Announced in the same State of Play showcase as Star Ocean: The Divine Force, the return of the Valkyrie series with Valkyrie Elysium isn't getting quite as much fanfare as it perhaps deserves. With a PS5, PS4 release just weeks away, a demo quietly released on the PS Store is one of Square Enix's last hopes of drumming up excitement. The good thing is it's likely going to work for those who take a chance on it. While Valkyrie Elysium is unlikely to set the world on fire, this is a rock-solid action RPG with a fun combat system and satisfying abilities.
The demo covers the game's entire first chapter and a few side quests, and you'll be able to transfer your progress over to the full experience if you like what you play. An introduction in an impressive throne room sets up the story, and then you're sent to a castle upon a hilltop for the first set of encounters. The fights and battles of Square Enix's latest aren't doing anything particularly original, but they make up for that by feeling satisfying and fun.
Valkyrie is equipped with the usual sword and dash abilities many action games have made standard, so it differentiates itself somewhat with a Soul Chain ability and elemental powers. The former can be used as a magical whip, latching onto enemies and pulling Valkyrie forward to immediately close the space between them. If you're trying to keep the heat on a particular foe, it's a great tool to utilise. Then there are elemental powers that can trigger weaknesses and deal damage from afar.
One neat trick is the Crushed state, which renders a combatant immobile should you pair one of your powers with its biggest weakness. Encounter the same enemy type and you could freeze them all in place in one fell swoop. We can report it's a very satisfying action after triggering the effect multiple times throughout the demo.
We're eager to learn how the combat system grows in complexity in the full game, but hints at character upgrades, new weapons, and more skills to utilise have already whet our appetite. Three skill trees split across offence, defence, and support are complemented by separate weapon upgrades. It remains to be seen how deep Valkyrie Elysium can actually get, but the signs are positive. The demo already allows us to take our first steps to juggling an enemy in the air with our sword slashes, so hopefully, the sky's the limit.
We want those possibilities to extend to the level design too because the demo we played remains incredibly linear throughout. Occasionally you'll come across an optional path to take, but all they usually lead to is a treasure chest or a plant on the ground that represents someone's memory. For the most part, you'll be filed through a single dirt road or passageway to the next combat encounter. It's all just a little bit unexciting.
There's also a weird juxtaposition going on with the visuals, where the art style is actually quite nice but some of the textures are pretty low quality. The game can look gorgeous in spots — Valkyrie's character design is lovely on the eye, for example — but then the debris she leaves in her path looks poor. This is presumably quite a recent build of the game, so it's a bit concerning to see this unevenness present so close to release. Still, there's always the day one patch.
With release now exactly two weeks away, Valkyrie Elysium deserves a lot more attention than it's getting if the demo is anything to go by. It's not going to come anywhere close to being the best action RPG of the year, but the Square Enix title is shaping up to be something really quite enjoyable for those quieter periods when your slate is clean. An action-packed experience with the hope of a deeper combat system, keep Valkyrie Elysium on your Christmas list for some hack and slash fun.
Have you been paying much attention to Valkyrie Elysium prior to launch? Have you given its new demo a try? Share your thoughts in the comments below.