Clas­sic part

‘Valkyria Chron­i­cles 4,’ is a true se­quel worth the 10-year wait

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - YOUNG WORLD - Gieson Cacho/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Af­ter a decade of dis­ap­point­ing se­quels and a medi­ocre spinoff, Sega is in­ally giv­ing “Valkyria Chron­i­cles” fans what they want: a true se­quel. Fans have wanted a proper fol­low-up since the cult clas­sic was re­leased on the PlayS­ta­tion 3.

The orig­i­nal was a mag­i­cal blend of turn-based com­bat, table­top strat­egy and en­gag­ing nar­ra­tive. The cam­paign fol­lowed a rag­tag group of sol­diers from Squad 7 as they bat­tled the Em­pire for their home­land of Gal­lia. For its time, the game was a rev­e­la­tion, show­ing the po­ten­tial of the genre be­fore Fi­raxis’ “XCOM” re­boot.

With “Valkyria Chron­i­cles 4,” Sega keeps the core game­play in­tact but tweaks it with a new class called the gre­nadier, along with weather el­e­ments, ship or­ders and last stands. It also takes place in the same time pe­riod as the irst game, but the nar­ra­tive fol­lows a dif­fer­ent crew — Squad E of the Edinburgh Army.

Led by Lt. Claude Wal­lace, the pla­toon ights on the East­ern front of the Sec­ond Europan War. It’s a con­flict that echoes World War II, but “Valkyria Chron­i­cles” fea­tures fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments in the form of Valkyria. Th­ese are liv­ing weapons who have su­per­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties and can sin­gle-hand­edly take out bat­tal­ions.

As part of the army de­fend­ing the At­lantic Fed­er­a­tion, Claude takes part in Op­er­a­tion North­ern Cross and later Op­er­a­tion Cygnus. Th­ese two ef­forts are meant to short cir­cuit the Em­pire by cap­tur­ing the cap­i­tal, but an early win­ter and an un­ex­pected ad­ver­sary get in the way.

“Valkyria Chron­i­cles 4” does a great job of forg­ing a nar­ra­tive that leshes out the con­cepts of the orig­i­nal. The team cre­ates a nar­ra­tive that’s more nu­anced with sur­pris­ingly com­plex vil­lains and lov­able side char­ac­ters. The Valkyria are still the cen­ter of the story, but in this it­er­a­tion, they’re more like weapons of mass de­struc­tion rather than su­per-sol­diers, and their treat­ment raises in­ner con­flict on both sides.

All of this sets up a sto­ry­line that over­comes its pre­dictabil­ity. De­spite the trans­par­ent twists, the nar­ra­tive man­ages to keep play­ers en­thralled. Much of that has to do with the game­play.

On each turn, the two sides are given com­mand points, which they use to take con­trol of squad mem­bers. When picked, play­ers have full con­trol and they can make troops climb lad­ders or ma­neu­ver a tank be­tween nar­row spa­ces. They usu­ally per­form one ac­tion such as ir­ing a gun, and de­pend­ing on a char­ac­ter ’s class, range and weapon, they hit or miss the en­emy.

What’s in­ter­est­ing is that sight lines play a cru­cial role in com­bat. Char­ac­ters must be able to see an en­emy be­fore fir­ing. Be­cause of this, cover and other en­vi­ron­men­tal el­e­ments be­come vi­tal for sur­vival. The way play­ers move the squad is rem­i­nis­cent of table­top games such as “Warham­mer 40,000.”

With classes spe­cial­iz­ing in dif­fer­ent ranges and types of com­bat, it’s im­por­tant that play­ers pick the right mix of troops be­fore a bat­tle. If play­ers won’t face tanks, it’s bet­ter to ill a spot with an ex­tra scout or shock-trooper in­stead of a ar­morde­stroy­ing lancer.

The gre­nadier presents a new wrin­kle be­cause it’s a pow­er­ful unit that helps clear en­emy-dense ar­eas so that other troop­ers can cap­ture an ob­jec­tive. In some ways, it’s bet­ter than the sniper, but the way Sega de­signed the mis­sion, each class has a chance to shine and prove piv­otal in com­bat.

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