|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: K2 LLC|
|Pub: XSEED Games|
|Release: October 15, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
With Valhalla Knights 3, developer XSEED is hoping that the third time's a "charm.” The “charm” in quotations will be "explicitly" explained later in the review, and expect plenty more quotation marks to come, for good reason. At its core, Valhalla Knights 3 is a fairly standard RPG, reusing many of the gameplay features from the previous two titles, which isn't necessarily a good thing considering the heavy criticisms and low review scores they both received. Some minor improvements have been made to the interface and control accessibility, and a "fresh," new feature graces the series that will turn everyone's head, either positively or negatively.
The Beigen empire has waged a brutal war of conquest on all the neighboring territories, led by an emperor with an insatiable lust for powerful artifacts. Many weaker nations have fallen at the hands of the mighty Beigen army, and now the other, once isolated countries have banded together to suppress the onslaught on all borders of the landlocked nation of Beigen. With the Emperor seeing the change in the tides, he is more determined than ever to solve the mystery of Flockhart's Legacy. Flockhart was a foul criminal also in search of great treasures. After discovering a relic that grants its wielder any wish, he mysteriously vanished, with rumors that his remains, along with the treasure, are deep within an old castle in northern Beigen, now called Carceron Prison and home to the foulest convicts.
Joined by several other felons carted into Carceron, it is soon revealed that you are actually an undercover spy, sent to infiltrate the prison and find the treasure. Your mission, however, is not by choice. As a captive of the Emperor during his conquest, you were branded with the Mark of Death, which allows the Emperor to kill you in an instant should he so desire.
The story, while not as clichéd as the past two titles, takes a secondary role to the RPG legacy of grinding, leveling up, and acquiring powerful equipment, which is the real reason you may find the hours drifting by.
There are four races and seven classes to choose from at the start, though both categories expand as you progress through the campaign and complete specific objectives. The race you choose determines your base stats, while your class indicates which weapons you may wield. Each class has a specific skill tree that you can progress through, and each character can acquire two secondary classes, allowing you to choose skills from those classes as well. Some skills are special attack moves, others are buffs and support spells, while others give permanent statistical boosts. It's all the usual RPG fodder, but surprisingly, it requires more strategy to succeed in combat than in Valhalla Knights 1 and 2.
Like its predecessors, combat in Valhalla Knights 3 occurs in real time. After being noticed by a hostile group in the field, your party of up to seven spills into the field and attacks based on the AI strategies you choose (strategies that are poorly executed by the computer). You can quickly switch between characters with a press of the Select button, but most common encounters require little more than spamming the weak-attack button. However, should you attempt to forgo grinding, even in the first wilderness area, you will find yourself racing back to the prison hub to heal yourself after engaging in the initial boss battle. Your best bet is to take on as many side-quests as possible within the area you are exploring. These inconsequential fetch quests will provide extra reward loot to allow you to equip your party more quickly and thus engage the tougher enemies and bosses sooner.
Along with the ease of switching between party members, some other ease-of-play improvements are the ability to view an area map rather than simply the minimap, a more streamlined interface to access skills and items without having to shuffle through menus, and the ability to save anywhere on the field. Fallen enemies can be searched for loot, which fetches a decent price back in "town,” which is a good thing considering the "extra" down payment required to perform transactions.
I say "town" because although you are supposed to be imprisoned, you are dropped off in the front hall of the penitentiary and given access to all the resources found within. Less a prison and more a merchant's quarters for the criminals, Carceron Prison has all the luxuries of a city center, with shops, a hotel, an infirmary, guilds, and even a red-light district. That's right, you heard correctly, and that's where we dive into the raunchy side of Valhalla Knights 3.