Beyond Valkryia Chronicle’s eye catching Canvas engine is a deep tactics game completely unlike the buffet of grid based strategy RPGs. At the start of each round players are given command points. These are used to select a unit to control from a detailed military map which marks all of the allies, enemies, and cover points. Once you select a unit Valkyria Chronicles switches into a 3D world and handles like an action game. You freely move the chosen character until you run out of action points. Think of action points as “walking energy”.
When an enemy unit is in sight hit R1 to switch into shooting mode. Everything freezes while you’re aiming so you can carefully position the target for a head shot or hit weak point on a tank. The amount of damage you deal is in part calculated by how well you aim. If an enemy survives the assault they return fire and continue to shoot even after the shooting phase is over. Blind shots can hurt you while you’re walking so you need to make use of cover like sandbags and walls to avoid unnecessary damage. Like all strategy RPGs you want to finish one target before moving on to the next, but hitting an enemy in Valkyria Chronicles is similar to waking a sleeping sentry. Wake too many of them up at once and stray gunshots blaze across the battlefield.
After you end a unit’s turn you’re taken back to the parchment map to select your next move. The command point system gives players a choice between picking a new unit or activating the one they just controlled. This opens up lots of possibilities and makes combat in Valkyria Chronicles flexible. You can run knee deep into enemy territory, pick off a few units, and then use a second turn to escape from harm. Let’s say the lone unit you sent off didn’t make it back and got wounded while retreating. You can stack command points to make another unit run up and tag him for the medical team to avoid losing him permanently. The only drawback to picking the same unit over and over again is they start out with less AP.
Capping the amount of AP a used unit recovers is done to balance the game since there are two ways to victory in Valkyria Chronicles. You can go the standard strategy RPG route and eliminate all opposing units or dash to a specific point to capture a base to win. At first it felt strange to see “operation complete” flash on the screen when I was surrounded by enemy troops, but I found myself going for the speed route more often. Valkyria Chronicle’s grading system handsomely rewards hasty players with bonus experience points and money if they complete missions with less turns.
If you opt to fight Valkyria Chronicles has a handful of troops to play with. Scouts are good for running. Shock troopers are more powerful, but less mobile. Snipers are weak, but great for taking out other infantry units with an easy to control scope. These units are pretty much worthless when the Imperial Alliance rolls in tanks. You need to pull out lancers to target tanks, but these units have limited AP which means you might have to spend a few command points just to get them into position. Sega did a fine job balancing Valkyria Chronicles so every unit has a role in an expanded game of rocks-paper-scissors.
Actually, Sega did a fantastic job overall with the BLiTZ system. The free running system and aiming makes Valkyria Chronicles instantly familiar to gamers who would ordinarily look over a tactics game in favor of a first person shooter and these elements make combat in Valkyria Chronicles feel fresh for fans of tactical RPGs.
Images courtesy of Sega.