Unintentionally, September has become a kind of hack and slash warm-up. The combo returned to my gaming sessions with Soulstice and, just a few days later, he has returned with Valkyrie Elysium. An enjoyable title, which starts from a traditional saga (Valkyrie Profile), and which took a long time to articulate its return, especially if we take into account the current popularity of Norse mythology, which stars in more audiovisual stories than some of us are willing to consume Perhaps for this reason, and because of the lack of success of its presentation, I did not approach the new Soleil and Square-Enix with too much enthusiasm. Good strategy, some would say, alluding to low expectations and a cautious profile. And they may be right, because against all odds, While pasting, I had more fun than expected with Valkyrie Elysium. Unfortunately, the rest of the proposal is so bland and recurrent, it shows such a lack of personality, that it makes an event as juicy as Ragnarok worldly.
The balance of tone
The worst thing that can happen to an action video game is that a mediocre narration tries to overcome the discourse of its mechanics. I can think of great examples of titles that articulate their proposal around the frenetism of the action, and that correctly displace the classic exposition of the narrative. What the stories tell Doom, Bayonetta or even Star Fox 64, is less important than what their game systems narrate. The conversation around these titles revolves around figures, medals, combos, synergies and perfect games, not around the background of the worlds that create their fictions. Therefore, these games are correct in not taking the motivations that justify their action too seriously. They embrace hyperbole, gore, humor, and even ridicule as tools through which to mitigate the tension of each phase.. That balancing act allows them not to take themselves seriously. The player goes through his proposal focusing on what is really important, and the work goes to the dramatic load in specific moments that, ultimately, serve to elevate our game, to extol our journey, accompanying the playable milestones of our game, those moments in which, as players, we expose everything we have learned.
Valkyrie Elysium is quite the opposite, from minute one it embraces an epic imposition that has not managed to elevate me at any time. His exposition, in addition to being flat, becomes even clumsy. This is something that is glimpsed from the very tutorial; one of the unluckiest I’ve seen in years. In it, practically the entire combat system is thrown in our face, even exposing mechanics and abilities that will take several hours to unlock. The game exposes the nightmare of any Metroid director, the justification for the loss of Samus’s powers, awkwardly and gratuitously. It was enough to reduce its extensive tutorial, especially when everything that is explained in it is explained again when obtaining the aforementioned skills.
But this is just a sample of the narrative clumsiness incurred by a game in which the threat of Ragnarok needs to be verbalized before each phase so that the player remembers that this event is taking place. His visual universe does not go beyond the classic medieval ruins passed through the filter of the Japanese vision; Although it is true that, as a franchise, a certain aesthetic heritage must be fulfilled here, a little more artistic imagination is missing. The exposition of the story, for its part, manages to subtract interest from something as juicy as the end of days that Odin intends to avoid. He, in person, from his comfortable throne and with his disdain, will be in charge of repeating to us over and over again, that our mission is to save the world, and that he cannot do it because he is seriously injured. Our Valkyrie, wrapped in an intense character attitude that seems to be in fashion, will repeat this mantra ad nauseam, while we smell each of the script twists that the plot raises from minute one.
To complement this exposition and give its universe a deep background (because everything must have a deep background), the game uses the Flowers Examsa kind of collectible that, after a tedious animation that stops the action and makes movement impossible, will present us with short and unsuccessful texts that rarely have something interesting to say.
A fun match with interesting ideas
Luckily, one of the things we’ll do the most in Valkyrie Elysium is fight, and that’s where things get a lot more interesting. The game has been promoted, correctly in my opinion, as an action RPG. It is true that its structure in phases and its scoring system point to hack and slash, but its combat system, in terms of combo, is far from the complexity of the genre. However, that does not mean that it does not offer interesting things. In fact, in the hybridization lie, in my opinion, its greatest virtues. Elysium’s combat is formed by the sum of several systems: close combat, sorcery and summoning. Each one of them has its corresponding meter in the HUB, so we must pay attention to both the life bar, as well as the invocation bar and the sorcery bar. From the outset, combos are presented as simple button combinations that don’t require too much precision. The actions cannot be interrupted, and their possible combinations could be qualified as limited. The girl, the interesting thing, is in how those combos combine with casting spells and summoning the Eínheriar; warrior spirits that will fight by our side.
All this gibberish is based on a system of classic elemental weaknesses that is used a lot. Each enemy has a clearly identifiable weakness, and each weapon (we can equip two), spell (we can equip up to four) and Eínheriar (we can equip four, but we can only summon two) has a certain element. On the other hand, the classic health bar of the enemies is accompanied by a bar of elemental resistance. In combat, we can choose to drain their health or break their elemental resistance bar until they are stunned. The latter is especially relevant considering the number of enemies that we will have on the screen, and the chaos that can be generated. For this, the synergies between the three systems we are talking about must be taken into account. When summoning an Einherjar, for example, spells that match their element will gain potency, as will physical hits made with weapons of the same element. This, together with the large number of enemy combinations that we can face, generates a variety of most interesting situationsgiving depth to combat in a different way than the classic combo.
To deal with the frenzy I’m talking about, Soleil has seen fit to equip the Valkyria with a hook that allows us to plant ourselves in front of the rivals in a seen and not seen, increasing the mobility and the dynamism of the confrontations. The end result is a salad of crackles, spells, enemies and summons that will delight anyone who likes to manage the chaos of combat. Unfortunately, while I have found satisfaction in ordering the anarchy of each matchup, I have also been frustrated with the inability to cancel combos quickly, as well as with a dash and a parri that could be better adjusted.
An archaic wrapper for a solid core
In this way, between enjoyable combats, and nondescript exhibitions (for almost 20 hours), Valkyrie Elysium has taken me through different phases in which it shows its most archaic. In addition to finding the Flowers Exámines, I have encountered archetypal side quests, participated in various “P’aqui p’alla” unjustified to get each of the souls that we can invoke, and I have even witnessed (with some astonishment) how the title resorts to that of presenting a closed door that requires a key, with a chest right next to it that contains (oh! , surprise!) the necessary key.
But the truth is that either because of the brightness of the best moments of their combat, because of the accumulation of audiovisual stimuli that they propose or because of the success of their rhythm, Valkyrie Elysium he has managed to make some of his clumsier design decisions seem like mere acts of innocence, reducing their negative impact on the final set. Still, I can’t help but think that he would have benefited from not searching so hard for that epic imposture to which his every dialogue and sequence draws, that he would have been better off loosening his Nordic armor a bit, and embracing a more relaxed and playful tone. Luckily, honoring its protagonist, the game works with combat, and that’s enough to offer a fun and moderately effective proposal. We leave Ragnarok for another occasion.