Sunday, 11 June 2017

Dark Rose Valkyrie review

A rose, by any other name...

I'm going to start this review using a some what clunky simile. Dark rose Valkyrie is like a cool substitute teacher, they seem down with the kids as they casually swear, do interesting experiments involving fire and let the class take the lesson outside in the sun...but then the time comes to do the exams at the end of the year and it dawns on you that you don't understand a single thing that's being asked and then you gentle weep as you try and muddle your way though it all. What I ultimately mean is that DRV has some good stuff within in it, including plenty of enjoyable visual novel aspects and a fun combat system...but it's bogged down by poor explanations of in game mechanics, far too many different and useless systems within the combat system and deeply muddled menus....there's a fun game in there, but you'll really have to dig through the undergrowth to find it.

So what is DRV all about I hear you bellow at the top of your lungs...well you take on the role of the games main protagonist Asahi Shiramine who has just been assigned as the new captain of the Valkyrie force, a team put together to fight animals and humans that have mutated into chimeras due to an epidemic called the chimera virus which serves as the main threat within the game. Inevitably each member of your team of 8 have their own issues and personality problems including missing relatives, dangerous mentors and belonging to powerful families among others and as the plot starts to reveal itself more you'll undoubtedly end up have you're own team members that you grow attached to more than others. It's a likable story that slowly picks up in complexity but the characters themselves are highly stereotypical with the shy girl who's afraid of men, the girl from a rich family who doesn't know how the real world works and the stern stoic character who has a soft feminine side hidden away...if you've watched anime you've seen it before.

When it comes to actual gameplay you'll spend a majority of your time completing a (literal) check list of missions with the occasional storyline mission to mix things up. These missions are basic to say the least and usually consist of simply defeating one, or many enemies, the only real variety comes from occasionally having to wait till night...yep theres a day and night cycle which is frankly a bit pointless...the only change being that night enemies are a little tougher. DRV also does a poor job of informing you of what the mission expects you to do and where which is an example of the games main reoccurring issue.

When it comes to actually going toe to teeth with the chimera things start to improve as the battle system is by far the most enjoyable aspect of DRV. To the left of the battle screen is a time bar with both enemies and allies ascending along it. When a character reaches the mid-point they can pick an action, and naturally actions have different waiting times depending on your choice. But the characters basic attack has three various levels of combos each taking a different amount of time to kick in. This system allows simultaneous attacks and with some planning you can have all four members of your front line attacking at the same time. Whats more the chimera have both a health and guard bar, if they get regularly attacked without any breathing space the guard bar is reduced to nothing and each character can dish out an extra attack. Whats more there's both a front line and rear guard, you'll only give commands to your front line but occasionally the rear guard will jump in and attack as well (usually if you've depleted the guard bar) and things don't finish'll also sometimes the option to get your rear guard to barrage the enemies with gunfire. When you manage to get your attacks flowing and bombard your opponents with all these variations is when the game is at its finest.

However this level of complexity to the basic attack option also extends to all other aspects of the combat system and pretty much all these other options don't really work that well. The magic system is very convoluted as there's 5 options, fight...which seems to be actual magic attacks, shot, which is a bunch of gun attacks that barely seem different from the basic attack combos, range, which you can only use if you've added attachments (more on that mess soon), support which is useful and under developed and co-op which are DRV's ultimate attacks...sort of. You can also pick ignition, another separate option which powers up your character...and once you're character is in this state you can then choose overdrive and then.....okay...okay lets slow down. See this is DRV's biggest issue, layers of complexity that don't add anything and that are explained so poorly you won't really understand how to use them or if they're any better than other options.

This issue also extends to your home base and the choices available within. Theres a treatment room that helps reduce fatigue...not health...fatigue, an additional statistic that doesn't need to exist, theres a reference room where you can use medals for a variety of items, many of which don't make themselves clear as to there purpose or usefulness, there's a development room which is fancy talk for a shop, you can buy stuff, sell stuff, remodel (aka upgrade your weapon), strength your uniform (...armour upgrade....why it doesn't just say that I don't know) and so on. Even buying items is complex...for example here's the list of categories of item you can choose from.

Usable items - basic items such as health potions

Valkyrie - Weapons

Valkyrie options - Erm, I think these are attachments for your weapon

Remodelling parts - Wait no, maybe these are attachments for your weapon

Protector - I'd assume these are armour, except that strengthening your uniform also seems to be armour...

Attachment - Wait are these attachments...oh wait no accessories that help with status based attacks

Materials - Urgh...stuff to upgrade with I guess

Key item - Well at least these are obvious...

See it's just far too much...and what each of these items do to aid you is often poorly's actually a chore to tell if they improve the stats of the character you want to hand the item to.

It really is a shame to be it's very best DRV has wonderfully flowing combat, the story and its visual novel elements are also enjoyable but alas there's even a mis-step here as once you get a little way into the plot a new mechanic is added that causes a member of your team to betray you in some fashion...this is dealt with via interrogating your team with a VERY limited number of questions and then concluding who betrayed you. This is a great idea let down by being very hard as the traitor is randomised so you often have to outright guess where to start with your first few questions...being kinder with the question limits (or not having a limit at all) would have made this mechanic a fantastic addition. It's also worth noting the visuals are...well basic at best. This looks like a Vita game so don't expect anything to treat your eyes with (although for the record it's not available on Vita which is a shame).

So, Dark Rose Valkyrie is a game with bags of promise and some very neat ideas. At it's best the combat flows brilliantly and the plot does a good job of pulling you in, but it's let down by lots of unnecessary levels of complexity that are poorly explain to the player. There is a very fun game in here and if you are a fan Japanese style RPG's then you will get enjoyment out of the package, I personally did...but it really is a chore to dig that fun out.

Time for the cleanup

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