Valkyrie Elysium is a revival of the cult classic Valkyrie Profile RPG series. Unlike the original games which were turn-based, this game is an action RPG hack-and-slash title that plays more akin to Devil May Cry or Nier.
Reviving an old beloved franchise and adapting to a new audience can be difficult and when I originally played Valkyrie Elysium in a preview, I thought it had a couple of flaws but the potential to be a lot better since I only played the first chapter. Upon finishing the full game though, it’s a perfectly ok game with a good combat system but is held back by an uninteresting plotline and dull world.
Ragnarok is Coming
Ragnarok, the end of the world is upon us, and corrupted souls scour the land. In this time of crisis, Odin sends Valkyrie down to Earth to fight off the damned and prevent the coming apocalypse caused by the evil wolf Fenrir. Along the way, she meets with several fallen warriors that she resurrects to be her Einherjar ( pronounced ‘en-harry-are’), spirits who fight alongside her in battle.
I won’t mince words, the story of Valkyrie Elysium is pretty barebones. The game has nine chapters, totaling around 15-20 hours of playtime. The main gameplay loop is that Odin gives you a mission and you go out to carry it out, running into new Einherjar, and a couple of other characters along the way. While the game has a lot of cutscenes, the writing feels rushed with characters briefly explaining their backstories before going into more generic quips and quotes. There are even times when characters seemingly change personalities out of nowhere to accommodate where they need to be in the story.
None of the characters get a lot of development. Valkyrie herself seems to undergo an arc about becoming more human and regaining her emotions but she’s so overly stoic throughout the adventure that it’s hard to really see it. You also get hints of the different Einherjar’s backstories when you recruit them but once again it’s very fleeting with the only true explanation coming from their in-game biography, something that a lot of players may not even read.
Overall the story felt pretty cliched and underdeveloped. In particular, towards the end, it became pretty predictable and the conclusions felt rushed. There were some good ideas here like Valkyrie bonding with the einherjar but they’re just not given enough screen time to flesh them out.
While it lacks in story and characters, Valkyrie Elysium still has its frenetic hack-and-slash style gameplay. You have a light and medium attack as well as a jump and dodge button that upon upgrading can be used to perform new attacks, quick dodging, and counterattacks. You start off with one weapon, a broadsword but gain access to more as the game continues.
The combat feels fast-paced and smooth with no frame drops or glitching. Right from the start, it’s pretty easy to string combos together but as the game goes on it’ll expect you to incorporate more into your arsenal, particularly the quick dodging. This involves dodging just before the enemies hit which slows down time and allows you to get in more combos in (Zelda BOTW and No More Heroes 3 have similar features). Pulling this off properly will also reward you with more health, spirit, and skill points that allow you to use your magic.
Another cool mechanic is the fatal blows that allow you to attack a downed enemy with a dynamic cinematic finishing blow. These are incredibly satisfying to pull off and are implemented seamlessly into the battles
There are two types of upgrades in the game. You can upgrade your different weapons at the save points located throughout each map which will unlock further moves to try out. You can also upgrade Valkyrie’s stats such as health, power, and magic using a skill tree in the main menu.
You upgrade both of these systems using a number of different gems that enemies drop when you kill them. I like how accessible and self-explanatory these upgrade systems are. Just by looking at them, you can instantly understand how they work, what they do, and what you need to make the upgrades. They even allow you to demo each new move in a tutorial if you want to try them out before a proper battle.
The combat overall it’s not quite as complex as something like Devil May Cry but there’s enough here to make the game challenging to master and keep fights fresh with new abilities. Not to mention, it’s quite nice having a more light hack and slash where you can just cathartically wail on the AI every now and then.
Magic and Einherjar
Outside of physical prowess, Valkyrie can use two kinds of magic. The first is skill-based magic which allows her to summon different elemental attacks like fire, lighting, or healing.
Her other skill is to summon her Einherjar, who will fight alongside you in the battle for a short period of time as AI-controlled partners. While AI partners have a spotty history in RPGs, I can safely say the Einherjar is the best part of the game. They can’t die so you don’t need to worry about them as they lay waste to your enemies. It feels incredibly satisfying to bring them out and fight alongside them to cut down larger foes like a general calling the cavalry into battle.
There are four einherjar in total, each with a different type of elemental management. One interesting mechanic is after using a magic skill or summoning an einherjar, Valkyrie’s weapon will gain the same element. This can then be used against enemies all of whom have different elements and weaknesses. This becomes the main strategy in most fights as you’ll want to figure out which magic you should use to go against them as opposed to throwing out each einherjar without thinking.
The heart of the Valkyrie series is supposed to be the relationship between Valkyrie and the Einherjar and while it doesn’t show much in the story, it certainly does when you fight with them in the gameplay. That was when I felt most connected to them.
An Empty World
The world of Valkyrie Elysium is a dull and dreary post-apocalyptic Earth. You’ll be journeying through the ruins of former towns, villages, and castles. At first, I thought this created a good atmosphere, setting up the dying world you have to fight for but after playing through more of the game, it just started feeling a little too drab.
The areas are well-detailed but quickly started to feel repetitive and lifeless as the game went on. The design of the areas is often muddy with a lot of dull grey and brown generic medieval buildings throughout most of the areas, even when they change up the location with a snow level or swamp level they still felt very similar. If it wasn’t for the arrow pointing your way through the area, you could easily get lost since so many of the landmarks look the same.
Similarly, you can complete a number of sidequests that give you rare items or even new skills for the einherjar but these sidequests mostly involve fetch quests or killing more enemies in levels you’ve already beaten. You can only access them in the main hub and they involve replaying a smaller part of the same dull levels which really isn’t worth the trouble.
Where is everybody
Another problem with the levels is that there are almost no NPCs in the game. There are few characters in the game period outside of Valkyrie, Odin, The Einherjar, the enemies, and one other human named Armand.
All of the few remaining NPCs are incorporeal spirits represented in the game with a small blue flame with little interest to say before dropping a sidequest and leaving. There is even a point in the game where characters are talking about one of the few remaining human settlements but it’s hard to care since you never see any other humans including the ones being talked about. It went beyond setting a grim tone and lead to the game feeling too lifeless.
Yes, I know it’s explained that most of humanity has died but other RPGs like Nier and Shin Megami Tensei, despite also having bleak post-apocalyptic settings, still take the time to make their world feel vibrant and lived in. With Valkyrie though, when combined with the bland story, the world just feels empty and gives little incentive to want to explore further.
Overall I think Valkyrie Elysium is a solid action game that is let down by some serious flaws. The combat is pretty fun, especially when summoning the einherjar but everything other than the combat system feels underwhelming. I also like how accessible the mechanics are with a very simple pick-up-and-play feel to the acting and upgrades.
Everything around the combat however just isn’t very interesting. The story feels rushed, the characters are underdeveloped and the world and level design are too dull. I understand that story isn’t super important in all games but for a 2022 RPG, I feel there needs to be something that incentivizes you to want to keep going whether that’d be characters, worldbuilding, or fun levels. Valkyrie Elysium unfortunately doesn’t really have these.
If you’re looking for a new hack-and-slash game with some accessible but challenging combat, Valkyrie Elysium is a good time but with a little more polish and better writing, it could have soared even higher.
Valkyrie Elysium is available for PS4, PS5, and PC.
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- Combat is exciting and easy to understand
- The Einherjar are useful and satisfying to fight alongside
- The story feels rushed and predictable
- The levels and world feel repetitive and drab
- The lack of NPCs make the game feel even more lifeless