Can the fairer sex protect the world from Ragnarök? Find out in our Valkyrie Elysium Review.
When you think ‘Square-Enix‘ and RPGs, no doubt your mind immediately turns to the big two: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Maybe you are into your retro games (or you are just an old fart like me) and you have visions of Chrono Trigger (I wouldn’t blame you) or the Breath of Fire series. Love that Star Trek aesthetic? Star Ocean is probably your jam.
Or just maybe your thoughts drift to the long dormant Valkyrie series? First appearing on the PS1 in 2000 was the classic Valkyrie Profile, which was followed up in 2006 with both a sequel in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, and a port of the original title onto the portable PSP system. Lastly a third game VP: Covenant of the Plume was released for the Nintendo DS in 2009.
It has been a long time between drinks. All of the previous titles in this Norse mythology themed series were developed by Tri-Ace, but that team has been very busy since 2009 with both of the Final Fantasy XIII sequels and the ongoing Star Ocean series. Square-Enix has elected to hand the keys over to a new development team at Soleil Game Studios to rejuvenate the series with the new title Valkyrie Elysium.
So, can Soleil capture the magic of some golden age RPGs and become the new flagbearer for this lesser-known Square-Enix series? Or should the Valkyrie games have remained as relics of the past?
Similar to the previous titles in the series, Valkyrie Elysium draws strongly on the stories of Norse mythology. Norse mythology used in a videogame? What a genius idea – maybe it will catch on with some other developers… (To be fair, the first Valkyrie Profile game did come out over a decade before God of War (2018) or Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla).
The world is on the brink of destruction. Odin the All-Father has done what he can to fight off the hordes of the undead, but he has been severely drained of his strength. His only option is to spend the remainder of his power create a demi-god warrior, a Valkyrie, to continue the fight on Midgard. We begin the game being literally created by Odin and tasked with purifying the souls of the undead.
Your soul is mine!
After purifying enough souls and obtaining some mystical weaponry, we may be able to turn the tides of war in our favour. Through the soul purifying process Odin will regenerate his lost strength and be able to save the 9 realms. Additionally, the Valkyrie may come across some Einherjar (powerful human souls) on her quests that can fight alongside her in the battles ahead. However, if we cannot act fast enough, then we will be unable to prevent Ragnarök – the sundering of the world.
I learned today that Einherjar is pronounced ‘eye-n-hair-ee-yar’.
The Valkyrie, being a new entity born into the world, is a blank slate and knows of the world only what Odin tells her. The rest of her knowledge is learned through the supporting cast of the Einherjar she meets along the way. These interactions between Valkyrie and the Einherjar also provide the player with our understanding of the story in addition to much of both tragedy and humour in the game. However, on Midgard there is another Valkyrie who is fighting against Odin. What exactly has twisted this second demi-god toward evil?
Black armour? She must be the bad one.
The story of Valkyrie Elysium certainly has some twists and turns – some that you will see coming a mile away, but also some that can be genuinely surprising. There is definitely enough here to keep you pushing forward through to the game’s conclusion.
Valkyrie Elysium joins the ever-growing ranks of the modern ‘Action RPG’. Despite the previous entries in the series being more typical RPGs, the combat system in Elysium plays a lot more like the FF7 Remake. The combat system of Valkyrie Elysium is definitely one of the highlights of the game and there is no transition from exploration to battles – while roaming around Midgard, enemies will suddenly appear, often entrapping the Valkyrie within a specific area.
It’s a slash-a-rama!
The Valkyrie has a variety of skills at her disposal, she is able to use light attacks, heavy attacks, dodge rolls, jumping and magic attacks to fight off the armies of the undead. There are six different weapons that can be obtained through the game, and each has its own combination attacks that are learned through a simple upgrading process.
Every enemy has both a weapon weakness and an elemental weakness. The Valkyrie is able to equip two weapons, two healing items and four spells simultaneously. This is a great system as a quick press of the directional buttons will change the equipped weapon, while holding R2 and pressing one of the controller face buttons will send out the spell bound to that face button.
The problem here is that there are 6 weapons and only two slots, and there are 7 different element types with only four buttons available. Re-binding a spell or equipping a different weapon requires a trip to the menu which really interrupts the flow of battle.
The Valkyrie has her own Attack, Defense and Support skill tree/upgrade paths that are unlocked with collectables obtained through the adventure. There isn’t any choice required here as all upgrades and skills can eventually be unlocked. It is always good to feel stronger and more resilient as you progress through a game such as this.
Valkyrie doesn’t fight alone though. Along her travels four Einherjar will be found that join her quest to save the world. Each Einherjar has new attacks that can be obtained by completing specific quests, and they will level up and grow stronger simply by summoning them regularly in battle. These summonable spirits are each bound to one of the four face buttons and are called to battle by holding R1 and pressing the corresponding button.
The Einherjar are all linked to a different element and will hang around the battlefield spamming elemental attacks for 15, 30 or 60 seconds (this can be manually set separately for each of the four Einherjar). Exploiting an enemy’s weakness will cause them to enter the ‘Crushed’ status where they cannot attack for a short period of time – this also works on most of the game’s bosses. The boss fights are certainly the most challenging element of the game, but never feel unfair.
Beyond the combat system there isn’t really much else here to speak of. There are some extremely simple puzzles, but they amount only to identifying which Einherjar can open a pathway for you. There is also some basic traversal/platforming to do to reach hidden collectibles in each level – often making use of Valkyrie’s sweet grappling mechanic that can also be used in battle to drag Valkyrie towards an enemy. Unfortunately, there is almost no challenge in traversal because the grapple points are very obvious (and there is no penalty to fail and try again).
Prior to each chapter we start in the holy realm of Asgard and are given our current mission from Odin. Valkyrie is dispatched to Midgard to complete a specific task before returning to Asgard to rinse and repeat. Each of the main missions can be quite lengthy with some of the longer ones taking over an hour with massive maps to explore – don’t worry though as there are ample save points and a checkpoint system that is very forgiving if you do happen to die.
This mission took quite a while…
In addition to the main chapter missions there are about 30 or so subquests that can be completed. I actually really enjoyed knocking these out as they are generally very short at between 5 and 20 minutes each. Again, there isn’t much variety here as they typically only involve ‘go there and kill that’ type missions.
Sure mate. I’m guessing your findings are guarded by undead monsters I’ll need to fight?
At the end of each mission or subquest you get a ranking score – which as far as I can tell is basically meaningless unless you want to go for the ‘all S rank missions’ achievement trophy. It does feel good to score well though, and I never received less than an ‘A’ rank throughout my playthough on ‘Normal’ difficulty. Those who feel adept at action RPGs or otherwise looking for a challenge may want to go straight for ‘Hard’ mode.
7 minute subquest – the perfect length (and an S rating to boot).
Valkyrie Elysium looks and sounds great…sometimes at least. For example – the bosses of this game have excellent designs and look absolutely menacing. Even some of the standard enemies look great when viewed close up, though the battles are so fast-paced it is hard to stop and enjoy what the team has done here.
Yeah, that giant, armed, undead monster gives me a bad feeling too.
However, the world just feels – empty. The mission areas are massive sprawling arenas with buildings and castles to explore… but there is nobody there. I understand that for story purposes the world is on the brink of destruction, but other than Odin, the Einherjar and the evil Valkyrie you can count on one hand the number of other NPCs in the game. Beautiful areas such as Asgard look absolutely amazing but feel almost unfinished due to the emptiness.
Other parts of the visual presentation also feel like they were ignored in favour of more important elements. This game likely didn’t have the budget or manpower of a massive AAA game, but when character models can look so good it is a bit disappointing that a simple background looks incomplete or forgotten.
Me: “Valkyrie looks great, but what is over there past the mountains?” Soleil: “Just look at her hair!”
At least Valkyrie Elysium sounds great. I love a great voice cast at the team here did an amazing job. There is occasionally a bit of a mismatch between the facial animations and what is being said, and the body animations can seem wooden at times, but other than these minor gripes it was a pleasure to see and hear the interactions between the characters. I do need to call out some cutscenes do have gorgeous animation with clear attention to detail such as the scene below.
There are a number of short cutscenes that play through the game that are animated in a very strange style. An interesting design choice that may resonate with some people, but I can’t say that I enjoyed these over more typical in-engine or CG cutscenes.
The music in the game was more than passable, with all of the tunes matching the aesthetic of the game. However, sitting here now writing the review I can’t recall any specific individual track from the game. Nothing to complain about, but not a soundtrack I would be seeking to listen to separately.
Positively, I can say that my experience on the PS5 was absolutely seamless. I had absolutely no issues with bugs or crashes at any stage. Also, despite the battles becoming absolutely hectic with multiple enemies, Einherjar, and particle effects, there was no slowdown or chugging frame rates to be seen.
I agree Mr Flower… I also enjoy the company of cats.
Valkyrie Elysium is not a perfect package. But what I can say is that I found it to be the perfect length for a game of its style. Action RPGs can drag on at times, but Elysium can be all completed (including all subquests) in around 20 hours or so. My minor gripes with aspects of the presentation are more around inconsistency across elements rather than anything that would be considered ‘bad’. The somewhat ’empty’ feeling world can be ignored with a focus on the excellent main cast of characters and their heartfelt interactions.
It was a pleasure to see this classic series brought back to life, and whilst I wasn’t blown away, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the experience either. Despite being a different style to the previous titles I can say that I enjoyed my time with Valkyrie Elysium due to a decent and occasionally surprising story, great voice acting and an awesome battle system.
So, why should you play it?
- Grappling around the battlefield, slinging powerful spells and delivering devastating weapon combos… what’s not to like?
- A short Norse themed adventure will help get you in the mood for a little known title called God of War: Ragnarök
But, why shouldn’t you play it?
- Interaction with NPCs is important to you to get a true understanding of the game world – you won’t find any here.
- A great battle system alone isn’t enough to keep you interested – unfortunately there isn’t a huge amount of gameplay variety here.
Get a great deal on a copy of Valkyrie Elysium here!
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