Pleasant surprise on this Wednesday 10th morning. Receiving a tip about PS4 Valkyria Chronicles themes, I peek on the Japanese PSN. There I do find the aforementioned themes… but also Valkyria Chronicles Remaster itself! That means the very anticipated Valkyria Azure Revolution demo is available too! Without any hesitation, I use the remaining credits of my digital wallet. The demo will download very fast, but I do need to work to throw all this money in the PSN. I’ll have to wait until the evening. Bad luck, Sega has locked the PS4share so I’ll mainly have to use official screenshots.
The demo starts by giving an insight of the story : during the 19th century, in a fictional Europe, the Ragnite ore lead to an unprecedented industrial revolution because of its magical properties. Mankind quickly learned to fuse it with technology and armies soon came to develop equipment with magical capabilities.
Like any coveted resource, Ragnite created conflicts. The Russian Federation (yep, it’s straight out spelled as Russia) progressively sought to blockade the Kindgom of Jutland. Cornered, the small state has no choice but to wage war and quickly sends its anti-Valkyria unit, Vanargand. Notice the wolf slaying the reaper on the emblem : in this new game, the Valkyria symbolizes death and not salvation anymore (although the Valkyria was already polysemous in the first trilogy).
And to the frontline we go with our team of three : Amleth, the dark hero who swore vengeance against the Empire, Ophilia, the princess of crimson eyes, and Brigitt, former teacher and trained sniper. The gameplay is quite unsettling because it mixes Strategy-RPG and Action-RPG. I already see lots of comparisons with Shining Resonance, but let’s be serious, Valkyria Aure Revolution is a lot more than that.
Your group will have to act so as to enter battle in the best possible conditions. It’s fairly important to be stealthy, use suppression fire, use cover to launch surprise attacks… because enemy soldiers aren’t dummies and can spot you from very far. Once you are in contact with an enemy unit, your characters will draw their blades and enter close quarters combat. Unlike Valkyria Chronicles, everything happens in real time.
This is where the comparison with the other RPG from Sega makes sense. For example, if find the skill sub-menu on L1, allowing you to cast physical or magical special skills, as well as heal yourself. Bear in mind that there’s a limited number of magical slots to be used, so you might want to save your skill for critical moments. Let’s also stress that you can still use a firearm in close quarters combat, in case you’d want to attack from mid-range and avoid taking too much damage. You can lock any enemy with R2 with ease and the controls in general felt quite precise after a few battles, despite the large number of buttons to consider. Although it’s an introduction to the game, the challenge is no joke and your characters can fall very fast if are are careless (but it’s also true that the allies’ AI is a bit questionable in this demo). In case of KO, like in Final Fantasy XV, a simple slap in the back and they will be back on their feet. This is seriously ridiculous and I do hope the medic will return in the final version. Finally, note that after a game over, the player can retry the mission while keeping the acquired experience.
Valkyria Azure Revolution introduces psychological warfare. Some of the action you take before going into close quarters combat can confuse, startle the opponents or make them angry. This way, they will be weaker, slower or less precise. For example, taking cover behind a wall and opening fire when a enemy group passes by causes panic to them for a while. There’s also a positive status called “bravery” in which the characters’ defense is raised for a short time, so that he or she can take more risks and sweep the enemy. Each party member has a secondary weapon (but with a limited number of uses) allowing him/her to get the upper hand. Ophilia possesses smoke grenades that can blind enemy soldiers, and Brigitt can take them out from afar thanks to her sniper rifle. I case she kills a sentry without being spotted, all the soldiers in the vicinity will be tense! Like in Samurai Warriors 4, the long bar on the top of the screen tells you on which side the morale is better.
Technically speaking, it’s a lot sharper and more detailed than Valkyria Chronicles as you could expect, the Gouache 3D engine being a worthy heir of the previous Canevas in its painting-like aspect. True, the village represented here wasn’t anything impressing and the frame-rate did suffer a couple of times, but it’s still a nice sight to behold for a first contact. Also, the more realistic design gives a fresh feel to the series and a deeper immersion, a bit like when you jump from Advance Wars Dual Strike to Dark Conflict.
There can be no greater delight than getting back in the Valkyria series with the power of the PS4 and the unscathed war atmosphere. The game system arouses interest, because it looks very complex and necessitates to master two types of games at the same time. Needless to say, I’m hungry for larger campaigns even though the strategic side seems to fade away a bit.