A Step In Both Directions
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 .
You see, most of the clerks at the shops and other establishments are scantily clad women who require up-front payment just to access their services. So if you want to purchase or sell items and equipment, you must first pay the “hostess” just to have “personal” time with her, which includes some kittenish compliments. From taking on quests, to changing your facial features and appearance, and to purchasing equipment from certain shops, this is a necessary prerequisite.
But that’s only the beginning. Each clerk is also a potential party member. Recruiting a clerk requires you to raise their affection meter. This can be done by using their respective services (e.g., buying equipment, completing side quests, etc.), presenting them with gifts, and mastering the Sexy Time mini-game. This is where things go downhill.
Bordering on a hentai flash game, Sexy Time has you caress the touch screen with your finger, stimulating the private regions of the female clerks. They will continue to “expose” themselves as you progress, until the timer runs out or you have completely satisfied them. After sufficiently raising their affection meter, you can then escort them to the hotel, where we can assume the two of you have sex. Though it happens off-screen, it is easily implied with moans, screen-shaking, and blatant innuendos such as, “Probe every last inch of me,” which is a thing said by the nurse of the Happy Anatomy Clinic. This is obviously a feature designed for a Japanese audience, where hostess bars are more commonplace and seen with less taboo than in Western cultures. Still, it does cater to a particular gaming audience over here as well. If you find it more than a little distasteful, the game can still function without these “interactions”; however, it does make the adventure more difficult.
Both the visuals and audio are dated, making this PS Vita exclusive feel like it was ported from the PSP. Animations are stiff, and character models have rough edges. The music score and architecture are a mélange of different Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras, though the neon banners and lace lingerie scream of modern influences. Overall, the look and feel of the game is a jumble, and not a pretty one at that.
To its credit though, the game never lags, even when partaking in an online multiplayer match. These duels pit your seven-person party against another player, with the victor receiving bragging rights, a boost on the leaderboard, and Arena Points that can be spent on exclusive items. Apart from the brief brawls, however, there is no cooperative campaigning with a friend.
I’m finding myself both liking and disliking Valhalla Knights 3 . It’s good to finally see a lengthy RPG for the PS Vita, even one with run-of-the-mill conventions. The reward system and combat are a step above past games of the series, and the class customization gives you plenty of diversity and interesting combinations to play with. However, the game doesn’t feel current, both technically as well as in the story telling. And most disturbing is the objectification of women. I don’t mind relationships, even intimate ones, forming between characters in an RPG. But when women are created with no will of their own, whose purpose is to offer themselves to you and ultimately become a husk of a party member for combat, it cuts at my moral fiber. But for those looking for a sexually enticing mini-game to compliment their RPG experience, the M rating will keep it available for you at general retailers. Enjoy.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Dated graphics make Valhalla Knights 3 feel like a port from the PlayStation Portable. 4.0 Control
Easily accessible menus and improved camera control from previous titles makes this entry much more approachable. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Lackluster melodies and effects, paired with voice over limited to one word exclamations makes this game feel antiquated. 3.7 Play Value
The story takes a backseat to the action, which fortunately is filled with strategy and treasures to be had. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best