Saturday, April 3, 2010

Valkyria Chronicles: Selvaria's Mission DLC review

Playing and completing Valkyria Chronicles was one of my gaming highlights in recent years. It is the kind of game I would utter in the same breath of Uncharted 2 - that is just how impressed I am about the SRPG title. In fact if I've actually played it back in 2008 when it was released here, I would have named it my personal GotY. Unfortunately it is also the last great game SEGA developed. Consider this a LTTP review.

In any case, Valkyria Chronicles has been granted with a healthy dose of downloadable content (DLC). I've always been a skeptic of the DLC business model, viewing it as a way for lazy developers to charge gullible gamers for what should have been in the disc itself. Still Valkyria Chronicles's DLCs are a bit different as they offer missions from the perspective of people outside of the main Squad 7 main posse.

My love for Valkyria Chronicles combined with SEGA's recent price cut of the DLC ultimately prompted me to make my first ever DLC purchase on the PS3's PlayStation Store. Incredible what a quid and twenty pence saving can do to you... I am either a genius or a sad little man.

Two of the DLC available surrounds a character called Edy. She is a character whom I've only used only once before being unceremoniously and dishonourably discharged, as I have very little interest in the back story of a happy go lucky pop star wannabee. Apparently her character is quite a bit popular in Japan - which explains SEGA's willingness to create two DLC just for her. But how she became popular is beyond me, though I suspect that it may be a cultural thing. They do like their lolita pop singers there.

There is one DLC though that I'll never ever pay for and which I would not recommend any sensible people to pay for and that is the Hard EX Mode. I remember the time when increased difficulty mode (and then some) came with all games whether you like it or not, but not so with SEGA. With Valkyria Chronicles, you have to pay to play in hard. Ridiculous ain't it? Valkyria Chronicles is one of the most balanced game out there, so I can't imagine regular people getting much enjoyment from this mode. Still hardcore gamers with plenty of time on their hands would love this.

The DLC I decided to purchase is the Selvaria's Mission "Behind Her Blue Flame" pack. The fact that the DLC offers missions from the enemy's perspective is pretty compelling and in my opinion, the greatest incentive to purchasing this instead of the Edy stuff. It isn't just made up by a bunch of side quests by unmemorable and uninteresting squad members, but a whole new storyline that serves to flesh out the Selvaria character you thought you knew. At 224MB, you will at least be assured that the DLC isn't merely an unlocking code to content already provided on the disc.

In Selvaria's Mission, you follow Johann, an engineer assigned to Selvaria. The missions takes during the early stages of the invasion by the Imperial forces on Gallia, several years before the main storyline as detailed in Valkyria Chronicles. There are a total of four missions in the mission pack, one of which requires you to gain A-ranking on the first three missions in order to unlock. The second mission is also dependent on whether you meet an optional and undisclosed objective in the first mission (spoiler: destroying General Damon's tank).

Ultimately I love this pack and have had no regret making this my first DLC purchase. Any fans of Valkyria Chronicles would be a fool to want to miss this as it allows them to play as Selvaria themselves. Despite her weapon, Selvaria isn't as strong as she was in the main campaign. Here she is paired with the aforementioned Johann where the two must work together. You see, Selvaria carries grenades and ragnades out of principle. Her only weapon is her powerful Ruhm, easily the most powerful weapon in the game. So while she has the power of a Shocktrooper and the legs of a Scout, she can't really do much else. Johann on the other hand is pretty weak (both mentally and physically) but acts as her personal field medic. He also does rudimentary tasks like clearing the path for Selvaria. So you see, the two must work together.

The difficulty has also been changed significantly. In the original campaign the Gallians were a pretty weak bunch early on, but they pack a mighty punch in this DLC and have greater power, accuracy and evade stats. The Imperials are also terrible at accuracy, particularly the snipers. Getting A-rank will require plenty of patience as well as trial and error, particularly in one of the second missions. Completing the second mission will also unlock Selvaria's powerful Ruhm gun for use in the main campaign by Squad 7's shocktroopers, sort of a reward to the player. Complete the first three missions with A-rank and you get to play as Selvaria in her Valkyrur form - complete with lance and everything. Exciting isn't it?

For a £1.99 DLC, Selvaria's Mission offers plenty of game time. There's at least 4-6 hours worth of content here, more than the single player campaign of some full priced games. Plus we get to see the softer side of Selvaria's, and from the invading nation's point of view. Anybody who consider themselves a fan of Valkyria Chronicles, or SPRG in general, should seriously consider investing in this.

Valkyria Chronicles is currently available for a low low price of £13/$19.99. Selvaria's Mission DLC (as well as Challenge of the Edy Detachment, Edy's Mission and Hard EX Mode) is currently on offer (from £3.19 to £1.99) until 29 April 2010.

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