A spinoff of the turn-based Valkyria Chronicles series, Valkyria Revolution is yet another tactical roleplaying game about a downtrodden nation attempting to overthrow an evil empire. Although the story isn’t without instances of moral ambiguity, including comrades’ shock at the rage that leads protagonist Amleth to murder an adversary in cold blood, the game’s politics have negligible emotional impact due to irritating limitations such as contrived voice acting and obtrusive loading screens. Even worse, the real-time action, a departure from Valkyria Chronicles, fails to heighten the drama of the proceedings, constantly bringing to mind the superior combat system of 1990s RPGs Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore.
Valkyria Revolution’s plot involves a small country called Jutland taking on the Ruzhien Empire, which came to power by exploiting the benefits of ragnite, a magical mineral that allows the development of ultra-powerful machines. As sword-wielding Amleth, you lead a resistance team that includes Jutland princess Ophelia, who insists on not sitting on her hands as war breaks out. Just as Ophelia’s enthusiasm is tempered by the despair she feels after slaying her first foe, the revolution overall is far from a straight and narrow path, as supporters must carry on a public-relations campaign to convince citizens that the war isn’t only morally justified, but also good for business.
This premise is timely given its allusions to the military-industrial complex that dominates our globalized world, but developer Media.Vision fumbles on the execution of too many elements for the story to carry much weight. The dialogue often trivializes the gravity of war, with characters offering cartoonish observations like “The bigger they are, the harder they fall, right? Right?” After an elder warns that “violence begets violence,” one hero responds with the sexually suggestive “Don’t go limp on me now.” When the lines are more serious, the voice work is often a letdown; you can almost see the actors holding their scripts, taking clear turns as if the whole affair is a rehearsal.
The drama of the story is also choppily communicated because of ubiquitous loading times. This issue goes beyond a wait between major sequences, for example. The game’s announcements about loading actually interrupt pivotal scenes, such as when Amleth stands over an enemy he wishes to execute or when Ophelia sings to a citizenry in need of morale. The phrase “Now Loading” appears so much throughout Valkryia Revolution that the game could function as a satire on technical limitations. This unintentionally amusing quality comes through the strongest when a simple establishing shot, no longer than 15 to 20 seconds, is bookended by loading breaks.
As much as all of these flaws compromise the emotional potential of Valkyria Revolution, Media.Vision could have salvaged some of the experience with exhilarating and heady combat. Sadly, the game only musters a silly version of the system seen in Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore, wherein you fight with CPU-controlled allies in real time but must also wait for a bar to fill up before you can unleash an effective physical attack. Unlike the Secret of games, pressing the attack button once here initiates an automated multi-hit combo, which severs the connection you might feel with the avatar. And even though magic and guns can also be utilized from a menu screen, many of the threats can be dispatched by spamming the single-button-press melee techniques, making the game seem like a Dynasty Warriors on cruise control.