Chronic difficulty

Valkyria Chronicles is a good game, as has already been mentioned a few times ’round these parts. Yet, one aspect of the doesn’t seem to be netting much attention around the Internet: its difficulty. Or rather, it’s lack of difficulty.

To put it bluntly, Valkyria may be good, but it isn’t very difficult. Sure, some strategy is involved, and you need to know when and how to use your soldiers or they’ll be killed off, but otherwise a Game Over is a rare occurrence. Considering that so many strategy RPGs — I’m looking at you, Tactics Ogre — have a reputation for being horribly difficult, this is not a bad thing at all! The impressive thing about it, though, is that while Valkyria mirrors the recent development trend of making a game accessible so that more players can see all the content, it does so in a way that doesn’t rob the player of all challenge (and thus, the feeling of accomplishment videogames do so well when that challenge is overcome).

[[image: ar_052209_valkyria_01.jpg:Crackdown:Insert sappy message about the real difficulty being understanding your fellow human being here.:0]]

Valkyria largely sidesteps the lack-of-accomplishment issue through its rankings. At first I wasn’t a fan of this system, being a gamer who tends to play defensively and set elaborate traps for my opponents; Valkyria rewards taking huge risks to win in a short number of rounds. I suppose that’s less of a ranking system than it is a strange, formless difficulty option, though. If you want a challenge, try to finish a map quickly; the risks are higher, but you’re rewarded with more experience (which better suits you for taking more risks in the future). Not very good at SRPGs, or want to play defensively? You can take the conservative tact, as long as you can live with seeing something other below an A ranking at the end of each chapter.

Furthermore, the skirmishes — non plot-related battles that can be played over and over for additional experience — can help bridge the gap between D and A rankings, and since they take place on maps you’ve already beaten, it’s essentially the game’s way of nudging the player to try replaying battles more efficiently. So, while some of the moves the bone-headed AI makes (like letting a tank roll right by a scout about to capture a base) occasionally leave me feeling like I cheesed a victory I shouldn’t have been able to claim, overall the rankings are a thoughtful method of letting the player choose his own difficulty without ruining the fun for anyone. If the “the game watches you constantly and adjusts your experience” thing in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories sounds like a pie-in-the-sky dream, well, maybe not. Thanks to Valkyria, we know that it really can be done. (A lesser man would say “even Sega can do it,” but I’m better than that.)

16 thoughts on “Chronic difficulty

  1. Whoa, whoa – Chapter 7 is brutal unless you know exactly what’s going to happen and EXACTLY how to respond to it. I got steamrolled (literally!) quite a few times before I just barely managed to complete it.

    The game also has fake difficulty, though, with the accuracy margin, which is as frustrating as the “Chance to Hit” stat was in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. It encourages killing people from point blank whenever possible, which is quite funny if you’re a sadist.

  2. What’s up with all the “games” articles? I want more movie articles!

    Kidding aside, another great post Calories! (You should do this more often!)

  3. The ‘Chance to Hit’ issue is a regular feature of the Final Fantasy Tactics series, and isn’t just limited to the first Advance installment, let me assure you.

    Also, accessible difficulty? Another reason I’m a little ticked off at not being able to play this.

  4. I seem to be the only person on the planet that did really well in Chapter 7, it seems. But still, I can’t imagine not being able to scrape by on it even on your first play through. I suppose even this game isn’t perfect – but the organic difficulty IN GENERAL is a pretty boss idea, don’t you think?

    Levi – no kidding.

  5. I don’t think Valkyria is hard. But I do find the fact that it requires tons of trial and error irritating.

  6. How far are you in the game?

    Valkyria Chronicles stays relatively easy throughout its first half (except Chapter 7 for most people). After the second half of Chapter 10 however, VC becomes one tactical nightmare after another.

    Chapter 17 is one of the most intense levels I’ve ever played in a strategy game. Capturing all the enemy bases in that level felt like it took ages, but I was shocked to find out that only four turns had passed. Those felt like the longest four turns ever.

    I will say that starting around Chapter 10 a lot of the missions really become puzzles, but VC is one of the few games where I actually appreciated frequent cut scenes to break the pace of the intense battles.

  7. I dunno, there’s room for both. Front Mission 3 wasn’t as ubertough as 2 or 4, but that actually made for what I thought was a better pace. Getting Game Over again and again is all well and good for most SRPGs, but sometimes it’s fun to follow the narrative on an easier game, because you keep the sense of momentum without having to restart the same mission AGAIN AND AGAIN…Will definitely pick this up at some point…

    Quick Q-picking up a used PS3 with MGS4, Valk. Chron., Uncharted….waiting for Heavy Rain. Any other games I should be picking up?

    Levi- Be snide if you must, but this is a solid topic that merits discussion. Let’s not start flaming just cause you got your feathers ruffled. Sarcasm is a substitute for honest discussion. Just call me out on my BS if I’ve offended. You’re capable of some pretty kick ass articles…

  8. I’d consider adding Ratchet and Clank Future to your list; it’s a fun shooter/platformer that kept me grinning all the way through.

  9. Wow, I couldn’t have a more different opinion from this article. There were a number of missions (beginning with #7) that had me literally crying because I had to replay them over and over again. In fact, I probably spent more time replaying missions from game-over screens, than I spend on the rest of the game combined.

    The DLC is also pretty damned hard as well. The missions are really frustrating and the new difficulty level is pretty much impossible for most people.

  10. Glad to hear such wide-ranging opinions. I don’t have a PS3, yet I’m still strongly tempted to pick up Valkyria Chronicles.

  11. Man, really? Ya’ll are making me sound like I’m some kind of SRPG master, which is definitely untrue.

  12. Yeah, Chapter 7+ had me pulling my hair out, but I have to admit that I played almost every big battle at least twice – some levels much more than that. It’s “easy” once you get placement, the correct party, and know the surprises, but other than that, I’d say it’s a rather challenging game. Especially if you’re not a SRPG master, like myself.

  13. Play the hard mode skirmishes after you beat the game.

    And the DLC super-hard skirmishes after that.

  14. Joshua-Thanks for the advice. Completely forgot about Ratchet and Clank. That, Infamous, FF13….is it just me or does the ps3 look like it might start to pick up? Also, anybody looking for a great right up on Valk. Chron. should check out Kat Bailey’s posts on 1up’s RPG blog. Good stuff.

  15. Late to the party because I was gone all weekend, but I think I can agree. As I was reading, I was about to chime in with the fact that I’ve gotten plenty of game overs – but then I realized that I started getting those about the time I had gotten comfortable with the basic game mechanics and started going for A-ranks in the story missions, essentially bumping my own difficulty. Trying to do Ch17 in three turns (just because I think I can barely manage it) is driving me nuts right now.

  16. TO isn’t that bad. There is far far worse out there, like Hoshigami and many others.

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