IGN Review of Valhalla Knights
Valhalla Knights is a lot like your ex-girlfriend -- there will be moments when you have a great time together, but you won't be able to shake the feeling that you can do better.
I'm all torn up inside, readers. See, Valhalla Knights succeeded at impressing me with fun, real-time combat, completely pissing me off with drawn-out quests and eventually driving me away due to the complete lack of anything resembling story progression.
From the get-go, you know things are a bit discombobulated in this title from XSEED Games. Out of nowhere you're tossed into a battle with a dragon, hit with a cut scene where you find out you're an important guy named Rastul and then wake up in an inn as a completely different character -- a completely different character suffering from amnesia.
If you're an enterprising gamer, you'll find out your initial battle as Rastul was over a tiff with the Dark Lord, the ruler of the land, and the character you create and wake up as is actually living years after the battle that started the game. Where does this information come from? The instruction manual. These basic facts aren't included in the beginning of the game or even seven hours into it.
But even with the hackneyed RPG memory-wipe and uninformative opening, when I got behind the controls of Valhalla Knights, I started to think this game still had a shot at being an awesome title. The main character is yours to detail -- beyond choosing its gender, naming it and customizing its attributes such as strength and dexterity, you pick its job. A fighter is good with weapons and melee combat, a mage is adept at casting attack and ailment spells, a priest is a lifesaver that can cast healing spells for the party, and a thief is most dangerous when packing a ranged weapon such as a bow. More occupations will become available as you continue to play, you can assign your characters secondary jobs to expand their arsenals, and you'll be able to create characters from different races such as elves, dwarves and machines.
The town itself -- called "The Cursed Land" in the instruction manual -- is a detailed place featuring brick streets, a pristine chapel where you can bring your fallen characters back from the dead and folks wandering around the marketplace, but the best part of Valhalla Knights is the real-time combat system and the options that accompany it. Before going into battle, you can dish out weapons and armor as well as create a fight formation and decide how your teammates are going to react -- I put my fighters up front and made sure they'd rush into battle, dropped my mages in the middle to cast spells from the second line of defense and left my priest in the very back to heal the team and stay out of harm's way.
You can even trot your team out into battle against or with a buddy packing Valhalla Knights. Through ad-hoc wireless, the title hosts a two-player co-op mode where players bring three team members from their single-player game to 30 exclusive co-op missions and a two-player versus mode where the two teams battle for gambled gold.
Now, back to the actual "story." You awaken from your slumber and head out to the first dungeon, the Old Prison, with the simple goal of finding something to pay the innkeeper with. You coast in, battle some slime monsters, open a few treasure chests and end up finding a lump of gold. You return to town, pay your debt, create another party member and choose your next quest.
And that's when the wheels fall off.
The descriptions of quests are entirely too vague. The first odd job I took asked me to accompany a man into the Old Prison and retrieve a treasure. "I need to get to the first level of the underground where the entrance is sealed," the description read. Uh, ok. Is the man with me? Do I need to find this guy before I go? Is the "underground" the entire old prison, which is at the bottom of a staircase, or is it beyond the second staircase inside?
Valhalla Knights doesn't answer these questions or the numerous other ones that crop up with the additional quests, of which there are close to 40.
Turns out the guy I was supposed to help was with me, even thought I never saw him, and the treasure was in a far off corner of the dungeon that I missed thanks to the worthless map on my PSP screen. Like lots of dungeons crawlers, the map in Valhalla Knights expands as you explore, but this one's directional system is tiny, hard to read and really doesn't showcase anything important other than doors. Combine that with environments that stretch in every direction, corridors that look alike and an awful camera -- tap R to center it behind you, but be prepared to create large blind spots and get ambushed by enemies that are in the same room as you -- and exploring becomes tedious and a literal headache.
Even if you can understand the maps, don't expect to breeze through them. Quests have you going from the guild, to the objective and back to the guild. Sounds easy, but as the game moves on, quests get farther and farther from home base. There are a few warp points to make it easier to get around the map, but even those don't necessarily take you where you need to go. You spend lots of time running from Point A to Point B, and when there's 15 frickin' enemies in the way, the tasks become more time consuming. Even if I decide to say screw the experience points and flee from my 19th battle with a goblin, I have to put up with the load times. Argh.
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