Nov 06 2008

Preliminary Review: Valkyria Chronicles

Take incredible cell shading, a cool alternative history World War 2 universe, challenging turn-based strategy, tech trees, a giant cast of characters and a really cute girl holding a rather dangerous cross between a mauser and a mosin-nagant and you have the basic ingredients for a fantastic game.  The game shipped to stores yesterday, so I was only able to get in a few hours of gameplay.  Still, it was exceptional, so I thought I would review the first few chapters of the game, with a complete review later.

Before I go any further, GO AND BUY THIS GAME.  Ok, now on to the review.

1930’s Europe is divided by the Altantic Federation in the West and the Imperial Alliance to the East.  Between the two massive superpowers is the small neutral Principality of Gallia.  Gallia, rich in the important mineral ragnarite, has managed to maintain its neutrality through a vigorous conscription system.  These ragnarite deposits prove a tempting target in the brewing global conflict, and soon the Imperial Army crosses the borders of Gallia.

In this epic military struggle we come across Welkin Gunther, who is a naturalist, and Alicia Melchiott, a baker turned local militia commander.  As we experience the early confusing days of the struggle through their eyes, we are introduced to the BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones) system, as they are swept up into the epic conflict around them.  Oh yeah, Alicia is played by Inoue Marina, so you Kanna and Iku fans make sure to turn on the Japanese.

The system is clean and neat for a turn-based system.  Players use a tactical map to spend command points.  Each command point allows the unit selected to perform a variety of tasks, including moving and shooting.  The neat little spin they added to this game is instead of a map divided into a grid or hexes, you move around like an FPS.  This certainly reminds me of Fallout 3, and in a strange way these two games share a lot in common.  You actively move to cover, crouch, use emplacements, etc.

Now…how does it look?  I am AMAZED at how good this game looks.  Using cell shading and realtime pencil line shading as well, the game looks gorgeous when moving.  The artists picked a very nice color pallette with subdued colors (like a watercolor wash), and they often make fades to sepia, which works very very well.  The story itself unfolds as paragraphs in a history book, and the page then comes alive every scene.  The overall effect is visually, quite frankly, the best merging of 2D and 3D I have ever seen.  Period.  Now with that imagine their ability to use edge extraction to create a pencil effect.  Images can start as a color photo then dematerialize into pencils then fade away, or begin as pencils then add elements, colors then come to life in 3D.  The overall effect is absolutely amazing, I cannot stop raving about the look.

Now, adding to all of this, you are put in command of a squad of 20 troops, selected from an even larger roster of available soldiers.  Each soldier has a personality, voice(!), and attributes.  The game even tracks friends and enemies.

Ok, add to that the ability to buy and upgrade weapons for your troops, upgrade their uniforms, buy customizations for your tank, and even has a slot based system to add accessories to the tank along with what looks to be a rather extensive tech-tree and you have the makings of what looks to be a FANTASTIC game.

<koff><koff> Uh, I think I feel a cold coming on.  I think I have to call in sick at work.

THAT’S HOW GOOD IT IS.

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