The skirmishes play out on a relatively small scale. You rarely have more than 10 units on the battlefield, though protective camps allow you to quickly recall and deploy different soldiers, evolving your strategy as enemies regroup or call in reinforcements. Despite the small numbers, objectives can take up to an hour to complete. If you're savvy with your points, though, and pick the right squad composition, you can complete most missions in under 30 minutes. It's all a matter of balance -- fast attacks are useful, but push too hard and your units will likely be exposed on the enemy's turn.
During a hands-on session, I played a tutorial mission and two campaign skirmishes. The first of these was an assault on a castle protecting a war-critical Howitzer cannon. There was only one route inside, a narrow bridge that had long, tall ramparts on either side. Heavy gunners were mounted on both, and it was my job to eliminate them before carefully pushing up to the main gate. At first, I couldn't fathom how to pick them off. But then I was introduced to a new grenadier class that shoots in long, high arcs. Unlike lancers and snipers, which fire in a straight line, this meant I could pick off gunners when they ducked behind some stony cover.
The second was set in a fog-filled town overrun by the enemy. My mission was to carefully infiltrate the area and identify how many of their 'tanks' were real and fake. It was a novel premise and I enjoyed using a mixture of scouts and snipers to silently pick off enemy troops and perform reconnaissance undetected.
The Valkyria Chronicles franchise tackles a fictional war between the Atlantic Federation and the East Europan Imperial Alliance. It takes place on a continent called Europa, which yes, is basically Europe in disguise. The world map is a little different, but you can clearly make out the United Kingdom and the general shape of countries like Italy. Sometimes, this fantasy universe can feel like a bit of a cop-out; an easy way to avoid cultural backlash. It does, however, allow the development team to craft their own narrative and imaginative missions without worrying about their historical accuracy.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set in the same timeframe as the original game. The campaign, though, focuses on a new squad, led by commander Claude Wallace, that is pushing toward the imperial capital in the east.
Like the first game, Valkyria Chronicles 4 spends a lot of time fleshing out its core cast. At first, they seem like a group of anime cliches with one-note personalities; Raz is arrogant and keen to get into a scrap, while Kai is silent or blunt in her remarks. Over time, though, the game delves into their histories, dreams and relationships with one another. After my first mission, for instance, grenadier Riley Miller spotted Raz and Kai and instantly started reminiscing about their shared past. She then slapped Wallace in the face and said: "I can't believe I took orders from this coward."