With such a miserable and lacklustre franchise history, you’d be forgiven for expecting Valhalla Knights 3 to fall short of almost all expectations, and unfortunately, you’d probably be right. Where does this apparently doomed franchise keep making wrong turns – and has anything improved over the three years since the last release?
Set in Carceron Prison, a dank and deprived castle now filled with vagrants and POW’s from the Beigen War, you’re a military spy charged with seeking out the mystical treasure of Flockheart that’s rumoured to reside there in a bid to stop an evil Emperor’s conquest. This is all spoon-fed through countless long-winded cutscenes stuffed with text and poorly animated backdrops. Once up to speed with the storyline, you'll get to enjoy one of the finer aspects that this title has to offer: character customisation. If anything can be said for developer K2, it's that the personalisation is brilliant, with a huge amount of options helping you to design your perfect elf-creature-thing. Sadly, once you’ve crafted your He-Man, it’s on to the actual game, which doesn’t do much to welcome you with open arms. The story is further added to with extensive conversation cutscenes which initially you don’t want to skip, but eventually you'll end up mashing X in an attempt to actually begin playing the game.
Ironically, as annoying as the lengthy cutscenes are, they do help to make sense of the rather cluttered presentation that Valhalla Knights 3 possesses. Menus will probably be familiar to fans of the franchise but newcomers will feel like an elephant lost in a minefield, easily brushing aside the importance of each little unexplained stat and button. This inevitably leaves you fumbling into every combat situation, potentially spoiling another of game's more enjoyable moments. That said, the combat system has been given a little more attention, and now feels a lot less clunky than previous iterations, mostly thanks to the combo system. The seven-on-seven battles also allow for more strategic gameplay, but get infuriatingly confusing when everybody looks like Legolas.
For those of you that have played Dark Souls, you’ll know what we mean when we use the term 'unforgiving gameplay' – and Valhalla Knights 3 is full of it. If you mess up at all during a fight, you’re done for, as you’ll be at the mercy of an enemy’s destructive combo, meaning that this isn't really a title suited for those with a short fuse.
Something you’d be hard pressed to miss is the vulgarity of the release. It attempts to introduce more adult content through a dating system that unlocks perks at an owned establishment – however, the system is handled with all the sensitivity of a rabbit in heat. Female characters are erotically dressed with unruly – yet well animated – breasts that are far from entertaining, and in fact soil any kind of serious atmosphere that the game attempts to create. This is only worsened by the dating mechanic, which feels more like picking up a prostitute rather than anything remotely romantic. It’s unnecessary, immature, and largely unwelcome in what should be a dark and enthralling action RPG. Meanwhile, the Sexy Time minigame is a sick joke that doesn’t even deserve the light of day. It’s hard to tell why this is all deemed applicable to the franchise, and it certainly doesn’t do it any favours.
As previously mentioned, the story is fleshed out to impressive degrees through innumerable cutscenes, but weirdly contributes almost nothing to the game itself, which is void of any kind of plot dependency. A lot of effort seems to have gone into weaving an intricate back-story to a world and cast of characters that you, as a player, will care nothing about. You’ll only be concerned about levelling up, finding new armour, or replaying Sexy Time – if you’re into that. Ultimately, it's a massive shame; the twisted narrative is simply lost in the throng of buttons, mechanics, and overly exaggerated characters, and is only concealed further by stereotypical anime immaturity.
It’s not all breasts and leather, though – the world itself is graphically quite a treat, especially for a Vita title. While not nearly as expansive as some may want, the world is well rendered and populated with a satisfactory collection of monsters and rival gang members to shake your sword at. Boss battles pose a herculean task but yield immense satisfaction upon completion – something that's lost in the 'stab the glowing bit' boss battles that are so popular in similar releases. It’s also a shame that the combat doesn’t take advantage of the Vita's accommodating five-inch touchscreen.
Despite a three-year wait, Valhalla Knights 3 does very little to light anyone’s fire. While seven-on-seven sounds rather vulgar thanks to the aforementioned Sexy Time, it’s actually a shining example of the potential that this franchise has. If you can overlook the eroticisms, tune out the monotonous story, and focus purely on the relatively enjoyable button-mashing combat, then you’re gold. But if you're like the rest of us who can’t, Valhalla Knights 3 is probably best left for a really, really rainy day.