Twenty-three years after the release of the original title, the Valkyrie series returns with an episode that takes a turn towards action role-playing. A more modern approach therefore, with a new studio called Soleil at the head of the project. What sign a triumphant return for one of Square’s iconic sagas at the time of the PlayStation?
- An agreed scenario after Ragnarök
- A successful gameplay for pleasant combos
- A technically dated linear adventure
Announced during a State of Play in March this year, Valkyrie Elysium is one of the (very) many Square Enix titles to be released at the end of the year. But between the remasters/remakes of major licenses (Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion, Tactics Ogre: Reborn), new IPs (The DioField Chronicle, Harvestella) and spin-offs (Dragon Quest Treasures), we must not forget the return of franchises that hadn’t been talked about for a while. If we should discover the next episode of Star Ocean, The Divine Force in October, it is another game originally created by Tri-Ace that will interest us today.
More than twenty years after the release of Valkyrie Profile, the saga is back with Valkyrie Elysium, an action role-playing game developed by Soleil, a studio known for productions like Ninjala or Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker. By its nature of Action-RPG and its AA budget, between the small project and the AAA blockbuster, the title recalls the experiment carried out by Square Enix with NieR Automata which had the same characteristics and which turned out to be one of the biggest successes of the publisher, to the point of making NieR a strong license alongside Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest or Kingdom Hearts. So, bet again successful for Square? Not sure.
An agreed scenario after Ragnarök
As its name suggests, Valkyrie Elysium puts us in the shoes of a valkyrie, a warrior from Norse mythology who works in the service of Odin, the Father of all and central figure of this pantheon. During Ragnarök, the end of the world, the latter faced Fenrir, a giant wolf presented here as an evil deity, which left them both at the gates of death. So in bad shape, Odin decides to summon a valkyrie to purify the souls of Midgard, the name given to Earth, and thus save the world. In her quest, our heroine will meet Einherjar, brave deceased warriors chosen to accompany the Valkyrie, but also characters who will question the nature of her mission.
If you’ve ever played an episode of Valkyrie Profile or know a little about Norse mythology, the beginnings of this plot may seem familiar to you, and unfortunately, the continuation of the adventure is no more surprising. The story of Valkyrie Elysium is indeed quite simple and stitched with white threads, which is to say that the few twists it contains are quite predictable and we see them largely coming in advance.. Beyond that, the concern is that the scenario really occupies a secondary place in the gaming experience since the sequence is always the same, namely Odin who asks us to go to such a place to purify souls or recover objects. Nothing very thrilling then.
Fortunately, the story settles a little towards its denouement and, as in the previous episodes, we are entitled to several endings which allow access to different conclusions. Despite this, the adventure remains quite short overall since in a straight line, you will only need about ten hours of play to see the end of it. To prolong the experience, you can always try to collect all the blue flowers of each level that contain memories or even do the quests for the souls that wander around. Again, fairly basic ancillary content.
A successful gameplay for pleasant combos
If the story is not the most thrilling part of Valkyrie Elysium, it is especially in its fights that the title shines. In terms of gameplay, we find very classic with a normal attack, a strong attack, a dodge, a parry, but above all a grappling hook, which is called here soul chaining and which allows you to get closer to a enemy both on the ground and in the air to hit him. From its solid foundations, the title offers different combos by mixing the two types of blows at our disposal, but also depending on the situation. Thus, by progressing in the skill tree or by improving a weapon, you unlock new techniques that are triggered after one or two dodges or jumps, after a parry, etc. All of this together gives our Valkyrie a wide range of movements that allows for various combosespecially when we add to that the different weapons at our disposal (sword, rapier, spear…) which have their own sequences.
The qualities of Valkyrie Elysium’s combat system don’t stop there, because beyond her weapons, the Valkyrie can also count on different types of spells to defeat her opponents. In addition to the damage they produce, magic is especially important to exploit the elemental vulnerabilities of enemies which allow them to be immobilized to defeat them more easily. Without resorting to spells, our heroine can also call on her Einherjar to fight alongside her and imbue her sword with the element they are affiliated with. A good way to save the gauge of art which is used for magic while that of soul is used for invocations. Thus, to exploit the elemental vulnerability of enemies, we alternate between our different spells and Einherjar, but also between the many weapons at our disposal because some monsters are more sensitive to them than others.
A grappling hook, a dodge, a parry, several sequences, new movements that unlock as you progress, different spells, weapons and other Einherjar… with all that, the gameplay of Valkyrie Elysium is therefore particularly rich thanks to the many possible combos and that is where it is its greatest strength and its first quality. Something to remember Platinum Games games like NieR Automata, to name just one, even if the Valkyrie is slower and less agile than what the productions of the studio behind Bayonetta offer. Despite everything, the fights are not always fully satisfactory because of the camera which struggles to make the action readable in certain situations. This is particularly the case in narrow spaces or filled with trees since the latter tends to block and therefore masks the fighting, sometimes even causing deaths.
A technically dated linear adventure
If Valkyrie Elysium shines with its fights, unfortunately we cannot praise the same qualities for the structure of its adventure. As said before, we are therefore content to go to places dictated by Odin to recover souls and objects. Once the first chapters passed, we quickly realize that the levels are empty and that we progress in a linear way by going from an arena filled with monsters to another. Quickly, this structure becomes repetitive and the courses are then a simple sequence of confrontations. Certainly, it is possible to explore a little bit, just to get out of the route wanted by the developers to go and retrieve a chest for example, but nothing transcendent either. In addition, there is nothing to do there, because apart from enemies, you don’t meet anyone and there is no other side activity. Towards the end of the game, the fights become more and more frequent and the feeling of repetitiveness is all the greater as the bestiary is not renewed too much either, with only variations of monsters already seen before.
Where the beat also hurts is with regard to technique. As for the graphics, the title runs thanks to the Unreal Engine, an engine commonly used in the video game industry which here offers a clean rendering on PS5 and which gives a charm to certain environments such as the forest for example. However, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the levels are relatively empty, in particular because of the lack of life as mentioned above. However, the title benefits from an inked effect on the contours of the elements of the decor, which still gives a visual identity to the whole. And then, we must recognize that we find a certain elegant aesthetic in the game, especially when we look at the design of its characters, in particular the Valkyrie and Hilde, but also the Valhalla, Odin’s palace which serves as a hub, which exudes a special aura.
If from a visual point of view the title is doing well, it is at the technical level that we can have some criticisms. Thereby, it is not uncommon to be entitled to slowdowns during combat due to the number of enemies and effects displayed on the screen, even on PS5. And seen, there are also small flaws that can be forgiven because of the game’s AA budget, such as lip synchronization which does not always work, at least in Japanese, or even sometimes frozen facial animations. For all these reasons, the aesthetics of the title are reminiscent at times of games from the PS3 era, including Square Enix productions like Drakengard 3, although its overall visual aspect is obviously much more beautiful than the latter.
- A gameplay rich in possibilities and satisfying
- Many tools to vary the combos
- A nice sober and elegant aesthetic
- Multiple different endings to unlock
- Technically dated with some slowdowns on PS5
- Empty levels with an overly repetitive structure
- A basic story sewn with white thread
- A camera that struggles to make the action readable
It’s not NieR Automata who wants it and that’s what Valkyrie Elysium reminds us. Inspired by Platinum Games, the Soleil studio delivers solid gameplay that offers a wide variety of combat approaches and sequences, even if they are sometimes messy. But beyond that, this new episode of the Valkyrie saga suffers from basic and repetitive levels, a technique that is far from flawless, as well as a scenario that is far too conventional to make the experience essential. Now it’s up to you to see if you are able to turn a blind eye to these flaws to take advantage of a solid combat system.
Give your opinion on the game!