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Valhalla Knights - Impression

Valhalla Knights
Platform: PSP
Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Publisher: XSEED
Release Date: 03.06.2007
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by Michael Beckett

Valhalla Knights is a game set in a small town beset by a curse. The castle of Paladi has been put under an evil spell, causing it to fill to the brim with all sorts of nasty monsters. So what's a young hero to do? Clearly, there's nothing for it but to clear the place out and save the town.

The flow of Valhalla Knights's gameplay is straight out of a classic dungeon crawler. The player is given the basic in-town resources, such as a shop, an inn, and a guildhall, with which to recruit new characters and take on quests, and then shown to a sprawling multilevel dungeon full of monsters. So far, Valhalla Knights has focused a great deal more on exploration and building levels than on story. The game features an interesting class system, whereby the player can spend time levelling as one of the game's eight classes, then switch to another without any statistical penalty. The player's former class doesn't just lay fallow, of course. It can be set as one of two sub-classes, allowing that character access to all the benefits of that class, as well as offering the chance to gain some easy levels. The only check on this appears to be that classes don't advance in levels unless they are the main class, meaning players are encouraged to switch classes often. The system is rather level-intensive, focusing on the acquiring of bonus stat points by building up multiple classes on each character.

"So what's a young hero to do? Clearly, there's nothing for it but to clear the place out and save the town."

The combat system itself is a relatively simple real-time affair. When the player touches an enemy during the course of dungeon exploration, they are dropped into a small circular arena along with a set of foes. So far, Valhalla Knights has shown a tendancy to throw a fairly large number of enemies into encounters, meaning that players are most likely assumed to have a full six-member party fairly early. Once combat has begun, the player is free to move and attack, and can switch between characters on the fly during combat. This isn't often absolutely necessary, as the ally AI is fairly reliable about healing and personal survival. Ally activities are also highly customizable, as the player can use Thought Points to accentuate moves like Recover HP or Support. The basics of combat are easy enough to grasp, as each character has only a few options -- attack, special attack, magic, or item, and the real challenge seems to lie in keeping the party's levels on par with what the game throws out.

Valhalla Knights's story so far has been very basic, offering the minimum needed explanation to get the player from one area to the next. The game begins with a brief flashback to a small group's battle against a dragon, a fight which serves as a basic introduction to the game's combat system. Afterwords, the player is prompted to create his or her main character, a process which will be repeated whenever new characters are recruited from the Guild in town. There are four different races, and each gender in that race has a specific lean in their statistics -- female Elves, for example, lean more heavily towards Resistance, while males start with higher Intelligence. The player is prompted to give their creation a name, distribute a few starting bonus points, and they're off. After creating the hero of our story, the player wakes up in an inn with no memory and a mysterious voice in their head, encouraging a quick visit to the cursed castle on the edge of town.

The only real problem encountered so far has been the game's interface. For one thing, running tends to be a rather innacurate means of travel, with the player's character often stopping more than just a little bit further than where they had meant to stop. The camera also tends to be a bit clumsy. Controlled just with the R button, which lines the camera up behind the player's head, the camera tends to get hung up on doorways and pillars. The game's menus feel a bit unfinished, especially given that the Equipment menu doesn't appear to show which weapon or piece of armor does what to a character's stats before being equipped. To the game's credit, though, load times are so small as to be non-existant, and there is little or no lag even when entering rather large areas.

While a bit basic in storyline, Valhalla Knights appears to be geared more towards players who would rather explore and fight than hear a story. With a sprawling dungeon and a reasonably deep class system, the game looks like it might be a solid title for players looking for a little fantasy-style spelunking and demon slaying.

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