War doesn’t always have to be presented in the style of Call of Duty. It doesn’t have to be about first person shooting. Or summer-blockbuster action. Or earning perks by playing endless amounts of team death match. It’s easy to hate on the military theme in video games because of ‘Call of Duty syndrome’, but there’s still room for military games to innovate. Valkyria Chronicles, released early in the PlayStation 3’s life-cycle, is easily the most unique military game of this generation.
Set in an alternate version of 1930s Europe, you assume the role of Welkin Gunther; the son of a Gallian general. Though he has no interest in following his father’s footsteps, he must answer the call of duty (sorry) in order to save his country from an Alliance invasion. Though the art style is a mash-up between, anime and European water painting, its storytelling is unmistakably Japanese. From what I have played of it so far, it’s done a great job of making me invest in these characters.
While its visually striking, what’s really unique about the title is its approach to military strategy. Without going deep into its minutia, Valkyria Chronicles plays like a cool mix of Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, a Japanese RPG, and a third person shooter. At its core, it’s a turn-based strategy game where you maneuver your troops around a map. However, when its time to move a unit, you assume full control of that unit, and it sort of plays like a third person shooter. It borrows a number of different elements from other games, but feels wholly original when pieced together in this manner. For a turn-based strategy nerd like me, this game is extremely enjoyable.
The only bummer about it so far is the save system. Granted, you have the freedom to save any time you want, but if you forget for a few turns and screw up, you may end up all the way back at the beginning with nothing to show for it. Any sort of auto-save functionality would have helped greatly.
I was really hoping to write a full review for this game, though it is really long, and has fallen out of my rotation. If I ever get around to beating it, I will definitely write a detailed review breaking down everything to help champion this game further. I’m about 10 missions in, and it’s fantastic, even if this game is years old at this point. Till then, back to the shelf it goes.