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Valhalla Knights (PSP) artwork

Valhalla Knights (PSP) review

"Valhalla Knights makes a lot of assumptions. It assumes you already know that the character you're hired to escort through evil-heavy lands is automatically in your group, despite the game never telling you so and the character only ever showing up once said quest is completed."

Valhalla is the Norse heavens where vanquished warriors dwell. Knights are chivalrous, armoured warriors from the middle ages. Valhalla Knights centres on neither of these time frames or iconic classes. The denizens of the game instead strike out to incorporate the cliché and the setting seems to be steampunk for no reason whatsoever.

Your main character wears nether a horned helmet nor carries a lance, but he does have amnesia, which makes him different from at least 50% of all RPG protagonists everywhere. He or she also has a mysterious sidekick several times more powerful than they who holds all the answers, yet shares no information (as vital as it may be) and never, ever helps out in a pinch.

The aim of Valhalla Knights is, more or less, to rediscover your lost memories and help bring a world of darkness into a world of light along the way. This is hardly new. Much to the chagrin of anterograde amnesia specialists everywhere, the apparent key to unlocking lost memories is wandering around expansive dungeons for long, long periods of time. The time spent within is not so much to do with size, but because, most of the time, you have no idea what the hell you are doing or should be going.

Valhalla Knights makes a lot of assumptions. It assumes you already know that the person you're hired to escort through evil-heavy lands is automatically in your group, despite the game never telling you so and the character only ever showing up once said quest is completed.

It assumes you're going to want to scour the manual and spend time online looking up the biggest hints and reading up on plot expansions. It assumes that if it plays it safe in every aspect, makes the graphics as so-so as they can, generic the hell out of the cast and send you through an endless line of dungeons for such inane reasons as "to tell a hobbit girl (who lives in a monster-filled cave, by the way) that I love her" that it will have a simple charm. It assumes the game will display a nostalgic, 'old-school' that will resonate with the older crowd. It assumes incorrectly a lot.

And, by the way, once you finally fight your way through to said stumpy girl (who you're never told lives in said monster-filled cave) and tell her the feelings of your employer, her response is comparable to a theatrical shrug and a reply of "who?". Do not expect a lot of closure.

But at least you get some kind of understandable response in that arc. Between the NPC's slaughtering of olde English, which sounds more akin to hamming up a poor Shakespearian-style fanfic, and the JRPG staple of answering "..." to everything, straight answers are few and far between.

It's safe to note the bare-bone story and the stat-heavy cast and conclude Valhalla Knight's biggest flaw: it very much wants to be a single-player MMO. The character you build might not have any memories, but you can bestow them a zillion different statistics to custom-mould a fighter in a way more reminiscent of the PC platform's most well-worn titles such as The Bard's Tale and Wizardry (you know you're old enough to remember. If not, ask Overdrive; he was middle-aged upon their release.) You can even upgrade the classes as you progress, unlocking such hidden jobs as ninjas.

But not Vikings. You can eventually unlock a knight, though!

The lone MMO vibe is attempted again in how battles play out, substituting meatbag chums with programmable AI allies rather similar to Star Ocean's system. This also works quite well, but more often than not, ends up with you taking control of the main melee character and letting the rest of the cast play support.

Unlike Star Ocean's flawless battle system however, hit detection here is a coin toss. You'll sometimes see your strikes slice harmlessly through targets while retreating characters will take damage from attacks they've moved well out of the range of. The monster AI is either far too smart or too lucky as they have the most annoying habit of swamping your weakest character while the rest of the party slashes at their hides helplessly. Also keeping within the groove of games of yore, Valhalla Knights is unbearable hard in the early going, forcing you to grind up levels and equipment long before you can undergo as little as three random battles in a row.

All the little touches that could have helped drag the game out of its hole it dug simply grab up shovels and join in. The optional side-quests you can take from Adventurer Guilds are just as vague as the main ones and cannot be dropped until completed. This means that unless you stumble across the means to undertake and defeat one (often by complete accident) you’re unable to take on anymore. Healing items cost several time their worth meaning that a poor party without a priest is a dead party. The mapscape that houses the competent battle system is several sizes too small, compressing fights into claustrophobic in-your-face slash-fests and relegating ranged warriors to near uselessness.

Valhalla Knights simply doesn’t build upon its strengths. You can get lost in the dungeon crawling, in the stat building, in constructing a dream-team of monster-rapers and you can have a fun time doing so. But then the zero-content twenty minute cut-scenes kick in, the reasons for your exploration are fumbled and you spend literally hours wandering around, confused and lost, hoping to stumble upon answers and salvation.

Aimless wandering is to be avoided in a videogame. Valhalla Knights seems to be built around it.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (October 24, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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