September 29, 2006
Stay away from Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. Stay far, far away.
Just to be up front in the interest of full disclosure, I am NOT qualified to review this entire game. My play time clocked in at just over one hour, so for all I know every complaint I have may resolve itself by the end. But a) I highly doubt that, and b) it couldn’t possibly fix itself enough to be worth the pain of more of what that first hour was.
First off, the characters/setting. This is the one area I think might improve as the player becomes accustomed (read: as rigor mortis sets in). Maybe it is my just coming from a simple RPG with easygoing characters and infinitely better plot pacing, but dropping me into a random town with some wench playing host to a Norse god of some kind who is already apparently well on her quest to get somewhere to do something with Odin and Valhalla and her einherjar is not a way to ease a player into the game fiction. In fact, it holds me at arm’s length, not understanding more that 10% of what is going on, and after an hour of wallowing through it and not being given a reason to care, my motivation to do so evaporates.
Speaking of incomprehensible messes, the terrible introduction of the combat system just made me want to put a gun in my mouth. Battles seem to want to be real time, with free movement and attack ranges, but then have Action Points and enemies that wait for you to begin moving, usually indicia of a turn-based system. And when you finally do begin your attacks, they just consist of mashing a single action button per character, probably with the goal of having characters attack in a certain order for increased damage (not that the game cares to explain that). A friend of mine loved to [ignorantly] disparage console RPGs as not requiring much more strategy than “Hitting ‘Fight’ over and over again.” With games like this, sometimes I agree… And after complaining about Enchanted Arms’ amusingly slow way of introducing players to the various game mechanics, scrolling through pages of text and dozens of arbitrary tutorial instructions ultimately just made me stop caring.
I’m sure there is a great deal more strategy to the game’s combat system than I give it credit here — positioning yourself for attack, hitting specific parts, going for the leader, etc. The fact of the matter is, all games are trying to imitate real life in some way, and battle systems use artificial systems in an attempt to codify various aspects of real world “strategy.” So no game is immune from that. But where this game fails is in its oversimplicity in some areas, needless complexity in others, and terrible way of introducing the player to it all.
Add in the frustratingly 8-bit game world out of combat, which exists, near as I can tell, entirely in two dimensions with the player running, using enemies as platforms, and solving random jump puzzles. Rubbing salt in the wound is the visual gorgeousness of the world, one of the only areas of the game with which I have zero problem. Too bad it’s just mere window dressing on gameplay that could have been done in the mid-1980s.
Score: 3.5 / 10
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