Valkyrie ElysiumSeptember 29th, 2022
PlatformPlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC (November 11th)
Save for a brief two-year run of Valkyrie Anatomia: The Origin on mobile devices, tri-Ace's tale of Norse mythology and gods hadn't seen a proper new entry in the greater part of a decade and a half since Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume launched on Nintendo's first dual-screened handheld. While the first two Valkyrie Profile titles dabbled with real-time aspects to combat, the series has largely still had a turn-based combat system lying underneath. Under the development of Japanese developer Soleil, Valkyrie Elysium marks the first time the series has been treated as a proper action RPG through and through, much as SEGA experimented with Media.Vision to realize Valkyria Revolution.
Valkyrie Elysium takes place in a world where the inevitable has already occurred. Whereas prior Valkyrie Profile titles were centered around recruiting Einherjar to stave off the end of the world, in Valkyrie Elysium, the end of days is already upon them. Gone are the humans who would pledge their loyalty to the gods. In their stead are undead left roaming the landscape and lingering memories from the recently departed in the form of ephemeral flowers.
Save for the All-Father himself, the Valkyrie Hilde, and a young boy named Armand, everyone else has either been taken away in Ragnarok or left to wander the landscape as an undead. While no Frost Giants are wandering the landscape in Valkyrie Elysium, there are a great number of undead beasts and humanoids to dispatch. Purifying those enemy souls serves to feed Odin’s power so that he might stand a chance in the second bout of mortal combat against the wolf Fenrir. That first match takes place during the open narrative to Valkyrie Elysium, with both Odin and Fenrir dealing each other blows that would’ve easily slain a lesser god.
As the Valkyrie previously known as Maria, the player’s task is to both purify the undead roaming Midgard but also to collect four sacred treasures that serve to give the All-Father a better chance against Fenrir once more. The main flow to Valkyrie Elysium is broken up into individual chapters, nine in total, with a variety of side quests and training missions that fill out the quest list available during brief respites back in Odin’s domain.
Within each of Valkyrie Elysium’s nine-story missions are a collection of flowers to collect of the Verdant and Hollow varieties. While the latter flesh out the histories of the deceased Midgard residents, it’s the former that impact how Valkyrie Elysium’s final chapter plays out. Depending on whether Maria collects all nine Verdant Flowers and has a final chat with Armand before departing to slay Fenrir affects which of the four endings players will see through until the conclusion in Valkyrie Elysium. Thankfully, players won’t have to live with the singular choice they’ve made; reloading a finished save file brings players back to before beginning chapter 9 and gathering that final Verdant Blossom. Gone are the cryptic Seal levels of the original Valkyrie Profile or trying to decipher what would otherwise lead to a true ending.
With so many changes streamlining Valkyrie Elysium into an action RPG, it’s clearly evident where corners were cut and concessions had to be made in other to create an RPG experience that can easily be cleared in twenty, if not fifteen, hours from beginning to end. The dozens of einherjar that typically accompany a Valkyrie into Valhalla from prior works are limited to just four that join Maria’s cause in this game. Valkyrie Maria has many more weapon types at her disposal, but these all ultimately have a similar combo flow and identical stats once fully developed that it’s difficult to recommend a single weapon type over another unless you really like the combo finishers of a given weapon. Likewise, the oversimplification extends to the mission and side quest structure as well. There isn’t a single mission to Valkyrie Elysium that offers more challenge than either killing a large wave of foes or a single boss encounter instead. Night every side quest plays out the save, although there will be some missions where quest areas are run through in reverse in an attempt to mix up and keep players from getting bored of running the same ten levels over and over again. Einherjar puzzles can be found infrequently throughout the levels and offer little more than the challenge of locking on and choosing the right einherjar for the job (such as burning away dried foliage as Taika or freezing a water spout to create a bridge with Cypher). Much of the intrigue that filled the prior three Valkyrie Profile titles and made the world feel alive is instead limited to static dialogues left behind across dozens of Hollow Blossoms.
Just as I praised Valkyrie Elysium’s combat during last month’s preview, the same holds true, especially with a full roster of Einherjar accompanying the Valkyrie. Being able to freely swap between two equipped weapons and unleash a flurry of combos feels great in Valkyrie Elysium’s action RPG combat and there’s little reason to ever go more than a second or two without attacking an enemy. The Einherjar that were merely teased during the preview’s tutorial mission serves to augment Maria’s combat potential, both through attacking on their own and also increasing the effectiveness of arts matching their element.
Early on in Valkyrie Elysium, Einherjar must manually be selected through a button combination to summon them briefly to the field by consuming soul points to bring the Einherjar for a predetermined amount of time (I typically stuck 15-second intervals throughout most of my playthrough as Einherjar gain a permanent stat boost each time they’re summoned, up to a predetermined limit). As Maria unlocks more skills, she can also acquire passive slots that allow a specific Einherjar to be brought to the field under specific combat conditions, such as finishing a standard combo or being overwhelmed by enemies. Juggling the uptimes of each Einherjar never felt like much of a chore and instead felt like an extension of Maria’s combos, especially when wanting to bring Eygon out to bolster a lightning bolt or two.
Maria rarely has time to stand still and consider her actions without dishing out some of her own. The Soul Chain ability that allows Maria to tether onto an enemy and pull herself in closer will perhaps be the most often used ability in her whole skillset and used to great effect to both clear the distance and keep a high combo count. Perfectly timed blocks and dodges similarly give the Valkyrie some additional perks and increase her damage output, leading to faster and flashier fights.
Take the combat away from Valkand you’re left with a simple, linear action RPG when it comes to Valkyrie Elysium. Had the combat not been enjoyable for my twenty-hour playthrough, I would be left with even more scathing thoughts about this mediocre experience. Perhaps it’s being attached to the Valkyrie Profile series by name alone (and Motoi Sakuraba soundtrack) that lead to higher expectations that Soleil simply couldn’t match this time around. While it certainly isn’t among the worst action RPGs out there for PlayStation, Valkyrie Elysium comes and goes without leaving much impact or memories whatsoever. At least there’s still the promise of replaying Valkyrie Profile Lenneth once more when the recently delayed PlayStation 4 port is released as part of Valkyrie Elysium’s deluxe edition.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 (code provided by the publisher).
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A fast-paced combat system and operatic soundtrack from Motoi Sakuraba aren't enough to save Valkyrie Elysium from a fate worse than Ragnarok: mediocrity
- Soundtrack serves well as a send off to the end of the world
- Multiple ending paths that don't lock the player into one per playthrough
- Einherjar summons, Soul chains, and weapon switching all keep the combat from feeling stale and basic
- Completing side quests and Einherjar loyalty missions rewards Maria with new skills or summon attacks
- Nothing is missable
- Exactly enough skill points to purchase and equip every single skill at once
- Repetitive mission design
- Simplified everywhere outside of combat
- Rather unremarkable storytelling compared to prior Valkyrie titles
- Customization is limited at best
- Difficulty playthroughs don't stack and no new game plus, requiring two complete playthroughs
- Leveling reduced to merely enhancing weapons or unlocking skills
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