Have you ever thought about all those retired heroes you might meet along the way in games in RPGs? How about becoming a principal of a school so that you can nurture the next generation of them? Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is a mix of simulation and role-play adventure, putting you in charge of an adventurer’s academy.
The game’s graphics are pretty simple and cute, with the characters wandering around rendered in this super-deformed style. In the in-game books, story cutscenes and dialogue, the art then shifts to a 2D, hand-drawn style. The school facilities could look a little blocky, but they’re fine enough to go with the “SD” sprites walking around in the place. The facilities are pretty easily recognizable at a glance, so there’s less worry about mixing up the stuff you want to place and build.
The dungeon maps are laid out pretty simply like a typical ARPG. Run around, explore, smack down the monsters and retrieve that loot while gaining experience! Above your students’ heads will be their HP (green) and MP (blue) in dungeons, for quick status check. You might see your students emote in bubbles above their heads when they’re on campus grounds, to get an idea of what they’re feeling.
There are a variety of menu languages that you can switch out at any time: English, Indonesian, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Simplified Chinese.
Controls are pretty simple, with a combination of the mouse and keyboard – or controller, if you’re playing the console versions. However, the mouse use is strangely limited, as it cannot be used to click most of the menus, only being used in clicking on students and any “incidents” (more on that later) that pop up. It seems like aa very strange oversight, so keep that in mind. Perhaps a holdover from a console only build?
Now, let’s get to the meat of things. Your core gameplay loop tasks you to expand the academy, enroll, supervise, distribute and graduate students accordingly. You may come across special events in the academy – the aforementioned “incidents”. Some give Gold, some praise you, and some involve multiple choice events where the correct choice will give a small amount of EXP or fame. Unfortunately, these multiple choice items can get extremely repetitive.
You will need to raise the fame of your accademy, namely, your Accreditation level. It can be gained through missions, but the journey is long and arduous, like how going from D to C needs 100,000 fame. When completing tasks reward only 1,000 to 2,000 fame, it’s going to take a while. You can construct something called the “Fountain Garden”, but it only gives 25 fame a week and you’d probably be able to better spend that 5,000G elsewhere.
The most fame comes from graduating students. If you don’t pick any, the system will ask you to do so anyway, every June annually. Try and pick students to graduate in the first week of May for best payout. On reaching certain Accreditation levels, more facilities and land will open up to you. At level C, facilities can be upgraded. If needed, you can fast forward the game within five time slots: morning, noon, dusk, evening, early morning.
There are three primary mission types: the main quest, side quests and errands that you can consider as “expeditions”. Should errands fail, pick a strong student to carry the others. Completing main objectives can directly return you to the academy, but you can also continue exploring the map for materials, experience or gold.
Tasks will have difficulty rankings as well as the time needed to complete them. The more stars, the better levels and equipment you will need. Affiliated missions will also open up from the other 5 countries, but these can be ignored without much effect. Main story missions can be cute in flavour text, like how a queen might ask you for a student to help her trim her trees (isn’t that free labour?).
Four persons can be in a party, where you will control one of the students with the rest following behind, and you can swap to any of them anytime. Attack just needs you to mash that auto attack button then your skills when they’re off cooldown. A character can be made to stay in place and will only attack from afar if they have ranged attacks. Switch control to the stationary character to move them again. HP and MP will recover gradually.
Choose from 3 strategies that you can change at any time:
- Focus: SPD+, Increase movement speed, groups party
- Aggressive: ATK+, DEF-, attack spells automatically used by AI
- Defensive: ATK-, DEF+, automatic use of defensive skills
Break barrels and stuff to get materials, gold, even equipment, and light up the map on complete exploration. These materials can then be used in the Armory to craft weapons or accessories, requiring recipes you get as rewards from missions or buying from the NPC Shilekka. These students will be able to graduate when they reach level 10. Incidentally, a character dying will turn them into a grave and will not be usable. Missions fail when all students die. They can get EXP from classrooms too, and eventually job change.
Graduating students will no longer be controllable, but they will return their equipment. At Accreditation D, you can find teachers to promote students further.
The pace of the game is quite slow to begin with, so it might be hard to hook players until the point where things pick up. You can’t phase through your teammates so you might get stuck thanks to the AI, or they get themselves stuck. The dungeon crawling can get stale after some time, as it runs on the same formula: explore zones, kill monsters or collect items, repeat. The whole promotion of students might be fun, but you’ll need to get there first.
It has interesting systems, but the pacing issues and certain oddities with the controls unfortunately can put people off, but do give it a try if you want that RPG flavour with your sim management.