Valhalla Knights PSP
Published by: Rising Star Games
Developed by: Marvelous Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
In my opinion, one of the key ingredients in any type of RPG is the storyline. It's fine for a strategy or FPS game to have a completely limp or uninteresting storyline but RPG fans like a solid and entertaining storyline to give purpose to their many hours of levelling up via multitudes of seemingly endless battles. Even action RPGs need a worthwhile storyline to keep things interesting because a game that relies purely on its combat system to keep gamers entertained is going to lose its novelty value pretty quickly and becomes tedious. So why have I opened this review banging on about the value of a good story? Essentially it's because the developers of Valhalla Knights didn't see fit to include a worthwhile storyline, only one as clichéd as hell, and that's a shame because not only does it put a serious dent in the game's appeal, it also helps to reduce what could have been a decent action RPG to a tedious one.
Valhalla Knights is a party-based action RPG. You'll begin by controlling a character named Rastul who, along with others, fights a dragon type creature. You'll then have to watch an extremely tedious cutscene before going on to create your character and initially choose from one of four classes: fighter, mage, priest or thief. You'll then wake up in an inn without any memory of what's happened or who you are. It's the usual quest to find out who you are and where you come from and if that wasn't clichéd enough, there's a once defeated Dark Lord and his evil forces back on the scene to deal with. As previously mentioned, it's not a worthwhile storyline but more of a disjointed, yawn inducing, seen it all before kind of storyline.
The game does have its good points. Mercifully there are no random encounters in Valhalla Knights and you'll get to see your enemies before you engage them in battle, although some will attack you if they are aware of your presence. Getting into a battle is quick and painless with virtually no load times which, believe it or not, does impress. You can take a party of six into battle, although you will have only party member. You can assign formations and give the other party members orders prior to a fight. Holding down the R button allows you to lock on to your enemies. Ranged and special attacks can be performed. The AI does a decent job of controlling your other party members and for the most part the battles are OK.
There are quite a few quests to be carried out in the game. Some of these are compulsory whilst others are purely optional. Quest instructions can be a little vague however. The various dungeons you'll have to explore are generally uninspiring with enemies that annoyingly respawn. The game's dungeons feel like empty corridors and it's quite easy to become disorientated because the mini-map proves to be more misleading than useful. For a game that's essentially about grinding your way through the levels fighting battle after battle, it's essential that exploring the game's dungeons is an appealing prospect. In Valhalla Knights it simply isn't.
Graphically, Valhalla Knights is OK. The game's cutscenes actually look quite impressive but the in-game graphics are certainly nothing to get excited about. The game's various environments offer the usual assortment of bland textures that you'll have seen in many PSP titles. The character models are surprisingly well detailed given how bland most of the environments are. The real problems are the frame rate and the camera angles however. At times the frame rate does become a little choppy and when you combine this with the blurring that the PSP screen gives (due to its poor response time) it can become a little nauseating. The camera is also rather poor and seems adept at giving you a poor view of the action. You can pull the camera back behind your character when it goes astray but the frequency with which you have to do this makes the whole thing a chore.
Valhalla Knights shouldn't cause deaf gamers any problems. The main reason for this is that there is no speech in the game and all dialogue is shown in text. For the majority of the time the dialogue doesn't have any character names or portraits placed alongside the text but it's usually pretty obvious who is saying what. Occasionally however, you do have character portraits placed alongside the dialogue for conversations involving the game's main characters. Any tutorial messages you'll encounter are all in text. Any context sensitive actions (that usually require you to press the X button) are also shown in text. The game's sixty page manual has around 20 pages in English and covers the basics of the game fairly well.
It's difficult to see Valhalla Knight appealing to anyone in all honesty. Sure the combat is middling but without a quality storyline and dungeons that are at times tedious and at others frustrating, it's not a game that's going to encourage you to keep playing. The game does offer a few multiplayer options which you'll only be able to experience if you can find a PSP owning friend who also owns a copy of the game. With only one copy of the game at hand, and support for an ad hoc wireless connection only, we weren't able to test the multiplayer side of the game. Valhalla Knights isn't a terrible game but it's weak in quite a few areas, not just the storyline, and there are far better alternatives out there on the PSP and it's tough to recommend it to even the most enthusiastic fans of the action RPG genre.
Valhalla Knights is a big disappointment and even the game's low asking price of just £19.99 can't do anything to make the game more appealing. In theory the game should have been very promising but there are just so many areas of the game that end up disappointing that it's difficult to like the game.