit, allowing you to repair tanks and barriers, resupply ammunition, disable landmines, among a slew of other useful tasks. Lancers are your anti-tank units, able to pierce the armour of heavy vehicles and fortifications with ease. Their biggest downside is that they have a rather limited range and poor accuracy.
Grenadiers are essentially mobile mortars, able to pack up their gear and move around the battlefield as you see fit. The range on their weapon is massive, and their mortar shells destructive. Finally, you have your vehicles, such as tanks and APC’s.
Tanks are an all-purpose destructive force, able to take on tanks, fortifications, troops, you name it. APC’s are your armoured troop transports that allow you to relocate your troops across the battlefield without being harmed.
With so many different troop types to choose from, your strategies for taking on missions is seemingly endless. The way that battles unfold as well may require you to abandon your original plan, forcing you to think on the fly to turn the tides of battle in your favour.
There are countless times where I’ve gone into a situation too sure of myself, only to be put on the back foot instantly, having to call for reinforcements and completely rethink my strategy. The later battles will really test the limits of your strategic thinking, which I loved about this game.
Beyond the battles, the story is told through visual novel style storytelling, which works to great effect here. Characters will pop up in comic book type strips as they speak, showing you a close up of their expressions. There are also some cut-scenes here and there that are beautifully choreographed.
Then there are the RPG mechanics. You gain experience after every battle, which you can spend to upgrade each unit type. Thankfully you don’t have to upgrade each individual unit, just the class of unit. For example, if you upgrade the Snipers level, every sniper will be at the new level. You can also upgrade equipment with money through R&D, as well as gain new weapons as rewards from missions which you can equip to each individual unit.
The visual style is absolutely stunning, resembling an art book with beautiful pastel colours. Characters have an anime look to them, and the whole package meshes perfectly to create a very cohesive visual design. Every aspect of the visuals look like they belong, from the environments in the world, to the characters who inhabit it.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 even excels with its audio. From the crack of weapons fire, to the explosive blasts of a grenade, every weapons impact can be felt through its sound. Each weapon comes across as dangerous, and something to be feared. Mix in some excellent voice acting, and you have a recipe for some brilliant audio design.
The SRPG genre is a competitive landscape, with so many great games in the genre. From Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, to XCOM and Mario + Rabbids, it would make it hard for any game to stand out. Valkyria Chronicles 4 manages to do just that. With its excellent battle system, well-implemented RPG mechanics, intriguing story, beautiful visual and audio design, along with its interesting cast of characters, this latest entry in the Valkyria Chronicles series stands as one of the best in its genre, becoming a must-own title in the Switch’s ever-growing library.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
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This post was written by Lachlan Bruce