Valkyria Chronicles 4 Demo – Multiplatform (2018)

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It is the year 1935 EC.

The continent of Europa is engulfed in the flames of the Second Europan War between the Atlantic Federation and the Autocratic Eastern Imperial Alliance. Although the Federation struggles valiantly against the Empire’s forces, the relentless imperial military machine threatens to consume them. With victory slipping away, the Federation executes Operation Northern Cross: a last-ditch attempt to capture the imperial capital and end the war.

Commander Claude Wallace and his loyal childhood friends in Squad E are sent to fight for the desperate operation’s success, but they will have to endure harsh bone-chilling elements, waves of imperial soldiers, and the terrifying Valkyria… and unravel a grave truth that will shake them to the core.

One of the very first PS3 game I ever bought was Valkyria Chronicles, and I immediately fell in love with it. I absolutely adore tactical RPGs and it had been a while since I played one that tipped the “instant classic” box that games from Quest Corporation or Square Enix used to make. But here came Sega with something truly special – only to sit on the franchise basically for over a decade. Yeah, there were sequels, but they jumped to the PSP and were ignored totally in the west (VC was never released here!) since the games basically were being used to promote a TV anime in Japan. There was an ill-received spin-off recently, but Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the first true return to form for a Loooong time.

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To celebrate this, Sega has decided to drum up interest in the game by releasing a demo showcasing the beginning of the full game. I don’t normally review things like demos, but I was pretty excited about this and only just found out about it when I was checking on my pre-order for the full game. When it’s all said and done, think of this as the first part of my review for when I eventually do the full game, and it’ll all come together.

This demo isn’t a meager one level affair like so many others, it contains three full chapters of the game (a prologue plus 2 main chapters) plus the ability to transfer any progress from the demo to the actual game upon release. It also has two skirmish maps, a bonus map that is ONLY available in the demo, and some unlockable things that can be done, giving this demo a surprisingly large amount of replay time if you like grinding. Each chapter is divided into small segments arranged in a scrapbook-like grid with pages that are turned to access the next segment. usually, each page contains 5-6 story segments and a battle – for fans of the original Valkyria Chronicles, this is exactly the same set-up as the first PS3 game from ten years ago (which was released later on PS4).

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One of the things that I enjoy most about this series is that it has a humanity to it that most war media is completely devoid of. Instead of a “kill them all, America F Yeah! – Hoo-rah” vibe one gets from 99% of military shooters like your Call of Duties, or Battlefields, we have a story of regular people being thrown into a war to save their homeland from an encroaching enemy. An example of this is a powerful scene where Claude remarks that the field they are standing in is now completely empty of the beautiful flowers that were just there before Imperial shelling began in the area.

Keep in mind that one of the more lauded aspects of the first game in the series, was it actually had the cajones to actually address the Holocaust in an interesting way in that it introduced an ethnic minority of characters (Darksens) that were blamed for the misfortunes brought on by a previous war and were rounded up and put in camps and persecuted. One of the main protagonists HATES Darksens at the beginning of the game, so much that she comes across as fairly unlikable once her racism shows through. Yeah – that was in this game, heavy stuff for a fantasy game with water color art.

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In a lot of ways, this game is a step back from some of the stuff aadded into the series on the handheld games, it does not include the branching classes or “school simulator” aspects from Valkyria Chronicles 2, or the fantastical characters found in Valkyria Chronicles 3, but that isn’t to say there isn’t any innovation at all. In fact, this is perhaps the most well-balanced game of the three I’ve played – some character classes have been tweaked such as allowing more movement for snipers, or less CP usage for tanks. There is also an entirely new character class this time around known as the Grenadier, who can fire mortar rounds at enemies. They can sort of stay behind the scenes and lob mortars at far away enemies if any team member can see somebody on the map – it’s a cool character class so far despite the small amount of time I’ve been messing with this demo.

Another addition to the game is something called “The Brave system”. When an allied soldier is downed and is nearly dead, players can consume 1 CP and increase the stats of allied units with the “Entrust” skill or can restore 1 AP with the ability to move and attack while being invulnerable for one action with the “Stand Up” skill. Considering how many times I had to restart battles in the previous games due to my unwillingness to accept perma-death of characters, this sounds like a godsend. I have not messed around with this too much, because I have been playing on “Easy” in order to leisurely take in the demo, but when I do my main play-through I will definitely be excited for the opportunity to save my soldiers necks if need arises.

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For some reason, I have played this demo for like 10 hours, mostly because I decided to try to get all of my characters up the the rank of Corporal for no other reason than to be a total over-powered bad-ass once I start playing the full game, but it came be played in like an hour most-likely. All-in-all this is really fun and looks like I will have plenty of fun this fall returning to the country of Gallia. Here’s hoping this game finds success now that it’s out on multi-platform and we get things like a Valkyria Chronicles 5 and even a Valkyria Chronicles 2-3 HD remaster!

Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a tactical role-playing game developed and published by Sega. It was released in Japan for the PlayStation 4 in March 2018, and is scheduled to be released worldwide in September 2018, in addition for the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.

Jump onto everything but the PC, and grab that demo, and let me know what you think in the comments!

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The Triumphant Return of Nerd Poker

As with many things that were once seen as underground and “uncool” for anyone not in the nerd culture, Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly come out of nowhere to be a mainstream thing all of the sudden. I recall an episode of Community that heavily featured the game, as well as a recent episode of iZombie that lovingly poked fun at the venerable past-time. And let’s not forget Stranger Things, and its group of D&D heroes fighting a real-life monster. Gone are the days of the inane “Satanic Panic” outrage over the game and questionable films like Mazes and Monsters helping to stir the pot. Even Vin Deiesel had a movie made that was entirely based on his own personal D&D character – it’s weird time indeed. This was the perfect climate for something amazing to pop up on the internet.

For a lot of my friends, especially those into stand-up comedy, there was a different entry-point into the game – a podcast, formerly on Earwolf and now on Patreon, Called Nerd Poker. Starring stand-up comedian Brian Posehn, Nerd Poker was a great look at what many D&D games turn into – a DM frantically trying cling to order while a bunch of silly people make dumb characters and waste time instead of doing what was planned-out. What ensued was pure comedy gold most of the time, and it wasn’t a forced product like it could have been.

The OG Cast including Sarah, Sark, Brian, Ken, Blaine and don’t forget Gerry.

At the height of the show’s popularity, I even went as far as to donate some cash to Gerry Duggan at a local comic convention as well as a condolences card for his most notorious character, Sir Richard, who had died in a blaze of glory recently. We talked for well over a half hour about gaming, and was able to get a Nerd Poker related autograph in the binding of my Deadpool book.

Hearing my name in the following episode was amazing and really helped me feel like a part of a small community of fans that had sprung up. I started playing the game again with some buddies, and eventually bought a bunch of 5th edition books. While talking to Gerry Duggan I asked if they realized how important their show was to gaming as a whole, and he seemed surprised. I’m still not certain why the company that owns D&D never sponsored the show or anything, because Brain and Co. basically advertised their product better than they did themselves for years.

An example of the fan outpouring for the show includes awesome fan art of the characters.

For the first 75 or so episodes – Nerd poker was one of my favorite things to help me pass time at my boring office job. Their DM, an internet personality named Sark, wove a tale of a rag-tag group of heroes battling an evil organization referred to as The Collectors that seemed to be “collecting” people from other worlds for some dire purpose. Sadly we never really got closure for this story, as a number of the cast members including Sark had to bail on the show at one point. Blaine Capatch took over as the DM and the show basically meandered for another 75 or so episodes until it’s untimely death about a year ago. Nobody’s really sure what went down, but it seems like Earwolf, the podcast network the show was on, screwed them over regarding a cancer benefit for one of the players. Everyone assumed the show was gone and buried until just a few months ago – Nerd Poker is BACK!

Now DM’d by Dan Telfer, most of the cast has returned for a creator-run version of the show with Patreon subscribers providing the funding. In return for donations, Brian and Co. have been releasing special episodes with guest stars and other fun bits. Now existing as a fan run product, there is a whole new charm to the show as things that would normally be insanely annoying such as Ken Daly accidentally eating pizza directly into his microphone somehow come off as hilarious. And when Vin Diesel ignored their not-so-serious requests to be in the show, they did one better by creating a version of him as a character in the game. It seems like the old magic is back, and part of my work routine that sadly was taken away has returned!

If you’re a lapsed fan, head on over to Patreon and throw some cash over there – if you’re like me, you want the show to last for a LOOOOONG time.


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D&D Beyond Announced

One thing I have really shifted to these past few years, are computer aids for running and playing role playing games, especially ones for Dungeons and Dragons. Funny thing is, that for the last decade or so, Wizards of the coast has been fairly lazy about getting something like a Dungeon Master organization program out there, so amateur developers had to step in. I used to use a program called “Master Plan” to run third edition games, but it sadly died – most likely via cease and desist letter. That’s why I saw the news of an OFFICIAL product like this called D&D Beyond and got excited:

We are excited to announce development of D&D Beyond, an official digital toolset for use with the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules. We have partnered with Curse to take D&D players beyond pen and paper, providing a rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more—all populated with official D&D content. D&D Beyond aims to make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters by providing high-quality tools available on any device, empowering beginners and veterans alike!

“D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. “These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players soon!”

Visit dndbeyond.com to sign up for the beta now. Further details about the beta and launch are coming soon!


 

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