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December 7, 2008D. Riley

Rosie's my tank killer. I've given her a gun with limited range, but upgraded damage and a bigger clip. When she gets behind the tank it's as good as dead. I could use a heavy weapons unit for it, but she’s more mobile, and her machine gun keeps her useful against infantry. More so, I kind of think she’s a badass. It feels good to watch a helpless tank’s HP bar tick away with each successive shot.

Nina's my all around. I tend to work her in a team with Rosie. She's got a more generic machine gun. It's not as strong against tanks, but it's good at taking down troops at range. I first fell in love with her on mission 7. In a fantastic bit of luck I placed Nina facing the ramp where most of the enemy troops would funnel down. Not a scout or shocktrooper made it past her alive, and the cover of the trench kept her damage to a minimum. That mission took me a couple tries, and every time Nina took up the exact same position.

Ted's my sacrificial lamb. Something about his happy-go-lucky attitude that makes me think he doesn't mind getting shot down. So when I'm not sure if my smokescreen is enough to keep the machinegun bunkers from firing on my advancing ground troops, Ted is always first in line to check things out. I'd say the man deserves a medal, but his closet is probably already clogged with purple hearts.

I use Alicia for capturing camps. Just about any scout with any kit could get the job done just as well, but Alicia and I have a special rapport. One mission I got tired of being slaughtered by snipers and decided just to make a go of it. I bulldozed my tank down the main square, exploding enemy units and dropping a well placed smoke grenade for cover. Alicia followed in the tank's shadow, sniping infantry as she went, and with just the two of them I finished the previously unbeatable mission in only two turns.

Largo's my Hail Mary. It feels good leapfrogging the pendulously slow heavy weapons units from camp to camp, and there's something magical about using up all your turns running one of them up a hill, behind a tank, and sealing the deal in one shot. You’re not sure if you have enough movement left, but if you don't win right now then the enemy's going to overrun you. That's where Largo comes in. I give him my last four turns and see if he can't work something out. When that humming blue radiator is in sight (a tank's weak point, natch) there's a shudder of anticipation. I line up my shot and hit the fire button, holding my breath all the while. He hasn't failed me yet.

Alex saved my bacon once. At the end of a particularly gruesome mission I didn't have many troops left. Failure to understand the objective meant I wasted a lot of time, and the enemy boss tank took advantage of that, killing my men, then killing the reinforcements that went in to save them. Alex stepped up to the task and, by some miracle, wasn’t gunned down by reactionary fire as he ran towards the objective. A couple bullets later and the mission was complete, though just barely. Now he sets up the Hail Mary. If I need Largo in position then it's usually up to Alex to clear the way.

When was the last strategy game where I thought of my characters as names instead of White Mage, Black Mage, or Warrior? Has there ever been one? Half of the characters I mentioned are generics, throwaway non-story characters that don’t even appear in cutscenes. The most dialogue you'll hear from them is the one or two catchphrases on the battlefield (I'm partial to Nina’s "Yeehaw!", which makes me think she's two six-guns away from a ten-gallon hat, and since cowgirls are awesome, so too is Nina), and yet I’ve created my own little roles for each one. In all my games of Final Fantasy Tactics I never named a Chemist my #1 Ninja killer. When has there ever been a game who treated its cannon fodder characters with such respect? Again and again they've endeared themselves to me.

I've only suffered one permanent death. It was in one of the earlier missions. I felt pretty bad, even if the engineer who died had a throw-away personality. After the mission I went to the War Cemetery to visit her grave, only to realize the War Cemetery is just a location where you can learn new abilities. I was a little let down. I pity that poor engineer whose name I can't remember. I'm sorry I tried to run you across a street directly in front of a parked tank. In hindsight, that was a really bad plan. Your sacrifice made me more cautious.

There are a million reasons to praise Valkyria Chronicles. It's got fantastic art design, solid character advancement, and battle system that is beyond brilliant. But above all that, what really makes me love it is my attachment to my squad. There’s permanent death, and though it’s significantly less harsh than other Strategy RPGs (Fire Emblem) it still makes you think. Should you run into your enemy's field of fire, knowing your character might not come back? I've got an engineer lying in a graveyard somewhere who’d probably say it isn’t worth the risk.

I love this game. I love hemming and hawing from behind cover, knowing that sending my scout running into the open field could very well result in their death. Just last night poor Aika barely made it ten feet before being shot in the back by a boss's machinegun. I decided that was a reset-worthy offense. And shoot, man, I don't even like Aika that much! She just has a cute zinger when she’s firing her rifle.

I love the little things. I love how the heavily armored Lancers scuff their feet against the ground at the end of their turn, like a bull waiting to charge. I love the satisfying 'schohk' of a machine gun being reloaded. I love hearing the exasperated "GO DOWN!" as a rifle burst ticks off an enemy's life bar. I love running Alicia, already wounded, through a haze of turret fire and getting her to cover behind my tank with her hitpoints in the single digits. I love that someone made this quirky, weird thing -- a turn based strategy game played in real time -- and, against all odds, it actually works. More so: it's the best game I've played all year.

I'm gushing, but everyone falls in love every once in awhile. This is my appeal to you, and I'll keep it short: buy this game. Or you can play the demo, take note of how much fun you’re having, and then buy the game. Hell, I don't think the demo even has tanks in it. The real game is even more fun! When the DLC comes out you better buy that too, just in case. Let's reward 'em for making an awesome game. I'm not being altruistic, I want to guarantee I get to see a sequel. I want the wait for the next game to be as short as possible... otherwise I'm gonna start to miss my squad.


31 comments for ‘To All The Scouts I've Loved’

#1 The Joel Dec 8, 2008 10:50am

The resurrection of the new gamer must progress! If only Operation Darkness didn't suck so bad. Maybe then I wouldn't pine for this game so badly.

#2 Mitch Dyer Dec 8, 2008 10:55am

I'm certainly partial to my teammates as well. I've had to restart on numerous occasions just to avoid losing favored members, but I try to roll with the punches. One of the earlier missions, which you may or may not have referenced, has you assaulting a base in the woods, only to come face to face with a gigantic boss tank.

Earlier on in the mission one of my older machine-gunners (Corey?) was picked off by an enemy scout who captured the point I'd just taken. Without any scouts in range, it was a hustle to the end to ensure he lived. I sent one of my favorite ladies to the front lines alongside Edelweiss, who promptly shoved the equivalent of nuclear destruction in the rear end of the enemy tank. Once they retreated, I made only had two movements left, and made it to the capture point for the victory. Barely. But I made it.

Nobody occupies my graveyard yet, but I'm terrified of the potential. I don't like the idea of there being upgrades there, because that feels wrong, somehow. I don't want to ever have to go there, but I it seems like I might have to. I just hope none of my mates are resting in it any time soon.

#3 Classic Dec 8, 2008 11:30am

This article just made the game a must-buy for me.

#4 D. Riley Dec 9, 2008 10:11am

MISSION COMPRETE! :D

Yeah Mitch, I was talking about the same mission. That tank is murderous, and I hadn't quite grasped how flimsy engineers were yet. Live and learn...

The engineer doesn't have that chance, of course.

#5 MCBurnett Dec 10, 2008 01:00am

I'm conflicted about including Rosie in my squad. . . I have a strict policy against working with Darcsen haters. Largo cooled off, but Rosie still needs to learn her lesson. Wendy and Jane are typically my sullen-eyed all girl shock brigade.

Melville is my go-to scout. He's got that Tiger Beat friendly mohawk that says, Hey, I'm a little bit punk, but you'd be okay with your 10 year old daughter hanging my poster up in her bedroom.

Herbert was my engineer, but his moody potential triggered too many times at critical moments in a mission. Now I'm using Ramsey, just because all my other options are punkass bitches at this point.

#6 D. Riley Dec 10, 2008 02:02pm

If Rosie wasn't the ultimate in hot stuffs I would reject her outright. But that, plus she gives you an extra CP every turn... man... decisions!

I was reading a list of quotes the other day and they made it seem like Wendy giggles/cackles under her breath with just about every action. I must get in on this action. Also, Jane sounds friggin' awesome. Also, I kind of want to plug Melville in because apparently he and Ted get into this Chatty Cathy infinite feedback loop.

#7 MitchyD Dec 10, 2008 04:12pm

I generally only use three people in a mission because CP is so limited. I can't get a whole lot done with a lot of people, so I usually flank with three, maybe four, and Edelweiss. I'm on a mission now where I need to cross a sandstorming desert to capture a base, but I can't get anywhere because CP is so limited and I can't get everyone close enough. So I'll try to fill the void of characters I don't use with extra CP. I might need to change that and suck down ten or more turns to win, but I've yet to need more than four or five per map. I guess I'll have to experiment with moving a tactical FORCE, rather than a squad, forward.

#8 MCBurnett Dec 10, 2008 05:51pm

I always feel bad neglecting troops, especially when I incorrectly predicted the classes I'd need. Something useful I still don't take full advantage of is retreating troops and bouncing them forward when I gain new camps. In that desert mission, I started off with a pair of snipers. . . let them monopolize my CP for a round or two, unloading from afar, while I raced a scout up to a gradually emptying enemy camp. I then had the snipers retreat, grabbed the new camp, and called in a pair of lancers (shout out to my desert fox Walter) to the new frontline.

If you haven't put him on your roster yet, definitely play with Jann Walker at least once. I guess it's progressive that they put a male character in there who "Fancies Men," but the second he opens his mouth, you realize it's one step forward, two steps back. He's also obviously voiced by John DiMaggio, who voices Bender on Futurama.

#9 thecashewkid Dec 10, 2008 06:27pm

So I should buy this game then?

#10 Hawksprite Dec 10, 2008 06:45pm

Braco as classic said that maid this game sound amazing. It was a great article to.

#11 Salahdihn Dec 10, 2008 08:28pm

Your comments only reaffirm what I've been hoping for with this game. I've always liked the minor characters in stories and hearing how important they are in this game is what convinced me to purchase a PS3. I've been really enjoying your recent articles and hope you keep up the good work.

#12 Calcaneus Dec 10, 2008 11:02pm

All signs point to this being the next game I need to buy. It looks its taking my kind of game (Advance Wars), and making it even more smooth and interactive.

Alas, Holiday shopping has made me a poor man too early.

#13 LeonGrex Dec 11, 2008 12:30am

Im hoping to get a PS3 for Christmas just for this game, its sounds so amazing. Im just glad Persona 4 came out a few days ago otherwise Id be killed by the wait for this game.

#14 MitchyD Dec 11, 2008 01:53am

This game does exactly what Star Wars Battlefront never did. I mean, I love that game, but the chumps I spawned as were thrown to the wind with reckless abandon. Stormtrooper #TK4312 didn't mean a good god damn, whereas if his name was "Simon the Stormtrooper" I'd probably be more careful with my "run out in to the open holding the right trigger" tactic. Because I've got these minor characters to be invested in, I don't WANT to throw them out there to do bits of damage as I widdle down the enemy's forces bit by bit with Generic-O-Soldiers.

#15 The Root Beer King Dec 11, 2008 02:30am

I agree, this is the best game I've played in a long time. It's a master piece really. The music, the graphics, the STORY(my fuck the story is awesome!), the gameplay... it's all soooo good. You aren't a gamer until you've played this wonderful game!

Sega needs to make sequels now! and give me some air combat!

#16 nyccapo91 Dec 11, 2008 09:46am

I love this game, from the characters to the art to the story. Every character feels important,they all have their own personality and feel different. This is my favorite game of the year and I'll be buying a few more copies fore presents in the coming weeks.

#17 Joe Dec 11, 2008 01:28pm

I've had my eye on this game since I saw a trailer for it, but this article just caused me to IMMEDIATELY go out and buy it

#18 shaloop Dec 11, 2008 05:52pm

Great article. Everything I hear about this game is pushing me closer to getting a PS3 so I can play it.

#19 MitchyD Dec 12, 2008 02:22am

Mr. Riley's love for the game, and the gushing in many audio and text forms, was definitely the catalyst for my purchase. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I think that if I hadn't purchased a PS3 that this would be the breaking point for it. It's easily one of the best games this year, and I say that with a mere 5 hours put in to it. I can't wait until I can drown myself in it around the holidays, perhaps starting this weekend, so I can have a more eloquent approach to talking about it than "ZOMFG LOVE."

Which, I guess even after playing it as much as Mr. Riley, is still all you really need to say.

#20 Sean Hiruki Dec 12, 2008 05:14pm

Cures you, Dave Riley. Each time you talk about this game, I want it. I don't even have a PS3, but now I want one.
Great job, Mr. Riley. Your making me want a PS3 badly.
Hope to see more articals from you.

#21 BlueCode Dec 12, 2008 10:07pm

I agree that this is a great game. I have only been playing it for a short while but it hasn't let me down yet here's to hoping it stays that way!

#22 Yotaru V Dec 12, 2008 11:01pm

Wow, this was a review! It was typed. New Gamer- yeah!

#23 MitchyD Dec 13, 2008 03:19am

Finishing a brick-wall mission in this game is a great feeling. Concocting new strategies, aligning the right units and being able to protect multiple soldiers with organized squadrons makes for immensely satisfying gameplay. I adore it.

Secondly, people are ragging on the story, and I think that it's fine. As a political drama it's kind of lacking, but as an "oh crap, there's a war" it succeeds wonderfully with dashes of uncomfortable racism and decent character VOs.

This might be the most refreshing game this year.

#24 MCBurnett Dec 13, 2008 05:17pm

I will admit, feeling of wahjah started to creep in the first time the whole Darcsen angle was introduced to the story. . . I wasn't entirely sure this re-imagining of a World War II scenario really needed to explore a genocide/Holocaust allegory. But so far it's proven to be pretty tasteful, keeping it simple and believable. I just hope there are no "Assault the Death Camps!" missions coming up.

To be clear, though, I am overall more than happy with the story. And even more happy with the story I can create in my head with my unique choices of squad members and tactics.

#25 MitchyD Dec 13, 2008 11:25pm

It's present, but not obnoxious. It comes up sparingly, which is exactly as often as I want to see it. Rosie's dislike of the Darcsens doesn't intrude on the story, or her ability to do her job, but it plays in to appropriately placed scenes.

Is anyone as bothered as I am that all the women are weaker than the men? I wanted to use a cute scout, but opted to use a mowhawked muscle-man instead because he's less of a risk. This is true for almost every single woman, save for the story-centric ones. I'd like to be able to use more ladies, but they're too much of a hazard when I can use tougher dudes to get the job done without the worry of them getting jacked in one turn.

I'm with MCB on the make-your-own-tale thing. I constantly had Jann following Largo in a mission I just wrapped so they could get ahead of a tank -- I also had them holed up in a cramped corner. Now I don't want to get too deep in to my fiction, but...

Joking.

But there are certain characters that "like" each other and gain boosts because of it. It's hard not to think where they came from, or why they're so friendly. It consistently astounds me how much I care about characters. It pained me to swap out a sniper who'd single handedly headed an entire map in a risky final turn... She had to be switched for someone better, though. Still bummed that she's gone, and that they all say goodbye when you release them is all the more bittersweet.

#26 Modris Dec 14, 2008 11:27am

I love this game for exactly those same reasons. It's a shame the DLC has you playing as the other side, I'd really like some new missions to play through with my squad, they were awesome. I had to laugh when all the credit for the victories went to Welkin in the cutscenes, in my EWII, he was a bit player and all the real heroes were the secondary characters. Sega did an impressive job making me care about characters with a coupe paragraphs of biography, a catchphrase or two and a short list of strengths and weaknesses.

I'd have a hard time thinking of many games where I was more attached to the main character than I am to my squad, their little heroic moments and the way they just naturally seem to take on certain roles. Vyse, Aika and Alex were my miracle workers, if I needed a base taken down fast, those three could get it done. Marina must have been the stuff of nightmares for the Imperials, taking out countless waves of reinforcements before they could even touch my squad. Walter, for all of his mood swings, could be counted on to stop even the most oversized tanks and what can I say about Jane, the sadistic florist? Easily my favorite game this year.

#27 MetalLink1979 Dec 14, 2008 01:51pm

I'll be damned if I let anyone of my units die in this game. This is by far the only strategy game that has ever made me care about my units in a way that is relative to them being characters as opposed to "my best unit" or the fact that I won't get the ending I want. Final Fantasy Tactics was far too anonymous, Fire Emblem still gave you the notice that they will appear in cutscenes when needed, and Yggdra Union never made me care beyond Milanor and Yggdra. Valkyria Chronicles succeeds in emotional attachment where these other excellent games have failed by making you embody the character as you charge across the field. The fact that the movement and use of these personalities is so personal that you share a genuine bond with characters you might not have otherwise given a second thought of scapegoating.

My experience with this game has been bliss so far, and there have been so many stand out favorites for me. Marina, my favorite unit, Vyse and Aika my favorite team attackers, Juno, my favorite scout, Kevin, my faithful engineer,and so on, have the stigma of not even being a single bit integral to the story in any way. Yet, their on screen antics endear me further to them. I love this game and so should you. Buy it. Now. Great article Dave.

#28 MitchyD Dec 15, 2008 01:06am

In spite of my aggravation and frustration, this might be the best game I've played all year, if only because it has turned me around on a genre I typically loathe.

#29 Mark Dec 28, 2008 03:37am

I checked out the demo on your reccomendation. I think I need this game!

#30 D. Riley Dec 28, 2008 01:00pm

It's my opinion that EVERYONE needs this game.

#31 MitchyD Jan 8, 2009 03:33am

It's old news at this point, but I'm holding this article responsible for the upcoming anime series.

Good job, sir.