When Valkyrie Profile came out during the waning days of the original Playstation, it wowed a lot of people. The 2D battles, coupled with the visuals and plot were pretty radical back then. You barely got Norse mythology games, never mind an RPG! 20 years though…20 years for a sequel in the form of Valkyrie Elysium.
I’m honestly a bit puzzled why Square Enix thought a Valkyrie Profile game would make much more sense than one of the other, more popular properties. Parasite Eve or Front Mission for example…Hell, I’d love a Brave Fencer Musashi or Robot Alchemic Drive remake or sequel.
Well…we got Valkyrie Elysium instead.
What is Valkyrie Elysium?
Valkyrie Elysium is a single player action RPG developed by Square Enix and Soleil with publishing duties by Square Enix (and Bandai Namco). It is a sequel to the original Valkyrie Profile (the other games are prequels) taking place after one of the multiple endings from the first game. The game is out and now is exclusive to the Playstation consoles and PC.
Our review copy was provided by the kind folks at Bandai Namco! Thanks everybody!
Similar to the original, Valkyrie Elysium has you playing as Valkyrie, one of Odin’s chosen. Tasked to helped the All-Father prevent Ragnarok, Valkyrie is sent to Midgard to search for worthy Einherjar to join her cause, and later to find holy relics to aid Odin.
Something’s amiss with the world though and as you play you’ll discover that things on Midgard might not really be as they seem.
One thing I really love about Valkyrie Elysium is its cinematography for the cutscenes. Camera angles are almost always visually interesting. The backgrounds are almost always a part of the cinematics and it actually gives the cutscenes a unique flavor that’s all Valkyrie Elysium.
Thankfully, the areas you explore are truly gorgeous, with each evoking a different feel.
From the ruins of castles (you’d think this was a Dark Souls game) to narrow piazzas and bridges of a town that’s like a fantasy version of Venice, each area you embark to looks unique and is memorable in its own right.
What they all have in common is how every single one of them captures the desolation of Midgard. You’ll find echoes (in the shape of plants you can collect) of people whose final thoughts are immortalized in those items.
It gives you a peek into what the world was like and even insight into the Einherjar you can recruit. The game’s lore is rather interesting in that it follows Norse mythology, but not tied down to it. There are major deviations that the developers have taken and I’d argue that most of them worked out rather well, in the areas you go to.
It’s a shame that the optional side missions force you to retread these areas, but other than that minor nitpick, the environments are top notch.
The combat choreography’s just as good too, with fights between Valkyrie and the bosses (or whoever she’s fighting) in the cutscenes awesomely depicted. You always know what’s going on, but there’s a certain flashy quality to things that enhance the whole experience.
In fact, combat in general is much more enjoyable. Instead of a turn based random battle system like in other games in the series, fights here are in real time.
Think of Valkyrie as a more chaste Bayonetta and you have an idea what the game’s like.
Valkyrie can attack with a variety of weapons (swords spears and the like) that you find in chests throughout the game’s missions or as rewards. While you can only equip 2 at a time, all of the weapons are essential as gaining proficiency (by killing enemies with the weapons) with them unlocks specific skills in Valkyrie’s skill tree. Just focusing on one or two weapons means you’re handicapping yourself in the larger scheme of things.
Fights in the game start out slow but by about a quarter of the way through, they’ll ramp up in ferocity and speed. That’s because you’ll have Einherjar you can summon to battle with you. Einherjar are AI controlled allies that help you fight the enemies.
You can’t summon them willy nilly though as they use a special meter to stay in the physical realm and each summon drains that meter.
Summoning them all the time can also be detrimental, as everything in the game (both enemies and Einherjar) have specific attributes assigned to them. Summon them against enemies with attributes that have an advantage and expect your Einherjar to get their asses kicked.
It’s a surprising tactical depth that really makes you think about what skills to use and on who or what as you fight.
Unfortunately, the battle system isn’t perfect.
You’re locked in to your combat animations, which means you can’t dodge, block or counter on a whim. Until your current attack animation’s done, you’re at the mercy of enemies if you miss. I’ve been hit many, many times on blows I see coming from a mile away but can do nothing to dodge or block it.
Due to the combat’s furious speed, the camera really has trouble showing you all the enemies you’re fighting and many times I’ve been hit from off-screen just because I didn’t see the attack coming at all. You can use auto-lock to automatically focus on the nearest enemy as one dies but that’s still nowhere near good enough.
Honestly, it does feel cheap, especially in a combat system that’s as polished as Valkyrie Elysium’s.
A skill to warn of an upcoming attack (similar to Spider-man’s Spider Sense) and being able to cancel out of combos would’ve alleviated the irritation and done much to make the fights even more enjoyable.
The Bottom Line.
I’ll be the first one to say that Valkyrie Elysium is a much better game than I expected. While it started off really slow and boring, by the third area, I was hooked.
The combat system’s great, though there certainly are major flaws that need to be reworked.
What really impressed me though was the worldbuilding and lore. The locations were fitting and really sold the premise of a desolate Midgard in the final throes of destruction as Ragnarok looms. Characters were interesting and even the NPCs (in the form of memories) weren’t just throwaway creations. They really feel like people.
While the plot could’ve been a tad better, it’s certainly not the worst.
In short, Valkyrie Elysium has done what Valkyrie Profile and its prequels never could; it’s made me a fan of the series. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 20 years for a sequel to this game…
Great fun but with a flawed combat system.
- Fun battle system.
- Great cinematography.
- Great choreography.
- Great backgrounds.
- Lore is interesting.
- Dodging, blocking and countering could be done better.
- Retreading the same areas in side missions is boring.