Monday, 6 October 2014

Valkyria Chronicles 3: Extra Edition

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 8.5

(+) Pros: - Incredibly in depth strategic/RPG turn based gameplay that's the best in the franchise thus far, - Story is the darkest among the 3 games, - Interesting squad mates, - Improved customization with new "Master Table" mechanic and giving all squad mates the ability to switch between all classes, - Great variety of maps, stages and mission types, - Split paths in the campaign leads to branching story routes and different levels, - Very, very lengthy game with a massive load of content.

(-) Cons: - 3 games in and the AI is still inefficient at times, - Main campaign is padded quite a fair bit with plenty of throwaway missions.

Gameplay time: 60 hours +

Alright, so this is probably one of my last PSP games (still waiting on that "Sol Trigger" and "Digimon Re:Digitize" translation, come on) before I move onto a VITA....and hell, its one of my most anticipated games on the PSP. Because SEGA wasn't ballsy enough to localize an English version of "Valkyria Chronicles 3", us fans had to painstakingly wait for a translation....and thank the stars, the folks over at the VC3 translation project wordpress  went over and did all the VC fans around the world a justice that should never be forgotten. They translated the entire game from scratch to English for the world, and damn did they do a fantastic job (its almost like a professional English release with its current version, though I'd say it still doesn't beat the "Danganronpa" english translation). So after that, I immediately dived into the game as a hardcore VC fan....and that was it. I never left my screen, and played on for hours. As a VC fan, I must say that this is THE most improved version of "Valkyria Chronicles" that we would ever get, and if there was an installment of the series that would have the most content and features, it would be "Valkyria Chronicles 3". Its a shame that most of the English speaking audience would miss this one out, because if you've enjoyed the first 2 VC games, you'll be sure to love the hell out of "Valkyria Chronicles 3".

Instead of playing a sequel with the story taking place after that of "Valkyria Chronicles 2", "Valkyria Chronicles 3" takes us back to the time of the great Gallian/Imperial war. It tells the story of a certain squad. While the Gallian militia went out and fought the imperials, gaining all the glory, not a word was spoken  about a certain squad that worked behind the scenes. This squad was always doing the undercover, dirty work. This squad would always take the one extra step to ensure victory to the Gallian military. Without this squad, Gallia would not have won the war...this squad is "Nameless", a squad filled with criminals and convicts. They are treated worst than even the lowest of ranks of soldiers, because of their mostly criminal personal. Kurt Irving was a model soldier, being a top graduate from Lanseal academy, his military life was already laid out for him. But one day for no reason, after winning a crucial battle for the military, he was branded a criminal for treason, and was sent to "Nameless". Wanting to uncover the truth, he fights as the captain of "Nameless", guiding the group of criminals and convicts to victory, and eventually trying to prove his innocence.

Storm the front!

If you haven't known by now, "Valkyria Chronicles 3", being the 3rd numbered sequel to the franchise, is a turn based/strategy/third person shooter/RPG hybrid. Its style of gameplay is one of the most unique ones out there at the moment (closest I can think of is "Xcom", but even that doesn't take as much skill as VC), and its very easy to get hooked to it as a first timer. If you want an in depth explanation, read my previous 2 reviews of the games before this one, because while improved, "Valkyria Chronicles 3"'s gameplay flow, mechanics and system remains mostly the same. You take control of units on a big scale map, move them to kill enemy units, take objective points, so on and so forth. "Valkyria Chronicles 3" follows the footsteps of "Valkyria Chronicles 2", where battles take place on multiple mini maps rather than a single, big one like in the very first "Valkyria Chronicles".

As for the changes from the previous game...the class system has been reworked. No more hunting for certs like madmen (thank GOD), instead, there's a hidden EXP meter for each character that fills up every time you use them on the field for something meaningful, like capturing a base, or killing an enemy unit. Plus, no more branching out to different classes like before, after advancing your first stage in a class, you'll be promoted to veteran, followed by elite. Because of this, some sub classes have been removed (like Mauler, Mortar, Commando etc), but most of these weapons that these old classes that use to have were streamlined so that the primary classes can still use them (Fencers can use hammers to kill tanks). The game also makes your main protagonists more powerful (thus giving you more reason to pick them), with all of them getting special commands that use SP, a new resource in the game. You can activate Riela's Valkyira powers, granting invincibility, have Imca shoot everything in the map at once, or have Kurt move multiple units with a single CP. All of these new, special abilities allow for more strategic breakthroughs....or in some cases, just letting you experience what its like to be a badass.

Riela...Riela all the way. You gotta feel for this girl!

Now let's talk story, which has always been one of the series' stronger points. While VC 2's story wasn't exactly the most inspired, it had its own share of good moments. In VC 3...the story here is the darkest of the 3 games, showing how the good guys aren't always...good. Even the Gallian government has a corrupt side, and it goes to show that you can't always trust the good guys. I'd put VC 3's story equivalent to that of the original VC's, but in a different way. Of course, for a good story, you'd need an interesting cast. Fortunately, like in VC 2, most of your "Nameless" squad mates in VC 3 are really well fleshed out, each with their own specific character missions so that you can find out more about them. Each with wildly varying personalities, the members of "Nameless" can be really entertaining, and they are arguably the "best" squad to be with out of ones in all 3 games in the series. Be it Felix's shonen hero tendencies, Gloria's constant bragging about her experience coming with age, or Carisa's narrow minded mindset where only money is involved...there's never a dull moment in "Nameless". Its too bad though that most of the newly unlocked squad mates that you get as the game progress do not have much say during the main story cutscenes.

If you've played the old VC games, you'll remember something unique to every single squad mate...potentials. Needless to say, potentials are back in VC 3, and they're more accessible than ever. While every character has their own set of character potentials (both good and bad), since every character can now switch to every class, and EVERY class has their own set of class based potentials...there's a lot to be had here. Plus, with the new master table system, the game allows you to unlock EVEN MORE potentials just by mastering multiple class potentials. Since your characters now have an extra potential slot to allow you to put in any potential you mastered previously from a class that you used, you can think of the best combinations that will let your character come out on top.

Enemy scouts again? *Sigh*

As with most VC games, VC 3 throws all sorts of missions at you as you progress through the strategic maps. Some missions require you to capture a certain amount of enemy bases, or just to capture the enemy's main base. Some require you to kill a certain boss unit, or kill off all enemy units in the map. Some just require you to defend your base camp for a certain amount of turns against a ridiculous amount of enemies, or you might be tasked to make sure not a single enemy walks past a certain imaginary line (I f**king hate those missions). There are special exceptions for some story related missions, like destroying generators for a boss tank or making a last stand to defend a gate against massive amounts of imperial troops (I loved that level).

Unlike in VC 2 where maps were HEAVILY reused in free missions and story missions alike, VC 3 has a great variety of maps, bringing over maps from VC 1, VC 2 and adding in some new maps of their own as well, giving the huge amount of missions some much needed variety (it really sucks to look at the same f**king valley/mountain level over and over), and strategy, since different maps have different terrain, weather, vision conditions that make tackling them somewhat strategic at times, you can't just rush everything head on.

Yo, get the f**k off my APC!

Another new present feature in VC 3 is the fact that there are branching mission paths in different chapters. Since missions are now selected in a war map format, you can go for different strategic locations on the map, and going by that one direction will mean disabling another different direction for your squad. Meaning if you play route A, you can't do route B, or vice versa. Its a good way to encourage replay value, since you can only play the missions that you didn't take after you cleared the game, and some of these missions will provide different story outcomes or different cutscenes, though honestly, most of them won't effect your game ending except for the final few decisions during your final chapter. 

That said, there is a massive amount of content in this game. The chapters are really long (albeit, padded quite a fair bit) if you decide to play EVERY mission in EVERY chapter. Then you've got the character side missions that unlock as you use said character enough times, then you've also got the DLC missions included in the game (this is the extra edition that comes with the DLC missions)....yeah, that's a lot to muscle through if you can stomach that many missions (I count at LEAST over 100 missions WITHOUT replaying any of them). 

Buzz off Carisa, you greedy girl.

What does VC 3 suck at? Well, typical VC stuff apparently, because even after 2 full blown games they didn't do much to improve the AI in VC 3. I hesitate to even say that it's improved at all, because honestly if the AI really stepped it up, many of my victories would have been losses. Soldiers spend multiple turns walking circles around the map, doing nothing. They stare at walls, some SHOOT at walls. Fencers walk up to you and DON'T attack at times. Tanks fire their machine gun turrets at your tank, instead of their cannon, and effectively do no damage at all. Many questionable decisions....but at least the bosses are (slightly) smarter and actually do some f**king damage. While the game is fairly varied in its missions and maps, the main campaign is padded quite a fair bit with throwaway missions which usually just lead to cutscenes and more throwaway missions. Its like the objective in a chapter can be solved in just 1-2 missions, but the game just throws you 2 more while they're add it to make the game longer (sound familiar?). Its lazy padding, since most of these missions are easy or have been seen before.

VC 3 is the "best" and most improved out of the 3 "Valkyria Chronicles" games. But is it the most enjoyable? Its debatable. While the system is tweaked to be improved and the game does churn out a few of its flaws from its predecessors (except for the AI, which still sucks), its ultimately more of the same, great game. It doesn't stray too far off from its roots, and Sega takes the safe thing of making it stay that way. If you loved previous games, you'll love VC 3, but just don't expect anything too ground massive overhauls here. It also means that if you never a fan of these types of games, VC 3 does nothing new that will suddenly convert you into a fan. As it stands though, its still a massively fun game that ate over 75 hours of my life.

Nameless Baby!

Happy gaming!