Valhalla Knights 3 takes the series onto the Vita, and with this transition comes a major change in tone: it’s much darker and grittier than the previous games. The big difference is the setting, taking place inside of a prison complex and the surrounding area, as opposed to the usual fantasy locales. The result is a collection of decidedly-seedy characters and stories.
While the idea behind the setting is novel, it wasn’t realized as well as it could’ve been, and ends up feeling like any other dungeon crawler after a while. The cutscenes set up the feeling of a lawless domain where you need to fight to survive, but the it isn’t that believable when you’ve got the same mountain of loot and assortment of NPC vendors available to you as in other action-RPGs.
The game’s pacing feels very grind-heavy. It’s like an MMO without the multiplayer component. There’s a wide array of side missions to undertake for loot and profit, though they simply try to hide the fact that you’re just wandering around with no real purpose. In the early game, death has a fairly hefty financial cost; paying the fees to resurrect party members often means repeating side missions to earn money, so it’s more efficient to save often and reload instead.
Having a lot of party members adds a lot of options, and keeps combat challenging and fun. Most of your attacks are done through timed button presses, forming combos to make the most of the boost function during long battles. It’s important to maintain a good balance of healing, defense and damage throughout your party. You direct the progression of each character and can take full control in battle, so your main character’s class becomes less important as you aren’t stuck playing it for the whole game. One surprise? A complete lack of touch controls. While buttons and analog sticks are usually preferable, a game like this could have made use of the extra input options.
We can’t talk about Valhalla Knights 3 without addressing the inevitable fanservice. Theres a dating sim based around what amounts to a hostess club, with girls acting as vendors. You hire them and they will operate shops in the area, selling better items than the regular NPC shopkeepers. Buying from them and giving them gifts builds your relationship, leading to a touch-based minigame called “sexy time” and an implied off-screen night in a private room. This whole mechanic is thankfully not required, as you can shop elsewhere, but the entire process felt completely detached from the rest of the game. It was clear that this was tacked on to appeal to a certain audience, for better or worse.
Valhalla Knights 3 may not do much to entice new fans to the series, but for dungeon crawling fans, it has the solid combat mechanics loot-driven gameplay they’ve come to expect.
Pros: Compelling combat system
Cons: Lack of polish, mechanics that don’t fit