You cannot sit there and deny that this year is the year of JRPGs. Call it a renaissance or a resurgence but the fact is it is a prosperous time to enjoy the genre. Between revivals, remakes, and number entries, something should grab your attention. In this case, we’re talking Valkyrie Elysium, a follow-up to Valkyrie Profile — a cult series that was born on the original PlayStation. In the years that followed, we saw one sequel launch on the PlayStation 2 in the form of Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria and a prequel on the Nintendo DS, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume.
The series returns after nearly two decades away on console and once again, the world is ready to fall into Ragnarök and you’re the only one who can prevent it from happening. After the All-Father Odin is injured in battle against Fenrir, he summons a Valkyrie to assist him in purifying the lost souls suffering due to this war. While it isn’t an exact copy of the previous Valkyrie titles, the story will feel familiar to anyone with experience playing this series.
To My Side My Noble Einherjar
Developer Soleil does its best to deliver a worthwhile Valkyrie sequel but you can tell there is a strict and limited budget that prevents Elysium from being a truly outstanding game. In no way is it a bad experience, but the best way I can describe it to you is that it resembles something you’d play way back on PlayStation 2. There are some great ideas present, but the lack of budget thwarts any chance of this being magical.
The plot takes a backseat in ValkyrieElysium and largely because of the major runtime you’re focused on fighting monsters over and over. Your Valkyrie is one note and honestly, it’s a shame the character has little material to pull from given Norse mythology has a well of lore to pull from. The plot is also unsurprisingly predictable with a lot of the plot being spelt out for players in the earliest hours. If you think Odin is good then you’ve sorely missed the writing on the walls. Sure, there are notes of an almost interesting villain but between the Valkyrie and Einherjar, the experience is rather standard.
Speaking of the Einherjar, the vast majority of your playthrough is spent as the Valkyrie recruiting the Einherjar. Your ability to summon them at the cost of Soul Gage allows them the freedom to engage in combat before vanishing. This is a mechanic the series has had from the beginning and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed as it allows you to add a level of strategy to battles. Once a teammate vanishes then you’re free to summon them once again and even extend their time by tweaking the Soul Gauge’s consumption level.
Of course, the combat has changed to accommodate modern tastes. Separating itself from its predecessors, the series is now an action RPG. Players control Valkyrie and battle enemies in real-time whilst summoning upward of four Einherjar to assist in battle. I’m a bit saddened the classic turn-based system has been shunned in lieu of something a bit more fast-paced but it works here and it serves the purpose the developers intended by evolving the combat system. In previous entries, a press of the face button would activate the assigned character to deliver an attack. In Elysium, holding R1 and tapping the corresponding face button summons the assigned Einherjar.
My favourite interactions throughout my playthrough were those of Valkyrie and the Einherjar. The four spirits you’ll encounter on your way to prevent Ragnarök are personable with each one establishing a relationship with the protagonist and helping her open up. Valkyrie is one-note for a large portion of the game because she’s so set on helping Odin that there are no other goals in her mind. Without the Einherjar being involved, Valkyrie Elysium would have been even less colourful.
Valkyrie Elysium has the makings of a great game but falters
Of course, it isn’t an action RPG without skill trees and you have three of them to focus on in ValkyrieElysium. Split between Attack, Defense, and Support skill trees, Valkyrie has the choice to become stronger, boost magic, learn counters, and increase stats by spending various gems. If you want to focus on combat, unlock the ability to auto-summon support alongside other boosts.
Furthermore, Valkyrie can swap between two weapons on a whim and use magic to boot. To say this system is cutting-edge is dishonest — instead, I’ll call it serviceable. The thing with ValkyrieElysium is that the combat mechanics may not be deep but they are fun and I did have a lot of fun fighting enemies across the nine chapters. When you summon Einherjar to assist you in battle, each one comes with its own element. That’s where you’ll need to ensure the corresponding summons is brought in to help in such cases as using Cypher to take on fire enemies and Taika to battle ice enemies and so forth.
A new inclusion for the Valkyrie series comes as the Soul Chain mechanic. In battle, this lets your Valkyrie maneuver the battlefield by latching onto enemies and ensuring your combo doesn’t dwindle. In a lot of scenarios, the mechanic is rewarding and fun to use, but it later turns into routine, feeling like you’re going through the same motions over and over.
I don’t think Valkyrie Elysium is a bad game by any stretch. It has the makings of a great game but falters in execution and clearly a budget. Combat is my saving grace throughout my playthrough and while it isn’t deep, it is flashy and fun but it lacks any real way to experiment against enemies. By credits roll, I found the combat to be my favourite thing about the gameplay and would love to see the system fleshed out in a sequel.
Valkyrie Elysium has a lot of potential but it is stunted by budget constraints making this revival a bit harder to accept. Understandably the series is not as popular as Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy but the makings of something incredible are there — it just needs the support to get where it should be. Combat is fun but not compelling to be deep in the vein of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry but it is elevated enough to warrant a playthrough or two to see the handful of endings the series usually offers.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]