A six year old PS3 title set around an alt-anime-universe World War 2 era conflict may not appear to be the most obvious candidate for SEGA’s porting team to pluck out of their back-catalogue, but there are reasons this PC version of Valkyria Chronicles makes a fair amount of sense. For a start, it’s a strategy game with a blended turn-based/real-time approach which feels both novel and well suited to the platform.
Second, Valkyria Chronicles is one of the games given a push by the #SEGAPCPorts campaign, which has been trucking along since the end of 2013 and received acknowledgment from the company for their efforts.
This port also appears amidst something of a trend for Japanese games making their way to the PC. SEGA’s own Binary Domain, Metal Gear Revengeance, both Dark Souls titles and Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends have all shown up on Steam in the recent past, with games like Way of the Samurai 4, Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (plus Ground Zeroes) still to come.
In that context, Valkyria Chronicles fits right in.
But receiving confirmation of a PC version is only ever part of the story. Sometimes the porting job leaves a lot to be desired. While I’m not going to complain about Deadly Premonition and Final Fantasy XIII being available on PC, the fact that both all-but required third party intervention from port-mending hero Peter ‘Durante’ Thoman is a reminder that sometimes these things end up being pretty poor. Sometimes, they map ‘exit completely out of the game’ to the Esc key and think that’s all just fine.
It’s not fine, Square Enix. It’s not fine.
Happily, Valkyria Chronicles is pretty much the porting opposite of Final Fantasy XIII. SEGA were making encouraging noises about resolution and frame-rate support prior to release, and appear to have delivered handsomely.
Shall we have a look at some configuration and graphics options screens? Yes, let’s.
Behold, a fairly straightforward set of options. Don’t let the simplicity fool you though, because this actually offers quite a bit. For me, the resolution maxed out at 1920×1080 (like my monitor,) but SEGA has confirmed that “higher resolutions” would be supported. You can also be pretty certain it’ll be getting a specific GeDoSaTo profile for downsampling purposes, since Durante appears to love the game (indicated by the plug at the end of this update.)
The frame limit options offered by the config screen were either 30 (not if I can help it, thanks) or refresh rate. In my case that meant 60fps, but it implies that people with 120hz monitors may be able to do 120fps. I’m unable to confirm that, so don’t take it as gospel.
What I am able to confirm is that everything, cut-scene movies and gameplay, stuck to a smooth 60 on my machine (i3-2100/8GB/2GB HD 7870) with the ‘refresh rate’ option selected.
V-Sync is there to do what you imagine it would, while the display mode options toggle between full screen and windowed mode. There’s no borderless windowed mode (unless you can create one by messing about with .ini files and stuff, but I’m unaware of that possibility.)
So, in short, you get 1080p/60fps with the implied possibility of up to 4k, downsampling and maybe 120fps support. Valkyria Chronicles is off to a pretty marvellous start.
That image above is part one of the keyboard and mouse control options, which I’ll say some things about after the image which constitutes part two.
Fairly straightforward keyboard options there, and all fully re-definable if you so choose. The game has controller support too, though I can’t say how deep this runs. I’ve got a basic wired 360 one, which worked fine.
Keyboard and mouse controls were solid enough for me to use them without any major hindrance for the three hours or so I’ve put into this game so far (it should be clear this isn’t a full review, just an overview of the port.) The default keyboard inputs work well for controlling Valkyria Chronicles’ likeable cast on the battlefield; running, aiming, taking cover and the like. They’re also fine for the overhead command view, though on here mouse control felt a bit sluggish for me.
See the sensitivity option in the keyboard control screenshots? Even maxed out at 100, it seemed more natural to select characters by either moving the pointer with keyboard commands or bringing up the quick-select menu and jumping to units that way. That’s just about the only (minor) negative I noted.
Yes, one more config screen. This one is in-game and allows you to switch to Japanese voice acting (with or without English subs) if you wish. It also lets you invert a couple of camera controls and, if you have literally lost your mind, turn down Hitoshi Sakimoto’s evocative score.
Something else worthy of a mention: loading times on my machine were practically non-existent. They occasionally last just long enough for me to notice that the loading logo is a symbolic white ‘Lion’s Paw’ flower, but that’s about it.
Now, a few words about anti-aliasing.
You may have noticed the lack of any AA or anisotropic filtering (AF) options in the Valkyria Chronicles graphics menu. Indeed, there aren’t any. The game’s CANVAS Engine looks pretty gorgeous without them, but you do have to put up with a fair few jagged edges during cut-scenes. I assume this is because, despite looking like in-engine stuff, they’re actually movie files (possibly scaled up from 720p.)
External AA and AF (via Nvidia or Catalyst Control Center) can be applied to the visuals outside of those specific cut-scenes however, so if you want to further smooth out some already pretty crisp-looking lines, that’s what you need to do. Again, cut-scenes aside, I didn’t feel it was necessary.
By way of demonstration, here are a couple of shots from roughly the same place in the very early tutorial level. The first has some basic 8xAA and 16xAF applied externally. The second has nothing applied.
Based on how little difference there is between the two, I’d hazard a guess that Valkyria Chronicles is actually applying some secret AA by default. The upshot is a rather lovely looking game at 1080p, even at default settings.
This is primarily a piece to examine and ultimately celebrate what turns out to be a quality port, so I’m not going to dive too deep into gameplay mechanics. But here’s a bit of a summary based on the bits I’ve played so far.
Battle scenarios are about making the most of your limited Command Points to order units (which are controlled and shot at in real time, though taking your one shot per turn will pause that fire,) take up sensible positions for returning fire during enemy movement, and smart rationing of resources.
Valkyria Chronicles has five foot-unit classes (Scouts, Strike, Engineers, Snipers and Lancers) as well as (at least one) tank. Units are named individuals, who can die, but levelling up is a collective class process (so all the Snipers get better together.) A research and development team allows you to spend earned cash on upgrading your unique tank.
Story progression is linear, with (so far) one set combat mission per chapter; though you can also partake in repeated skirmish missions if you want to earn a little extra experience. There’s a pretty high cut-scene banter to mission ratio thus far, and even an option to unlock more visual novel stuff by paying a war reporter to embed with your squad.
Now, everything I know about anime (and netiquette) I learned from the untouchable Cromartie High, so I’m maybe not the ideal judge, but Valkyria Chronicles definitely has that ability to switch from jovial characters goofing off to heavier themes like wartime civilian slaughter and weird racism towards those with dark hair. It essentially seems to be completely lacking in cynicism, which means the narrative feels heartfelt to a fault but has already resulted in some moments that are a bit over-sentimental for me.
Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the hours I’ve put in so far. Early battles haven’t been hugely challenging, but I can already see the importance of factors like positioning and inter-class support coming into play. The cast are quirky, but likeable, and I’m already gravitating towards a few favourites to take on missions. There aren’t too many tactical, turn-based titles who will give their soldiers “Lonely” or “Metal Allergy” as a meaningful characteristic, either.
SEGA has done a fine job on the PC port, so anybody who played this on PS3 and fancies a replay at higher frame-rates and resolutions shouldn’t hesitate. On the strength of what I’ve played so far, those looking for an unusual take on turn-based strategy should take a look too.
Valkyria Chronicles comes to PC on 11 November