throwback in the new Square Enix game

throwback in the new Square Enix game

Between Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile and even Tactics Ogre, lately Square Enix is ​​slowly dusting off most of its IPs that have remained unused for a long time. Landed on PC, PS4 and PS5 in the last days of September 2022, Valkyrie Elysium is a self-contained spin-off of Valkyrie Profile and as such it does not represent the continuation of the beloved franchise born on the original PlayStation, but a delightful deviation devoted to unbridled action (we talked about it in our special on Valkyrie Elysium). After spending about twenty hours in the company of the new protagonist Valkyrie, we are ready to issue our final verdict on the creature made by the boys of Soleila young development studio that since 2018 has made itself known mainly through Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker, Ninjala And Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time.

The end of creation is upon us

Set in a world heavily inspired by the ever-fascinating Norse mythology, Valkyrie Elysium is starring a young warrior created by the all-powerful Father of All to ward off the impending Ragnarok.

Although Odin has in the past defeated the deadly she-wolf called Fenrir, in a clash that almost ended with the mutual annihilation of the two forces in the field, the prophesied end of creation appears around the corner and the kingdom of Asgard has therefore been invaded by beings monstrous, as well as distant echoes of the peoples who once resided there and which have now almost entirely disappeared. Infusing his remaining powers in the Valkyrie named Mary, who on balance represents the last hope of salvation, the Father of the Gods sends the fearless fighter into the human world, so that this can placate the devastation sown by the forces of chaos and prevent the a catastrophic event apparently unavoidable.

Net of an at least intriguing opening, the story of Valkyrie Elysium turned out to be poor and devoid of bite, also due to a renounced script. With the exception of the final chapters of the story, which thanks to a series of predictable twists still manage to arouse the player’s curiosity and spur him to continue, the dialogue sequences are unfortunately reduced to the bone, also due to the absence of NPC. As we had pointed out in our trial of the demo of Valkyria Elysium, Asgard is almost uninhabited and the exchanges with the supporting actors are damn rare. In the absence of interlocutors with whom to interact, the world building is entrusted solely to the so-called “ghostly flowers”, collectibles scattered in the game maps which, once collected, allow Maria to listen to the last thoughts of lost souls.

Although the memories of the mortal experts allow us to discover interesting facts about Asgard, the life they led and the circumstances that caused the total destruction of the human world, the textual messages triggered by the recovery of the hidden flowers they struggle to outline in an exhaustive and effective way the dying reality entrusted to our alter-ego. As a result, the collection of ghostly flowers translates into an active collateral, mostly indicated to that large slice of players who are always attentive to finding secrets and collectibles.

If the characterization of the characters and the world in which they move is incomplete, the progression does not behave so much better: the campaign is in fact divided into nine extremely linear main missionswhich culminate with the inevitable boss fight.

Although the stages are very large and sometimes structured on several levels, we would have preferred a few more detours, and perhaps a greater number of collectibles to recover. On the other hand, the secondary missions proposed by the maps already explored do not force you to retrace the various stages in full, as the developer Soleil has preferred to set them in more contained areas of land and characterized by the presence of enemies different from those encountered in the main quest. A gimmick, the one devised by the study, that banishes repetitiveness and minimizes backtracking. We also appreciated Soleil’s decision to include multiple endings, but without forcing the player to complete the campaign several times: with a longevity of just 20 hours, Valkyrie Elysium presents four different endings, which however can be obtained through a single playthrough repeating only the final chapter and modifying some choices. A solution that in our opinion perfectly matches the excessive linearity of the product.

The feats of the Valkyrie

Considering that since the announcement Valkyrie Elysium has made the most stubborn fans of Valkyrie Profile turn up their noses due to the action drift taken by the gameplay, it is almost paradoxical that the combat system is without a doubt the most successful element of the entire package. As explained several times on these pages, the spin-off packaged by Square Enix and Soleil has abandoned the shifts of the main saga to instead embrace a frenetic play system that reminded us of Drakengard 3 from the very beginning.

Following the dictates of the action RPG genre, our protagonist is agile and light: characteristics that during the battles allow her to take very fast sprints and alternate between normal and light attacks for long and devastating combos. Skilled both in the fight on the ground and in the exchanges of blows in mid-air, Maria also has a wide range of attack patterns, also because these change depending on the weapon used.

Depending on the equipped death tool, the level reached by the object and not least the mastery obtained in its use, the Valkyrie has access to a rather extensive range of attacks, which she can even modify on the fly by replacing the main weapon with that secondary.

Since the player has the option of adding two different sidearms to the equipment, such as swords, foils or spears, at any time during the battle it is possible to press the appropriate button to exchange them and adopt a strategy aimed at exploiting the weaknesses of the opponents to one’s advantage. Not for nothing, every instrument of death tends to be more or less effective depending on the opponent or the situations in which it is used (if the swords are suitable for small enemies, the spear is perfect for armored obstacles or when you are literally surrounded, and so on).

Still on the subject of weaknesses, it should be noted that the monsters that haunt the kingdom of Asgard are particularly vulnerable to elemental spells, which Maria can use after adding special magical scrolls to her parchment that can be recovered during the adventure. Called Divine Arts, the terrifying elemental spells consume a good part of the arts bar with each use, and since this recharges with the simple chaining of physical combos, the player is promptly encouraged to measure their use. Also because hitting opponents with the element they are weak in induces them in the dangerous state of “elemental destruction”, a temporary condition that leaves them helpless and greatly facilitates their elimination.

To further increase the already phenomenal resources of the fierce Maria, the developers of Soleil have well thought of equipping her with the “Chain of Souls“, a tool that is useful both in the exploratory phases and during the fight.

If in the platforming sequences the spiritual chain is used to hook the holds, overcome crevasses and reach corners of the map that would otherwise be inaccessible, in the middle of the fighting this can be used to grab an enemy in range and instantly swoop down on them, in order to annihilate it before it even has time to counterattack. As can be guessed, the Chain of Souls demonstrates its effectiveness in the most chaotic situations and in the presence of archers, as it avoids the need to approach rather distant opponents on foot, and perhaps risk being targeted from all directions. In any case, the most precious resource of the Valkyrie must certainly be sought in the Einherjar, that is, the spirits that it can invoke on the battlefield to fight alongside it. By consuming the soul bar, our alter-ego it is able to request the intervention (even simultaneous) of four extra warriors, who once in the front line lash out with all their might against the monsters. Unfortunately it is not possible to give the Einherjar specific orders and their stay is short, so much so that after about a minute they are forced to leave the field, but overall their presence counterbalances the absence of a real party.

Also because, although initially Valkyria Elysium may seem a very accessible title, the level of challenge grows with the passing of the hours, reaching its peak when the screen is literally invaded by opponents. Situation, the one just painted, in which the intervention of the Einherjar can make the difference between victory and defeat. However, it should be noted that the game has three difficulty levels (Normal, Easy and Difficult), but for some strange reason the user can only select it at the beginning of the adventure. Consequently, unlike what happens now in most RPGs, once the challenge level has been chosen, it is not possible to change it, except by starting a new game.

Holes in the armor

Putting aside the playful component, on which the greatest efforts made by the development team are gravitated, it is time to examine the technical sector of Valkyrie Elysium, which seemed rather dated since the announcement. Since this is a clearly low-budget product, that’s not all the title has its roots in the previous generation of consolesbut it does not even meet the quality standards very much.

Compared to what was seen in the first gameplay trailers, the yield of the polygonal models has undoubtedly improved, but the same cannot be said for the landscapes, which among other things are penalized by a fluctuating and repetitive level design. To this must be added the annoying pop-up effect that afflicts the areas covered by vegetation, and which, given the simplicity of the landscapes, we struggle to justify.

At least on PlayStation 5 Valkyrie Elysium retains an unlocked frame rate at 60 FPS (compared to 35-38 of the PS4 version), with sporadic and barely noticeable drops only in the most excited moments or when the screen is invaded by three or more Einherjar.

Nothing to complain, however, on the soundtrack created by Motoi Sakuraba, former composer – among others – of the sagas of Star Ocean, Tales of And DARK SOULS. Once again the well-known Japanese artist has prepared a pleasant and effective musical accompaniment, as well as able to accentuate the tones assumed by the narration. If, as regards the dubbing, we point out the presence of two tracks (one in English and the other in the original Japanese language), at least the lyrics have been localized in Italian.

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