Valhalla Knights 3 - Review  

Strike Three
by Michael "Wheels" Apps

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                                          game information
20-40 Hours
+ Interesting setting.
- Long load times.
- Tedious combat.
- Difficulty spikes at random.
- Classes lacking in depth.
- Boring side quests make grinding a chore.
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   Valhalla Knights 3 is the latest entry in the now long-running, but poorly received action RPG series localized by XSEED. Developed by Marvelous, the game at first glance appears to attempt to finally bring something worthwhile from the series. Sadly that couldn't be farther from the truth. An interesting setting is quickly wasted on a tedious story. Combat is boring and quickly loses any level of fun due to the terrible missions and the endless grinding that is often required between them. Insulting "sexy time" mini games don't help matters either. By the end, players may wonder how the series even made it to a fourth game.

   Valhalla Knights 3's story at first seems promising, with a unique setting and premise. Taking place in an ancient fortress that has been converted to a prison, the player creates their own character who is forced by magic to be a spy searching for some sort of power hidden in the prison. The story doesn't really develop beyond this basic outline. Due to the grind required in the game, story sequences generally come up infrequently. Even when they do, character development is minimal and even the party members forced upon the player for a good portion of the game never manage to show any real personality. Because of this, the eventual twists and turns near the end of the game fall completely flat. RPGs where the player can create their own party aren't typically known for good stories, but even so Valhalla Knights 3 feels particularly uninspired.

Sexy time is less sexy than
                                        originally advertised. Sexy time is less sexy than originally advertised.

   Gameplay sadly does not fare any better than the story. Right from the start when creating the main character the game attempts to hide its shortcomings with tons of customization options. There are a large number of classes, and with a max party size of seven it seems like the game provides boundless party customization. Once a player starts digging into battles however, the true shallow nature of the game becomes apparent. Players have a basic attack, a secondary attack or block depending on equipment, and skills assigned to the d-pad. A shoulder button toggles to a second set of skills, so characters have access to a wide variety of skills. The problem is each class only has a small number of available skills to learn to begin with, and for some classes those skills won't even be usable with certain equipment. The game seems to remedy this by allowing multi-classing, but considering the player has to start at level one for a new class and the fact that the equipment and stat differences between them may make many skills useless, it hardly serves to fix the problem.

   Even if skill variety weren't an issue, the combat would still be largely tedious and uninteresting. There's no skill or strategy to it. Either the player will be mashing regular attacks to defeat weaker enemies or spamming a class's few group attacks to take down multiple enemies quickly. Switching party members requires the player to cycle through the whole party until the player gets to the desired member, and there's no other way to control other characters than giving vague "attack" and "defend" commands to the whole group. Since the story missions often take sharp increases in difficulty, players are forced to grind ad nauseum, which serves to further exacerbate the tedium of the combat system. With nothing but a ridiculous and borderline offensive "sexy time" mini game to break up the experience, playing through Valhalla Knights 3 is a complete chore that fails to tap into the joy of creating a party of one's own.

Be prepared to see more
                                        combat then you'd ever really
                                        want. Be prepared to see more combat then you'd ever really want.

   There are more issues on top of this. The game world is extremely small, containing a small number of outside areas and an even smaller number of dungeon areas. These are reused often for story quests. Worse yet, the story quests generally consist of simply walking to a location and then fighting a boss or two. There's little to no variety at all. The final dungeon eventually spices things up, but by then it's far too late. To top it off, loot obtained from chests and enemies is rarely worthwhile, and combined with a slow leveling process means making a powerful party is a glacial process.

   Visuals in the game are clean, but they don't push the hardware very much, and often seem like they wouldn't be out of place on the PSP. For the most part monster designs are not complex or eye catching, and rarely does the game provide anything more fasinating than a slime. Music is similarly unremarkable with a few standouts but mostly forgettable generic orchestral themes. The only major issue from a technical perspective are the loading times. Despite the simplicity of everything, each area seems to take a painstakingly long time to load. Considering how often reloading can be required once the game hits a difficulty spike, these load times can become maddening.

   In the end, there's simply nothing interesting or worthwhile about Valhalla Knights 3. The story is uninspired and underdeveloped. The battle system is tedious and worsened by the fact that the game requires the player to enter into it far too often. The visuals are unimpressive, but not awful, yet require some of the longest loading time on the Vita. Even the class system, which appears vast at first, turns out to be shallow and an utter disappointment. It's impossible to recommend Valhalla Knights 3 and may very well be past time to put this series out to pasture.

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