By Joseph Luster

At first glance—especially for those who aren’t too familiar with Japanese games—it might be hard to imagine Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles as a hardcore wartime strategy game. Its setting may be fictional and its art style may be colorful, but this game is serious business. Now those who never got a chance to check out the 2008 PlayStation 3 original can give it a spin on PlayStation 4 with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered. Whether it’s a return visit to the continent of Europa or a first attempt, this is a demanding but satisfying trip well worth taking.

Valkyria Chronicles

The beginning of the story finds players in the role of Welkin Gunther, his head buried in a notebook as he dutifully researches and sketches flora and fauna. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a time of peace, so it’s understandable when town watch captain Alicia Melchiott stumbles upon Welkin with great suspicion. Initial impressions aside, the two quickly find a common bond, and Welkin even boasts some seriously impressive military heritage. It turns out he’s the son of the country’s hero, General Belgen Gunther, and it won’t be long before he ends up being dragged into a battle of his own.

After some quaint, charming character introductions, the Gallian border town of Bruhl finds itself under attack. Forces from the East Europan Imperial Alliance make their way toward our heroes, serving up the perfect opportunity to teach players the art of war. Even if you’ve played countless strategy games over the years, it’s doubtful you’ve touched any quite like Valkyria Chronicles. Battlefield action is a mix of direct control over your characters and strategic placement, like pieces on a board game that you dash and weave through a firefight. Command Mode gives you a certain amount of opportunities to select your characters from an overhead map at the expense of Command Points, after which you will zoom down and strategically exhaust Action Points through movement. Once you have an enemy, or a group of enemies, in your sights you can fire away and brace yourself for a counterattack.

This is the (simplified) gist of the BLiTZ (Battle of Live Tactical Zones) system that makes up the juicy meat of Valkyria Chronicles. It’s a nice way to not so subtly scratch the itches of both action and strategy fans, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you can play Valkyria Chronicles like an action game. While the first mission or so eases you into the battle system nice and gently, it doesn’t take long for the difficulty and tension to ramp up generously. Even the early missions that have you attempting to both defend and escape an invaded Bruhl are no cakewalk, making every single step you take one of tremendous consequence. Did you opt to get too aggressive in the first turn? You’ll be a sitting duck for those shocktroopers that were concealed right around the corner. Accidentally spend too many Action Points such that your character is stuck in a slightly more vulnerable spot than you would have liked? Get ready for a punishing enemy turn.

It sounds overwhelming, and it can be at first, but Valkyria Chronicles knows what it’s doing. There’s a save option on the tactical menu for a reason, after all. Once you get in the habit of saving after pretty much every remotely successful turn, you’ll start learning from your mistakes and making more headway throughout each mission. Before you know it you might actually have the hang of the whole BLiTZ system, but don’t worry, the Imperial forces will stay a few steps ahead of you to make sure you never get too comfortable.

Valkyria Chronicles was already a very pretty game, even if its textures and models aren’t the most detailed. The visuals succeed because of the cel-shaded, almost painterly aesthetic, and that holds true in Remastered. The style makes battles and environments very clear and readable, leaving you open to worry more about the battle at hand and not which items you can interact with. The only real visual issue I had was kind of my own fault. If you’re not paying close attention to the map and where restricted areas fall, you can easily end up wasting Action Points as you run right into invisible borders.

Whether you played the original or haven’t heard of it before, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is a solid addition to any PlayStation 4-owning strategy fan’s library. It has its frustrating moments, but it’s easy to see why fans still celebrate the series to this day.

Publisher: SEGA
Genre: Strategy
System(s): PLAYSTATION 4
Available: NOW

Power & Revolution: Geopolitical Simulator 4

Independent developer Eversim is back with more geopolitical, economic, and military simulation in Power & Revolution: Geopolitical Simulator 4. This time around players will be able to play as opposition on both sides of the legal line, staging media interventions, manipulating politics, participating in election campaigns (including a scenario based on the 2016 elections in the United States), launching protest movements, and raising an army. That means cities experiencing uprisings or armed conflicts will also trigger tactical war phases that mix up the style of play.

In the tactical war portions of Power & Revolution, players will be tasked with controlling elements ranging from protestors and armed extremists to police units, including helicopters and armored vehicles. Simulated conflicts in areas such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Nigeria, Yemen, and so on are broken down into frontline operations, territory occupation, and beyond. With over 20 playable scenarios, it looks like we’re going to have our hands full when we dig into the full version of Power & Revolution: Geopolitical Simulator 4. It’s currently available on PC as a stand-alone release and as an upgrade from Masters of the World.

Publisher: EVERSIM
Genre: Strategy
System(s): PC
Available: NOW

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