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Preview: The Valkyrie Elysium Demo Places the Valkyrie at Center Stage

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Valkyrie Elysium Demo

For some fans of Valkyrie Profile, the most exciting thing about Valkyrie Elysium is the fact that the Digital Deluxe editions of the game on PS4 and PS5 come with a copy of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, a port of the 1999 original game. It’s kind of like when people were excited for Zone of the Enders because the game came with a demo disc for Metal Gear Solid 2.

I get where they’re coming from: This pack-in is tied to something older and beloved, and naturally inspires more positive feelings than something new and unproven. That being said, Zone of the Enders turned out to be quite alright on its own merits, with or without that MGS2 incentive. And after a couple of hours with the Valkyrie Elysium demo on PS5, I’m pleased to say that it might just be a similar scenario here.

Square Enix gave me access to the same demo that the public will be able to download on September 15, 2022. Barring a last-minute patch, that means this demo build is identical to what you’ll see tomorrow, content-wise. The demo will also be available on PS4. It contains the game’s intro, tutorial, and first story mission. Progress made in the Valkyrie Elysium demo will carry over to the full game, as well, so fans can consider it a bit of a head start before the game launches fully on September 29, 2022.

Some might be wondering just how the game is connected to Valkyrie Profile. If this new game has any explicit connections beyond its general inspiration in Norse mythology, the Valkyrie Elysium demo doesn’t surface them. I’m not even fully sure your Valkyrie is even named “Lenneth” this time, as all the in-game text just refers to her as “Valkyrie”.  The scenario is also slightly different this time around. Where the first game had Lenneth gathering up souls in preparation for Ragnarok, in Elysium, Ragnarok is already under way. A great war between Odin and Fenrir has ended in a bloody stalemate, after the All-Father and the dire wolf mortally wounded each other in battle. Now Odin is stuck in Valhalla, the last place untouched by the spreading calamity. Most of the rest of the world, Midgard and Asgard included, has been swallowed up. You, as the Valkyrie, wake up into the midst of an apocalypse in slow motion, and your task is to save what remains.

There’s not much explicit storytelling to be found in the Valkyrie Elysium demo, but what is there strongly resonates with the melancholy, downbeat tone of the original. For the first story mission, your Valkyrie is assigned to “purify” a lost soul somewhere in the Be’elze Kingdom. You need to fight your way through the roaming undead to get there, and after an hour or two of tromping through hostile territory, you fight a large boss, the fly-like Naglfar. Purifying the Naglfar’s essence frees the human soul within, a man named Eygon, once a mercenary in service to this fallen kingdom. Beyond that, you can pick up little bits of flavor text in the environment by picking up “Hollow Blossom” collectibles. The menu helpfully tracks that stuff, so you know what you might have missed.

It remains to be seen how the game will evoke the classic Valkyrie Profile structure. In the original game, much of the story took place in flashbacks retelling a character’s history before they joined Lenneth as Einherjar. The trailers so far hint at deeper cutscenes and more dramatic moments, but how players will get to those points isn’t really present in the demo.

Valkyrie Elysium Odin

If the Valkyrie Elysium demo is light on plot, it’s got a decent taster for the game’s character action-style combat system. You control the Valkyrie at all times, and can summon her equipped Einherjar. You can equip four, but only two can be active alongside you at the same time. Your summoning’s limited by your Soul Gauge, but that can be topped off by defeating enemies. The Einherjar act like NPCs on the battlefield, engaging foes at will. You can also add elemental energy to the Valkyrie’s attacks based on the Einherjar you summon. That’s key in most battles, as filling an enemy’s “Elemental Crush” gauge by hitting its weaknesses stuns it and leaves it vulnerable. Without Einherjar, the Valkyrie has to rely on Divine Arts (read: combat spells) to inflict elemental damage.

As such, before you get your first Einherjar, fighting mixed foes as a solo Valkyrie feels like swinging a sword stuck in its scabbard: Inefficient. Einherjar are also key to solving traversal puzzles. One equipped character could form ice bridges to cross a gap, and another could destroy large rocks. The Valkyrie also has the “Soul Chain”, which is basically an enchanted grappling hook. The Soul Chain can target faraway enemies and send the Valkyrie flying at them. It’s a great way to close distances, and keeps the pace of combat speedy. Fighting bigger enemies is also easier with it, as you can Soul Chain to their weak spot to unleash aerial combos.

Enemies in Valkyrie Elysium also have their own elemental and weapon weaknesses, encouraging you to swap between different weapons, spells and Einherjar loadouts regularly. The Valkyrie Elysium demo unlocks two weapons, your standard sword and a faster, rapier-like “Bolverkr”. Progression is similar to the RPG-like systems of many character action titles. You gather up gems from defeated enemies, and use them to pay for upgrades from a skill tree. Skill trees unlock a mix of passive bonuses (like extra health) and enhancements to core abilities (like a double-jump). You can also enhance your weapons to extend combos and unlock new moves.

Valkyrie Elysion

All of this takes place against some really good character models. The Valkyrie Profile games have always struggled to have their in-game graphics match the peerless character design work used for its 2D sprites and concept art, and I’d say that the Valkyrie Elysium demo comes the closest to landing that elusive match.

My one gripe is a somewhat unsightly black “outline” used as a visual effect on most character and environment objects. I figure it was made to make the animations easier to read (the game’s color palette is somewhat undersaturated), but I think it makes the graphics look a bit “grimy” in a way that doesn’t suit the modeling and shader work.

Valkyrie Elysium

While more of Valkyrie Elysium‘s legacy will be determined in my mind by how its storytelling plays out, I’d say its initial impressions are solid so far. So long as you’re not looking for something exactly the same as the original Valkyrie Profile, the Valkyrie Elysium demo shows off a warrior maiden worth welcoming.

Valkyrie Elysium demo launches on PS4 and PS5 on September 15, 2022. The full game launches on PS4 and PS5 on September 29, 2022, and on PC via Steam on November 12, 2022. Purchases of the PS4 edition will have a free upgrade to the PS5 edition, and the Digital Deluxe editions of the PS4/PS5 versions come with a copy of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth.

Josh Tolentino
Josh Tolentino is interim Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera. He previously helped run Japanator, prior to its merger with Siliconera. He's also got bylines at Destructoid, GameCritics, The Escapist, and far too many posts on Twitter.