RPG Review: Valkyrie Elysium

So because it was finally on sale during the holidays I decided to buy Valkyrie Elysium as I enjoyed the tutorial demo I played last year. Unfortunately I didn’t realize the demo was basically a mirror of what the entirety of the game was going to be. There will be ending spoilers in this post so be aware. Comments in blue are by Kanade.

So let’s start with the demo I played last year. The system was very similar to stranger of paradise, the graphics looked okay (though for some odd reason Valkyrie’s face somehow looked really awkward and didn’t match her body?)I enjoyed summoning the husbandos so I decided alright, I’m gonna get this game seems kinda cool and hopefully the story is decent.

I hated how the in game models had these cartoonish black outlines around them. It made them look so much more low quality than in the cut scenes.

It felt like the fun “core” that the developers had was the combat system, which is pretty snappy when we first tried it out in the demo as you chain combos and gap close between enemies. But then once we got into the full game, the question quickly became “okay, now what do we do with this?” and everything feels like an obvious misfire. Each fight slows to a crawl as you go into your menu to rejigger your skills and weapons to match up with the appropriate weaknesses for each set of trash mobs, and then you click the square (and sometimes triangle) button sometimes HUNDREDS of times per pack! And that’s basically ALL you do in the game, fight trash. There’s very few boss fights, and nothing to actually DO within each of the areas of the game except killing the trash as there’s no real exploration, no NPCs, no economy, and essentially no gear or loot.

You like this grass?? Well you’re gonna see it all game!

Fast forward to 3 months later I finally crawled through my backlog and decided to play it. I had no idea that this would be a copy paste map trash fight simulator. It was definitely not worth the $40 I paid for it, even on sale. At best this should have been maybe a $20 game.

Ow my arm

The biggest problem is the fact that everything looks the same. All the enemies are copied and pasted. There’s maybe about 5-6 different types of enemies, besides the bosses, and every map looks exactly the same: a bunch of old timey western european castle ruins surrounded by trees and grass. Once in a while there was a snowy map but otherwise it’s all the same. All the side quests are just “go to the same map and fight the same boss again to gain a new skill”. The dialogue and character interactions are also incredibly bland and boring. They are indistinguishable from anyone with the ONCE in a while there being something interesting from the Einhusbandos/waifus.  So you are constantly going into these copy paste maps and fighting the same copy paste enemies NON stop. I mean the trash fights are so insane I basically got a 700 hit combo at one point just fighting some trash on the WAY to the boss. WTF. My arm actually hurt from spamming the □ button over and over.

I finally figured out what is weird about Valkyrie’s face model – those weird lips. Without them she actually looks ok!

This was probably the best example I’ve played of the pitfalls of a AA game. The lack of budget was really painfully obvious to the point where it was totally detracting from the game. When you fight the same like 5 enemies across the same handful of levels, it gets boring really fast, which in turn really starts to take you out of the game. There was so clearly not enough resources to put into the encounter design, narrative design, level design, and so on that you keep thinking “really, that’s it?” when you say, complete a quest and then the next quest is “go through the same level you just went through, but this time you need to do it with detective vision to see the objectives.”

Dude sits on his ass all game and has the nerve to complain that we didn’t resolve his beef with Fenrir for him

The leveling system itself feels very tacked-on in the kind of way that I complained about with Sonic where it’s hard to see what you’re actually gaining most of the time, combined with how all the skills are hard gated by the storyline anyway meaning that you can’t even customize your character in any kind of meaningful way and instead it’s almost just an added layer of busywork that you periodically have to click through. You can’t really pick and choose the weapons or spells that you personally like or design anything around them, you instead have to simply use whatever each enemy has a weakness against.

The only cool looking move

And then comes the worst part of the game for me: the endings. So normally when I play an otome game, I slog through all the endings because it’s a matter of skipping to the next choice. Nowdays games have jump to next choice or a chapter select/chart you can jump through. This doesn’t translate well into RPG landia…especially not into one where you have to constantly fight a bunch of trash. So once I finished the first ending, which was mediocre at best I found out you have to run around these boring samey maps, kill more trash and look for some stupid flowers to get the true ending. This is where I basically peaced out and once again watched the cut scenes on youtube. The game was getting so boring that I was basically making Kanade do all the boss fights because I just couldn’t care less. Didn’t help that the final boss fight in the ending we did had like 4 phases?? Wtf. ಠ_ಠ

Wow you mean I just spent 20 hours for nothing?

For me I basically expect an RPG to have either one ending per (very obviously signposted) route, or a Fallout-style montage where you get a series of little mini-endings for each character, town, etc.  based on which quests you did. Valkyrie Elysium was the kind of ending model that I hate, where there’s a series of different endings but the triggers for each of them don’t feel meaningful. “Step one: make sure you get all the collectibles” is not particularly meaningful, and “then pick a different dialogue choice” is not either.

I should be happy but somehow I am not.

My biggest regret is the game has shipping. Spoilers ahead but…………………….basically Valkyrie’s real name is Nora, and she was a human turned Valkyrie by Odin but she had some boyfriend named Arm & Hammer Armand Noir. So you basically run into Armand a few times in the game he will be randomly sitting around on the map. When Valkyrie talks to him she sees flashbacks of her former life. If they had only developed on this more and gave us more interaction it would have been SO GOOD. But no, they kinda half assed it like the rest of the game and then shoved it into an ending that required an annoying grind of a lot of trash and mediocre maps. So in the end even though I watched the cut scene on youtube and I was kinda looking forward to the shipping, ultimately I just didn’t find myself emotionally moved or excited at all because Armand had almost no screen time and Valkyrie was flat and robotic most of the game. She was so uninteresting and even her Einhusbandos/Waifus had more of a personality than she did.

I swear Cypher only has like 2 actual animated poses outside of battle

On the topic of Einhusbandos, I bought the game for Ishida Akira voicing Cypher. I even did all of Cypher’s missions to unlock his unending journey dialogue where  it was a piece of his past. Even that though, was incredibly mediocre. I was also disappointed how all the side quest cut scenes had no voice acting and in the scenes that were voiced, a lot of the Japanese voices didn’t match the lip dialogue at all. It was like watching a badly dubbed Kung Fu movie. ( ´_ゝ`)

Cypher’s 2nd non battle pose 😂

All of these “why am I even bothering to do this?” questions keep piling up. We completed the game, of course but mentally checked out pretty early on. Like look, I don’t expect any game to have sidequests as good as Slav Shadowbringers Witcher 3 but I’m not going to keep bothering with “kill a pack of trash mobs for some (again, gated) XP and a couple sentences of a conversation” (NOTE: I guess these were still better than the sidequests in Scarlet Nexus). Why bother forcing ourselves to use a weapon that isn’t particularly good just to make the attack input string with it even longer to memorize? Who cares about ferreting out more and more audio logs for some flavor text that every time is just “the world is ending.” And then this also ultimately screwed us over because we couldn’t get anything but the most basic ending because we had no desire whatsoever to hunt down all the collectibles needed to enable any of the other ones. (Even if the game was actually fun, I am still EXTREMELY anti-collectible in games, seriously so much of this review has been “common design elements that every game these days does that I don’t think add to the fun at all.”)

I feel just as disappointed as she does in this picture

Overall I’m incredibly disappointed at what could have been a really fun game? The battle system itself wasn’t too bad but it was just too much. If they at least had some kind of auto-battle mode for all the dumb trash I might have actually tried to do the endings legit instead of watching some dude’s video on youtube. I also learned apparently the controls on the steam version suffer from the fact that they try to make the keyboard work “like” a controller so ultimately the game is really meant to be played on a console so I’m glad I had gotten the PS5 edition. I never played any other Valkyrie game so I wasn’t coming here for the IP or anything, but for a stand alone action RPG it was mediocre at best. Hopefully I can get my Hanae kick when I play Star Ocean 6 next.

Do it for him (but only when it’s like 90% off)

So all in all, I’d say it’s a “get it for like $5 during a Steam sale if you don’t really care what the game is like but just want to watch your character’s numbers go up and your in-game to-do list go down.”