Thursday’s Play – Valkyria Chronicles

I went back to Valkyria Chronicles today, earning an A rank on one mission and attempting the next.  Read on for details, but bear in mind that SPOILERS are going to be present, and they’re some fairly major ones.

Valkyria Chronicles

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I continued on from last time (just after having taken the first camp).  I deployed fresh units from the camp (which uses less command points than making them all move up from the starting position), using a couple of shocktroopers and scouts to advance towards the next camp, while the Edelweiss and Largo took up position in the centre and dealt with the tricky areas: the first tank and two gatling bunkers.  With the second camp taken I requested another lancer (Jann), who was able to destroy the next tank from behind.

Under the cover of a fresh smoke bomb, the main force reached the final camp in only a few turns, and it only took a couple more to kill the enemies there (including two tanks) and claim the camp, completing the mission in six turns.  Refreshingly, I was able to kill every enemy and tank on the level (apart from the unkillable guns) and still achieve rank A, earning 56,510 EXP, 106,790 DCT, one new royal scout rifle, two royal sniper rifles and two new lances.

The post mission cutscene is where the SPOILERS kick in, so if you don’t want to have a major event revealed to you then stop reading.

The cutscene has Rosie finally plucking up the courage to make amends with Isara, and she says she owes her something for the gift.  Isara says she would like to hear Rosie sing (she used to be a bar singer), and then… a shot rings out and Isara is hit.  Enemies attack, while Rosie tends to Isara, who comments on how they’re finally friends.  The rest of the squad manages to drive the enemy off and gathers around Isara.  She apologises to Welkin for not being able to make his dream of flying a reality, and then she dies.  It’s a powerful moment that, as I cynically pointed out the other day, also doesn’t rob the player of any actual controllable characters.

The chapter ends with Isara being buried in what looks like the cemetery of the capital city, with the grave mentioning that she was only sixteen*.  Rosie honours Isara’s request to give her a song, clutching the doll Isara gave her.  While she sings the game goes through a montage of Isara’s earlier cutscenes.

*While not strictly a jRPG, the game does subscribe to some of the same conventions.  As mentioned before, the cutscenes are numerous and lengthy, and most of the characters are young (though maybe not quite as young as a lot of jRPGs).  Welkin, leader of Squad 7, is 22 while the leader of Squad 1, Faldio, is 23.  Alicia is sergeant and 19, while Isara is the tank pilot at 16, and corporal Rosie is 27.  The two veterans of the militia, sergeant Largo and captain Varrot, are 36 and 35, meaning they were both young in the first Europan War.  The two main R&D people (at least the ones that deal with you) are Kreis and Leon, who are both 20.  General Damon, who controls the main part of the Gallian army, is much older at 54, but is presented as a blustering, incompetent fool.

Generally the higher ages are only found among the villains.  Maximillian, leader of the Empire, is 29, while his two major generals, Jaeger and Gregor, and 36 and 45.  Selvaria is the exception at 22.  The Federation Ambassador who kidnapped the princess (who is young and inexperienced at 16) is 45, while Gallia’s Prime Minister, Bolt, is an evil 68.

For Gallia this is at least slightly justified by the nation both having mandatory military training in school and a policy of universal conscription in times of crisis, as well as all the characters being one squad in the militia instead of being at the head of the actual army.

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The EXP earned from the battle was enough to bump the scouts, lancers and engineers up to elite status.  The scouts get rifle grenades (which among the enemy troops acted like personal mortars), while the lancers and engineers didn’t get any specific upgrades, which was a little disappointing.

The next chapter suggests we’re heading back to Bruhl, the town where the story began (and where Isara, Alicia and Welkin are all from).  The first cutscene begins with Varrot enquiring about morale, to which Welkin says everybody is still shaken.  Varrot reveals she specifically requested the next mission for the militia, and it is indeed the liberation of Bruhl.  Faldio comes in to mention he’s taken a leave of absence, and I don’t know what that’s about.

Varrot introduces the new tank pilot (ie. Isara’s replacement) and it’s Kreis, one of the two mechanics from the research lab.  That actually answers something I’d been wondering, which was why exactly the research lab had two mechanics.  You’re introduced to both Kreis and Leon, but Leon always handles pretty much all of the research conversations.  It’s now clear that it was because they needed to have somewhere for a new mechanic to come from when Isara died.

The next (optional) cutscene goes back to the Imperial briefing room.  Selvaria talks about their recent losses, both in the numbers of units and General Gregor in particular.  General Jaeger asks Maximillian what they plan to do next.  Maximillian points out that the actual invasion went well and they essentially rolled over Gallian resistance, and it’s only after they reduced their presence down to an occupying force that Gallia was able to regain lost ground.  He orders Selvaria to gather his forces and prepare for a full assault.

Jaeger looks forward to victory, reiterating that with Imperial victory comes independence for Jaeger’s home nation (promised by Maximillian).  Compared to the other enemy leaders he’s been consistently the least evil or maniacal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns against the Empire at some point (probably after the independence is denied him).

The next cutscene has Squad 7 back in Bruhl, with Welkin also commenting that it was “where it all started”, five months ago.  He tells Alicia what Varrot said about specifically requesting the mission, adding that she wants to remind them why they’re fighting.  He finishes by saying it’s time to take back Isara’s home.

The final cutscene before battle (an optional one) has Faldio back at the Valkyrian building in the desert (where they first met Selvaria and saw the extent of her power, and also the location of the mission I didn’t like).  Faldio’s on his own but talking as if somebody else is there, but I think that’s more to keep the player informed than because he’s crazy.  He mentions he can’t open the door they went through before (suggesting either Alicia is special enough to open it, or that Selvaria sealed it).

Faldio actually then thinks along the same lines, realising that the door only opens for Valkyrur, but it was Alicia who opened it.  It doesn’t really seem like he wouldn’t have thought of it in the weeks since that mission, but it finally occurs to him: Alicia must be a Valkyrur.  I actually speculated along those lines back in an earlier post:

The lead-in to this mission has Welkin, Alicia and Faldio exploring the same ruins that Maximilian and Selvaria are in, with Alicia being the one who manages to unlock a secret door to a new part of the ruins.  I don’t know (and please don’t tell me) if this is just supposed to be about Alicia accidentally making a discovery that the historians and archaeologists did not, or if it’s setting her up as a descendent of the Valkyrur (or at least somebody compatible with their technology).

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Then the Bruhl mission begins.  It takes place in a similar location to the original Bruhl mission, the town square, but this time different sections are accessible.  The briefing says that Imperial forces are pretty heavily entrenched, with snipers hidden amongst the buildings.  It’s essentially a long, narrow level, with Squad 7 starting at the bottom and needing to claim the camp at the top.

Right from the start it’s possible to see five snipers (including one ace one) as well as anti tank cannons and other units.  Not knowing what surprises might lay ahead, all I could do was push forward in the first turn and see what happened, advancing steadily and killing any enemies I was able to.  The narrow level gives the enemy a huge line of sight, so most of their first turn was spent firing from far away (across distances that I’d never have a chance of hitting from).  They only target two units though: their tank and anti-tank cannons focused on the Edelweiss, while the snipers for some reason targeted Largo, despite him being in cover at the opposite end of the map (so they did little damage).

The next turn was another push forward.  The advantage of the level being dominated by snipers and anti-tank cannons is that neither are able to shoot back on their turn (as opposed to scouts, shocktroopers and tank machine guns, that fire at you when you move).  Essentially you can move about freely as long as take care to position yourself properly at the end of the movement.  Putting people in cover or hiding behind a tank ensures they’re safe from snipers, while a tank at full health is relatively safe from anti-tank shots.

The key phrase there though is “tank at full health”.  I ended my second turn with the Edelweiss at 1,861 health out of 2,500, and the anti-tank cannons were able to destroy it on the enemy’s next turn.  Being in the habit of saving regularly now I was able to load back to just before I ended the turn, but I only had one CP left and that wasn’t enough to get my engineer up to fully repair the Edelweiss, meaning I had to either load in a previous save (from only one turn back), or hope that the tank survived the onslaught on subsequent attempts.

Two replays made it clear that the cannons will always do enough damage to destroy the weakened Edelweiss, but I was able to bring Rosie up close enough to destroy one of the anti-tank cannons.  It left her a bit more exposed to snipers than I would have liked, but it meant the Edelweiss would hopefully be able to survive.  Unfortunately, this also didn’t help.  Instead of firing each cannon once, the enemy were sensible enough to just use the one remaining cannon twice, again destroying the Edelweiss.

On one final reload though things actually went in my favour, purely because of some bad luck for the enemy.  The anti-tank cannon’s second shot missed, hitting some obstacles near the cannon instead of the tank.  That was all it took and I was able to push forward on my next turn, killed every remaining enemy on the level and took the base camp, winning the mission.  3 turns, B Rank, 54,050 EXP and 97,650 DCT, as well as three royal scout rifles and one royal sniper rifle from the princess.

That obviously means that to get an A rank means doing it in no more than two turns.  That’s going to mean taking risks, skipping enemies, and generally doing a much less thorough job, which is essentially everything I don’t like about the A rank in the game.

With that in mind, I stopped for the day.

Image Sources:

All images: IGN

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