Valkyria Chronicles (PC): First-class game’s second shot

November 20, 2014


2008 PS3 title Valkyria Chronicles has become known and revered in the years since its release for its poignant story, innovative mechanics and challenging-but-fair approach to difficulty. While its reputation precedes it for many, fewer have managed to actually play it, with low initial success in the West limiting its print run and its PS3 exclusivity limiting access to those with the platform.

Until now, anyway. Now it’s on Steam at an affordable price, and the enhancements it sports may make it the definitive way to play.

For the uninitiated (and, like I said, there’s a lot of you), Valkyria Chronicles follows the story of an alternate World War II, with the small nation of Gallia invaded by the Imperial Alliance and trying to live under the influence of the rival Atlantic Federation. You control a small band of militia, tasked with missions for which you are vastly outnumbered and wildly unprepared. But hey, who knows: maybe you can pull this thing off!


A mix with meaning

It’s puzzling why we didn’t see a great hybrid of far-off and in-the-trenches strategy before, but Valkyria Chronicles nails it. The maps look good from above, the cel-shaded characters look great on the ground and it establishes a much stronger connection to your characters. It’s much more difficult to force a unit to sacrifice themselves when you are controlling them, and you know you’ll hear their expert voice actor tell you (unconvincingly) that they’ll be okay (with a dying breath). – Henry Skey

Combat was, at the time, quite difficult to describe, but we’ve seen titles like XCOM: Enemy Unknown (and, soon, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.) take inspiration from its scheme and presentation. Battles are turn-based, but the troop movement itself is done in a pseudo-real-time way. You can move a unit multiple times a turn, but to diminishing returns and at the expense of valuable Command Points each time, so much of the struggle is deciding just who to move and when.

The series continued with two PSP releases (one that never saw Western shores), but part of what made the first so great was its scale. Battlefields were large and complex, with varying environments and tactics to match. Even just looking out over the area while moving had its appeal, especially with the textured aesthetic the game implements. This translates very well to the PC, as increased resolutions just make this stand out more.


The soundtrack

Each track is crafted for a very specific reason, and it never feels out of place. The relatively-easy battles will have a triumphant, encouraging song full of trumpets and uplifting melodies. “Recollection of That Day” sounds like traditional JRPG fare, but it punctuates the themes of war perfectly: despair, grief, yet also love and an unwavering spirit. “Decisive Battle” blares tubas and other horns in your face, and you know you’re not facing any normal enemy. – Henry Skey

About those resolutions: Valkyria Chronicles supports them natively. Console ports have had a rough go on PC, often needing rescuing by talented fans capable of modding in more functionality, but this one doesn’t belong in that group. It’s certainly done in a cheaper sort of way; there’s a separate configuration tool to launch, and in-game code is touched so minimally that the save screen still looks like the PS3’s XMB interface. But that’s all fine, because it works as well as you’d need it to.

Not everything’s been updated here; the movies are all still 720p, likely due to many of them being more than simple in-engine renders, but they still hold up well in motion. The button prompts for 360 pads (there are keyboard-and-mouse controls, but we’d recommend a controller) seem brighter and not well-integrated into the game’s look, but that’s only the sort of thing you notice when everything else is clicking as it should.


Full of emotion

Like all good games, it has heart. The story incorporates prejudice, redemption, loyalty, love and betrayal all against a wonderfully unique alternate history of World War II. One relationship that stands out is that of Isara and Rosie. I won’t spoil it, but when Rosie sings for the first time, it will melt your heart and gives the game an emotional punch, not that it lacks it in other areas. – Henry Skey

The game’s $20 Steam release contains all of the downloadable content of the PS3 version, a nice bonus for those who didn’t pick it up the first time. It doesn’t add much in the way of story, but it does help to extend the offering of combat challenges, which is what this first game needed anyway.

What’s important, though, is that the gameplay itself holds up just as well in 2014 as it did in 2008, and we suspect that won’t change in the coming years. If you haven’t played Valkyria Chronicles, pick this version up. If you have and loved it, pick it up too; you’ll experience that great game again, and with a few upgrades to boot.

Pros: Full suite of options for PC compatibility, DLC included at a bargain price
Cons: Movies are still 720p, occasional technical hiccups

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.