The world is doomed, and all hope rests upon your shoulders. No pressure then.
That’s the setup of the latest entry in Square Enix’s Valkyrie series, Valkyrie Elysium. Created by Odin, it’s your task to bring salvation to a world that has been ravaged by Ragnarok. And so you’ll journey to Midgard, completing any missions he entrusts to you. Purifying souls is the main one, as well as obtaining items of great power. But the more you get stuck into your task, the more you question your actions. Just what exactly does restoring the world entail?
Valkyrie Elysium doesn’t have the most gripping story, but it does grow on you as its protagonist grows as a person. She’s cold and wooden at the outset, but by getting to know the spirts – Einherjar – that come to accompany her on her adventure, as well as the humans that reside on Midgard, she becomes much more warm and likable. And so by the end, you might have got a little attached to her and her crew.
Split into numerous chapters, Valkyrie Elysium sends you and your team of Einherjar to a range of locations, each and every one of them visibly war torn. You’ll move through them in a fairly linear fashion, and along the way you’ll get into more than your fair share of combat encounters. But no matter, because this is where Valkyrie Elysium shines. Or at least eventually, anyway.
Valkyrie Elysium is one of those games that gives you the majority of its tools during the tutorial, but then takes them away from you when the game starts proper. And so, after learning how to summon your Einherjay companions into battle and making use of their abilities, you’re suddenly without them, leaving the combat feeling a little more sterile. Your spells are taken away from you too, but at least you get to keep your Soul Chain, a useful device that lets you quickly close the distance on your enemies.
The first few chapters of Valkyrie Elysium, then, are somewhat enjoyable but also missing a certain spark. Your limited moveset and abilities stifle the combat, basically. But as you progress, gaining the friendship of Einherjar, obtaining new spells, and collecting the gems required to develop Valkyrie’s stats and learn new abilities as well as upgrade her weapons, everything becomes much more enjoyable indeed.
Eventually, each combat encounter has the potential to become utter chaos, as you and up to four Einherjar batter everything onscreen. But it’s the kind of chaos that’s fun and electrifying. You won’t even mind that the camera can be a pain at times. But it’s never mindless: an elemental system that you need to exploit sees to that. Fail to employ the correct elements when facing off against foes and you’ll find your fights much harder. Especially so when it comes to hulking boss fights.
It’s just a shame that outside of Valyrie Elysium‘s thrilling battles there’s not much else that excites. Environments are drab for the most part, and while you do sometimes get the opportunity to explore, the rewards for doing so are often disappointing. Also, outside of the main quest, there are a number of sub-quests you can undertake, but they’re largely uninteresting. Throw in a budget feel when it comes to presentation – poor lip syncing, stiff animations, etc – and you have a game that doesn’t fulfil its potential.
Still, from its likeable characters to its thrilling combat, it’s hard to not be entertained by Valkyrie Elysium from beginning to end. It will take most players at least ten hours to see its story through to a conclusion, with those sub-quests, additional endings and more padding out the experience for others. There are even collectibles to find in the form of Flowers, and skills that can only be unlocked by raising your proficiency with certain weapons. The more you put into Valkyrie Elysium, the more you get out of it.
Essentially a character action game, Valkyrie Elysium does little to worry the heavy hitters in the genre such as Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. But while many of its components are simply adequate, its frenetic combat elevates it from mediocrity. There’s great fun to be had here, summoning Einherjar, using your Soul Chain to zip around the battlefield and making use of more advanced skills to decimate your opponents. Ultimately, it’s not going to set anyone’s world on fire, but it’s definitely worth spending some time with.