I'm free from the pages of Niche: Treat Your Geek and terrorising the internets. "Niche Plays" is my way of sharing what I'm playing/thinking as and when it happens and maybe I'll rope in some other Nichelings along the way. This isn't intended as a review, in fact it may come across as more of a love letter...
This week I've been playing Valkyria Chronicles: Remastered. Originally this anime styled blend of action, strategy and RPG genres released 8 years ago for PS3, it didn't receive the recognition it deserved, I'm hoping this PS4 release can change that.
I'm enjoying the game just as much as the first time, the story is an emotional and engaging mix of grown up themes (like racism and the realities of war), with magic, fantasy and tales of friendship. There's no gore but thanks to the gameplay and the possibility of perma-death for your squad members, deaths still have weight. There is even a moment that I'd put up there with one of the most iconic scenes in an RPG ever... but that way lies spoilers.You'll find you'll make extra effort to rescue downed team-mates in-game too thanks to the efforts taken to make sure they each have a personality. This personality extends to traits that affect their stats in certain situations. I have a "klutz" on my team that occasionally loses their grenade, some members that can see better in the dark and others that fancy their fellow soldiers and so try harder when they are near in an attempt to impress them.
The gameplay has been described as part overhead turn-based strategy, part RPG, and part real-time 3rd person shooter. The closest thing I can think of is PS1 classic "Hogs of War" or Worms 3D but good. It captures the patient strategising you might be looking for but gives you a direct connection to the action and your soldiers. It also has some of the stats and character levelling/equipping of an RPG which gives you a lot of freedom on how to beat a mission or customise your squad.
It would be fair to mention some problems at this point. A lot of the story takes place in a visual novel format with almost expressionless faces delivering lines of text (fully voiced mind) and I cant find an auto skip for the text so I'm spending a lot of time hitting "X" to progress. The only other problem I have is that the aiming controls are a bit clunky and could have done with an update as part of the remaster, lining up headshots is just more finicky than I would like.
I'm in love with this game, the story, gameplay, art and music all come together to form one of the best and most unique strategy experiences on console and it's currently less than £20 at some online retailers. The pacing and tactical gameplay might not be for everyone but if there's a chance you'll fall for this like I have and it sounds remotely like something you'd enjoy then it's well worth a try.
Does this sound like something you'd play? Do you remember the original release?
If you have any other thoughts or questions then let me know in the comments.