For 99 percent of people, Valkyria Chronicles 4 might as well be called Valkyria Chronicles 2. The first game was a captivating war story that blended top-down strategy with third-person movement and gunplay. The second, admittedly decent title was stuck on the PlayStation Portable and the third instalment never made it to the West. Sega tried to revive the franchise last year with Valkyria Revolution, an action-focused spin-off, but it was panned by critics and fans alike. A true successor to the 2008 original has been an awfully long time coming.
Based on a two-hour PlayStation 4 demo, I can say that Valkyria Chronicles 4 delivers on that simple goal. It's not the most adventurous sequel, but it recaptures the art style and tactical complexity that made the first game such an unexpected delight.
Visually, the game looks almost identical to Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Every scene is still presented through a charming blend of pastel colors and anime-inspired character designs. None of the assets seem sharper, or more detailed than previous entries -- but that's okay, because the series has never strived for photorealism. It's more concerned with balancing its thematic material, which oscillates between jovial camaraderie and the harrowing realities of war. The art style, with its paper vignettes and pencil-like sketch marks, accommodates the two extremes beautifully. Even now, 10 years after the original game, it feels unique and refreshing.
The campaign is structured as a book, with photos and maps denoting pivotal cutscenes and missions. The most important moments are delivered with full CG cinematics, while secondary conversations use a boxed-out, talking head format. Ideally, every line of dialog would be a free-flowing cutscene with dynamic editing and camera angles. There are plenty of smaller moments in the game, however, and I prefer to see them in this budget-friendly format than not at all. They use the same character models as the full CG cutscenes, too, which maintains a level of visual consistency across the game.
Combat in Valkyria Chronicles 4 should be equally familiar to series veterans. You start every mission in a map-like Command Mode that lets you develop a strategy and choose troops for deployment. On any given turn, you have a set number of points which are expended every time you embody a unit on the battlefield. Once selected, the perspective shifts down into a third-person Action Mode. You can then move a set distance and choose to either attack someone or use a contextual item. These secondary actions differ with each unit and include cover-destroying grenades, health-replenishing Ragnaid and tank repair kits.
The game has a small selection of troop types that offer different strengths and weaknesses on the battlefield. Scouts, for instance, can move farther than shocktroopers on a single turn, making them ideal for flanking and stealthy reconnaissance. Snipers, meanwhile, can deal damage from a distance, while lancers are effective against tanks and other forms of heavy artillery.