Valkyria Revolution is a spin-off to Valkyria Chronicles that eschews much of what made that game popular and fails to improve upon it in any way. The tactical combat of Chronicles has been radically revamped into an action role-playing game to disastrous effect, the story is hampered by a catalogue of issues, and on a technical level the game is actually inferior to the original. If you're a fan of the Valkyria series, this isn't for you. If you're a fan of action RPGs, this isn't for you. If you've bought a copy of this game and it's still in the shrink wrap, for God's sake don't open it.
There are myriad problems with Valkyria Revolution, but by far the most egregious is the new battle system. You'll control one character at a time in third-person view, while three other party members follow you around the drab, empty maps. Pressing X instructs your avatar to perform a short combo, but since you only have to press X once to unleash multiple attacks, and because this is tied to a two second cool down for no fathomable reason, there's a bizarre dissonance between your actions on screen and the inputs that you're performing on your controller. Standard enemies generally die from one combo, bigger enemies require two or three, and bosses often have so much health that you'll be tapping X at two second intervals for so long you'll begin to worry about coming down with repetitive strain injury.
There's a bunch of other systems in play, but they're mostly redundant, poorly implemented, or both. For example, you can give orders to other party members. You press triangle to pause the action and bring up a menu, then select orders, then select the party member you want to complete the order, then select the action you want, then select the target, and then wait to see if your AI partner actually does it since sometimes they don't bother. Or you can just press down on the D-pad to switch to a different character and do it yourself, rendering the entire orders system obsolete. The redundancy of orders is indicative of the game as a whole, with many of the systems in place being so half-baked or unnecessarily complicated that there's a distinct aura of superfluity surrounding much of the excruciatingly dull campaign.
The story of Valkyria Chronicles was a fantasy take on World War II, featuring a charming cast of characters, and touching on some fairly heavyweight themes like ethnic cleansing, racism, and the morality of war. Revolution throws most of that out of the window, delivering a disposable tale involving a group of characters with less depth and emotional range than what you'd find on the inside of a greetings card. The main male lead is on a quest for revenge armed only with a massive sword, a flowing trench coat, and more angst than an early Placebo record. The female protagonist is a princess inexplicably fighting on the front line in her royal gown, and a monotone, simpering bore.
The rest of the cast are a gaggle of personified clichés. The villains are almost exclusively pantomime fare, with the exception of one female baddie so ludicrously proportioned that she'd still be vertical if she tried sleeping face down. The supporting party members are charmless and one note, never being given an opportunity to develop into anything resembling human beings. There's a laughable scene about an hour into the game in which most of your party members each get a line or two of dialogue to let you know which personality stereotype they adhere to – there's the posh one, the kooky one, the innocent one, the tomboy, and Scary Spice – and they never really grow beyond that.
Story presentation is an unequivocal mess. There are far too many loading screens peppered throughout, and the cut-scenes are too numerous, overly long, and catastrophically boring. The animation is sub-par in almost every scene, with many of them featuring nothing moving except for characters' mouths and they're not even lip-synched properly. Often, you'll get a few lines of dialogue, then a loading screen, and then the cut-scene will continue with the characters in slightly different positions, as though the developers just slapped a loading screen in there to avoid having to animate the heroes changing poses. The dialogue is full of insipid one-liners delivered by the voice actors with all of the gusto of what you'd hear over a supermarket Tannoy. In fact, the only aspect of the game that is at least on par with 2008's Valkyria Chronicles is the music, which is suitably rousing in all the right places.
The technical issues aren't limited to the story sequences, with combat sections also suffering from a number of problems. The camera in the game is a constant hindrance, sometimes finding itself at odd angles, and occasionally spinning round uncontrollably for no discernible reason. Sometimes you'll fight flying enemies which is a source of unintentional hilarity since your characters can't aim up properly, and the game suffers from instances of fairly noticeable slow down when there's a lot of enemies on screen. Sometimes your AI partners just stop moving entirely as if they’re every bit as bored as you are. You can’t blame them.
Valkyria Revolution is like a bizarre, alternate reality version of Valkyria Chronicles in which everything that the original got right has somehow been twisted into something awful. The devolution of interesting and quasi-relatable characters into eye-roll inducing stereotypes is upsetting, and the technical shortcomings of the game are disappointing. But it's the combat of Revolution that suffers most in comparison to Chronicles, and indeed, in comparison to practically anything else in the genre. Where Valkyria Chronicles was a constantly rewarding strategy game, Revolution is an action RPG so utterly devoid of any potential to challenge or delight that the only strategy you'll require is working out the quickest bus route back to the shop to get your refund.