Preview: Valkyria: Azure Revolution heads into Musou territory

Valkyria Chronicles is a thoughtful series. It’s one where every action counts. You have to think things through. Rushing through missions is a sure way to a bad end. With the Valkyria: Azure Revolution Battle Demo Ver. 2.0, we see a game that’s mostly about running in and tearing enemies up as efficiently and swiftly as possible. There are RPG and Valkyria hallmarks here, but they aren’t always at the forefront.

The Valkyria: Azure Revolution Battle Demo Ver. 2.0 is a surprisingly large sample. People are given access to Amleth, Ophelia, Blum and Jordur immediately. They’re sent into a mission that resembles a situation you’d often see in the Valkyria series, where the troop needs to head to several checkpoints along a road, defeat the enemy troops at each stop to capture those important points and finally face off against an enormous mech. In the follow-up missions, you retake a Rus Empire base in Grohtsen Recapture Strategy, then fight against a Valkyria named Brunhild. Each one is designed to show off different sorts of battles and objectives.

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Unfortunately, the core strategy behind many of the encounters in these Valkyria: Azure Revolution Battle Demo Ver. 2.0 missions is beat-’em-up. While the original games focus on strategic encounters, there’s a lot of rushing in and endlessly attacking every opponent within range. It feels very much like a Koei Tecmo Musou game, albeit with a bit more encouragement to occasionally use skills or extra weapons.

It doesn’t even feel like you need to switch characters outside of the more major fights. I found myself settling with Ophelia for most brawls. She’s a solid attacker with a sword and rifle. When you begin Valkyria: Azure Revolution Battle Demo Ver. 2.0, she has healing skills. Basically, she’s a well rounded heroine who allows you to keep the AI characters alive. It’s a handy thing, especially in a game where your allies may rush in a little too quickly or not be smart enough to get out of range of the bosses’ larger attacks.

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Despite the pacing, there are a handful of times, particularly in the second and third missions, where I had opportunities to see the emotion system. That’s where taking out specific enemies can influence the behaviors of its companions. I noticed this most on these higher level encounters because it was possible to pick specific targets, what with my crew not completely and quickly wiping everyone out. It’s the sort of thing that could be more obvious and better explored in a full game, but isn’t really at its best in this demo.

This isn’t to say nothing of Valkyria Chronicles remains in Valkyria: Azure Revolution. There are times when the strategic series we know and love shines through in the demo. Since your AI allies tend to rush forward to the next objectives, this can’t happen in the more minor skirmishes. You have to go with the flow and let the beat-’em-up take over. But, when you come across a boss like a the giant, mechanical tank at the end of Base Assault Mission on the Imperial Road, the first mission, or Brunhild, the Valkyria you fight in the final of the three missions, things turn tactical.

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Your party’s loadouts matter more in these moments. You’ll be more reliant on guns and other side arms for precise assaults. The characters’ Magic Arts matter more as well. I found myself switching over to Blum and Jordur during each boss fight, to make use of their Magic Arts, grenades, launcher and sniper rifle. Blum has some great ranged Magic Arts that do damage to opponents; I also loved having him pick away at opponents as a sniper whenever possible. Jordur is quite a tank and was great for attempting to draw enemy attention.

There’s also a sense of pacing yourself that comes through in Valkyria: Azure Revolution Battle Demo Ver. 2.0. After completing the first mission, the other two immediately unlock. Taking them on immediately is unwise, as you actually need to spend time building up Amleth, Ophelia, Blum and Jordur. They can be brought up to level 20 in the demo. Completing the first two missions repeatedly rewards you with extra Ragnite that can be equipped for extra Magic Arts and customize the Battle Palette. Unfortunately, you can’t enhance the weapons in this sample, which would have been quite handy, but what is there does show off the kind of progression you can enjoy with extra experience.

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From my time with the Valkyria: Azure Revolution Battle Demo Ver. 2.0, I can honestly say it isn’t the Valkyria game I wanted. But, it also doesn’t totally abandon beloved gameplay elements I feared would be tossed aside. There were a few thoughtful moments here, ones where I needed to carefully consider my actions and continually shift between characters for optimal performances. I can only hope the finished product will offer more varied encounters and opportunities to think fights through.

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