Before Final Fantasy haters (yes, they do exist) are turned off by yet another melodramatic Japanese RPG with a gutwrenchingly nauseating romantic sub-plot, Valkyria Chronicles is one too. But skip past the trite storyline and you’ll find a very pretty and compelling strategy game.
We won’t bombard you with too many details of the plot; suffice to say it’s set in a Final Fantasy V steampunk era similar to pre-WWII Europe. The date is 1935 and a great and oppressive power is rising in the East. You take control of a small group of resistance fighters in the West, dealing with the front line of this Empire that is advancing upon their town and country.
With each battle you’re given a pool of command points, usually one per unit, which give any unit under your control one move. Selecting them from an aerial map overview, the game swoops into a thirdperson perspective and endows your unit with a basic HUD and a bar for their action points. You only have one attack per move and any movement will deplete your action points, so it’s important that vulnerable units finish behind cover of some sort, especially as once you’ve used all your command points up, it’s the enemy’s turn to move and fire upon you.
The enemy will fire upon you while you’re moving, but you do get some respite while taking aim. Depending on the unit type, you might have just one or several weapons. Alicia, for example, is equipped with grenades as well as her rifle and ragnaid (first aid kit). Taking aim with a gun will bring up a target reticule and several stats, including the number of shots you’ll get per attack and the number of shots it takes to kill your target should each one hit the bull’s-eye of the reticule. You must take into account that any enemy within range will retaliate to your attack if they can. So unless you’re absolutely sure you can kill a foe before they have the chance to retaliate, it’s not always a wise move to send a unit low on hit points into the front line.
It’s a very accessible and simple concept, yet it lends itself to a deep strategy game once you have multiple units in play on both sides. We’ve seen this turn-based strategy formula used in numerous titles before, but with its watercolour visuals and third-person zoom, Wow Entertainment has made this one its own. So if you can manage to hold back the vom through the somewhat mushy cutscenes, you’ll find it pretty difficult to put Valkyria Chronicles down.