• GameNChick

Valkyrie Elysium REVIEW (PS5)

''The Gods Among Us''

 

Developed: Soleil

Published: Square-Enix

Genre: Action Role Playing

Release Date: Sept 29th,2022

Platforms: PS5/PS4/PC(November)

*Review copy provided to me by Square-Enix


*SPOILERS*


''Close to greatness''



Valkyrie Elysium is an action role playing game that is developed by Soleil and published by Square-Enix. Being technically the 5th entry into the Valkyrie series alongside the Profile trilogy and mobile game, Soleil and Square-Enix attempt to take the series in a vast departure from the series norms. But, does this effort pay off in the end or was it a move that costed them at the end of the day? Only one way to find out, so lets ascend!



STORY:


Long ago, Ragnarok, the End Times, loomed upon the realms. The All-Father Odin, with the last of his strength, created an emissary of redemption, Valkyrie; her sole task the salvation of a doomed world. It is now up to you and your fellow Einherjar to purify the souls of the dying land and stop Fenrir from achieving her full power once again.





 

GAMEPLAY:


Boy. Where do we begin with this one. Well I guess like all stories, everything has a beginning, so we can start there. The story here isn't for the feint of heart, but like all stories worth telling, it all begins with a girl, yes, that girl, Valkyrie. Apologies, its been awhile since I've done a Spider-Man reference in one of my reviews, so I had to get that one out of the way real quick. But I wasn't exactly lying though, the story here does start off pretty grim with the forces of All Father Odin battling the forces of the powerful Fenrir as her and Odin fight to the death in an all out battle to prevent the incoming Ragnarok. Pretty epic right?. This is where your game truly starts. In order to prevent his own destruction, Odin summons his weakening power and creates a new Valkyrie to help him and aid him in his quest to regain power, and that Valkyrie is basically a brain washed puppet who does nothing but follow orders. Think about myself and other women during the month of October with Pumpkin Spice ANYTHING and that's basically the level of dedication she has to Odin. Mmm. Pumpkin Spice. But... were off topic, let's get back to the actual game. Upon your creation, you're thrown into a training void and this void is basically Odin's test for you in order to see if you're not only worthy, but also help to awaken your full power so that you may travel across Midgard to purify souls that hinder Odin's strength. Your awaken trial is basically the tutorial of the game where you will learn your basic attacks such as Square for melee, Triangle for heavier attacking, Circle for dodge dashing , the use of elemental attacks versus enemies weaknesses and the utilization of Einherjars, who are beings that fight alongside you as summons to aid you in battle.


The tutorial is rather basic and helps you get your footing for the later half of the game when your upgrades and skills for each weapon and perks on your skill tree completely make your combinations of attacks absolutely insane. So what about the Einherjar? what exactly are they? well think of them in the context of the original release of Final Fantasy XV where you can send one of your party members to fight for you, but not fully control their attacks.. and this is essentially how Einherjar works. By placing them on a skill hot bar you can summon one of them to enter battle and attack for a varied amount of time(depending on your setting) and then poof, they're gone just like that. Four of them can be equipped at the same time and all of them proving their different uses to you as you plow your way through the main games 13-15 hour campaign, 20+ if you happen to do the extra side missions and go for the extra endings. Using Einherjar should only be done at specific moments though as summoning them uses up your soul gauge, and once this is drained, you cannot summon another Einherjar until you collect blue orbs to refill your Soul Gauge or use a potion or item to boost it back up. My favorite part however about the Einherjar is beyond their combat capabilities, and instead allows you to use them to find new paths, new treasures and help you solve puzzles using each of their elements. For example, an Einherjar like Cypher can use a freezing ability to create ice platforms for you to jump across in case you cant make it past a large pit or hole, or Einherjar Kristoffer that can be used to break down dark barriers using light energy. It's pretty awesome to me that each one has their own abilities to help you find things that previously were out of your reach. Some areas in specific levels early on can't be accessed until you acquire a specific Einherjar first, so always remember to write things down or backtrack because you just may find something as awesome as an Ambrosia to increase your overall health bar or soul gauge. But... there's one embarrassing moment that I hate to admit, and its during the dang tutorial. I had skipped the tutorial on accident on how to use Einherjar's elements for puzzles and I kept screwing it up until I thought I ran out of Soul Gauge to use, but as it turns out, I just had to lock onto the area I wanted to traverse, THEN summon Einherjar Cypher to provide me an ice floor in order to pass through the area. I was literally on it for like ten minutes, falling and jumping around. This was WHILE I was recording my playthrough too. Talk about embarrassing. But yeah yeah, enough of that, lets dive into the story arc a tad bit before circling back into the more game play heavy mechanics.. cause trust me, it gets pretty insane.



After the Valkyrie has awakened her power, she is sent back to Valhala in order to get her first mission from All Father Odin himself. He states to her there's a plague over the land and it's making him weak, and in order to start regaining his power, she must go down to Midgard and purify souls. No, not in the way Yuna does it in FFX to free people's spirits so they can pass on peacefully, nope, instead, you literally have to murder anyone who is deemed a threat to Odin himself, oh ok. Once you have your mission and head off into the world, you will be required to trek across 5 different areas of Midgard, all with their unique and distinct settings like the pretty forest area of Romali that gives me some outskirts of Gridania vibe from FF14 where you must purify trees and giant plants, Serpents Nest zone that is dreary, gloomy and very foggy place that you must tread through on your path later in the game to confront Fenrir, all while fighting against wizard based enemies that lock you out of skill use, fight the cold in Galdba, a once bristling city, but now laid to waste by the previous war of the gods, where you also surprisingly enough, meet new Einherjars, Lucarda - and that of which is a declined kingdom that is now completely covered in the icy snow where one of the four gifts is later found, and it makes you wonder if Arnold's Mr Freeze is gonna pop out at any time and proclaim to you ''CHILL OUT''. Each of these areas feels creative in their aesthetics and even design, with all levels having multiple branching paths that lends itself to a tiny bit of exploration in order to find hidden items and secrets. But they do tend to out stay their welcome relatively fast by mid game due to the amount of back tracking you have to do as you learn about the history of Midgard, Odin's plot, Fenrir's true goals and discover another Valkyrie, just like you, named Hilde, a woman who vows to stop you by any means necessary. While I think Hilde is pretty dang awesome, reminding me a whole lot of a Dragoon from Final Fantasy, she too, like these levels at times, out stays her welcome by becoming as tedious of a confrontation and boss fight as Risky Boots does in Shantae. I'm serious, she comes in, fights you for ten minutes, says you haven't beaten me like a cliche villain and then leaves again. This is generally fine for the first couple times, but... after the six time of doing it, it began to wane on my sanity. But.. ill talk more about that in my dislikes section because there is quite a bit more I have to go over with the actual game play mechanics and key points in the story.






When you're pushing your way through the main story combating threats against giant monsters, fending off Hilde, exploring the land to find its secrets and trying to un-do Odin's brain washing on your character, you will be fighting hoards of enemies...A LOT of them. These enemies can range from giant plants that spit acid, wizards that use their magic, flying monsters and even gigantic Berserker enemies where you must use an element against them that they're weak to. Elemental attacks you ask? oh yes, elements play a very large role in how this game is played and determines which Einherjar is the best fit for combat in specific monster scenarios. But before we get to that, besides the basic attacks learned in the tutorial, you're able to use a blue whip called Soul Chain that gives you the ability to sling your way up cliffs or towards enemies for quick grappling swinging action - which when combined with a learned combo from your skill tree, can create and endless air juggle combo on your opponent, which is awesome. Heck my biggest combo was 738 hits. This only goes so far however because the stronger the weapon, the more strategy you will have to use. For example should you run into a Berserker, you will need to target their weak points with elemental attacks that they have lowest resistance to. Say their element is ice, you then will use a fire element with your magic skill, Divine Arts, or summon an Einherjar like Taika, to not only attack with a fire based spell, but also equip you with a fire element to your weapon. Once you figured out the right element, keep attacking to build up the enemies elemental gauge and BLAMO, you will send them into a stunned state where they can't fight back, momentarily that is. You basically leave them as stunned as Wakka was when he found out Rikku was part of the Al-Bhed. Oh yeah, we went there. THAT level of stunned. Now you notice that I keep talking about the Einherjar, but what are they EXACTLY? how do you get them or properly use them in battle?. Well firstly, like I stated earlier, you can equip them to a hot bar and by pressing R1 with the facial buttons, you're then able to summon two at a time and they'll fight alongside of you similar to chocobos in Final Fantasy 14 or Beastmen in Final Fantasy 11. Using them too much however will again drain your soul gauge, so I recommend only using them in very opportune moments when you're overwhelmed. Ok fine, you say, you can melee attack, pull off great combos alongside soul chain to chain together strong and fast attacks into the air, use Einherjar to solve environment puzzles and in combat. That's all well and good you proclaim, but... you don't just start this over powered do you? heck no, you big goof, they must be earned by completing a series of quests for each one as you progress through the games storyline.



Pushing your way through the games storyline even further now with Valkyrie being tasked with having to collect the 4 gifts for Odin, which are the weapons of the gods, in order to help Odin get his power back, you will learn how to use L3 and R3 to use spiritual concentration power to locate the humans who may become your new Einherjar. It basically acts like a following mechanic that involves you tracking their scent. It makes it a lot easier tracking them sometimes because you can tell WHO had Taco Bell just the previous night, and oh my lord, check your underwear bro. You will also learn about the level up and skill systems too which ae just as vital as your own Einherjar abilities are. Divine Arts, which turn you into a mage, allowing you to map elemental arts to your facial buttons to summon ice, fire, light, in order to use on your opponents to send them to an elemental weakened stunned state as we previous covered before. However, much like the Souls Gauge, The Arts gauge also drains rapidly fast with some spells like healing, fire and others taking two more more bars to use, causing it drain rapidly. Luckily this game is VERY generous and allows you to alleviate the stress by collecting different colored souls in order to refill any arts or gauges you have that are depleted. Think of it like a traditional RPG with green being for health, blue in place of mana for your soul gauge and yellow souls being used to upgrade your weapons at blue crystal save points located at checkpoints in each level, and are also used to acquire new skills to use as your character gets stronger. For instance using gems you have found throughout your playthrough, you can level up skills that allow you to summon Einherjar automatically based off a block or dodge you attempt, upgrade your weapons grade level in order to increases its attack power, which when done, will unlock brand new combos of attacks that you're able to test out before equipping them, which is super awesome - collect runes as well that are hidden in chests or from defeated enemies, to equip to weapons and add perks such as +30 physical damage. But another cool part about all of these things is that each one of your four Einherjar, also are able to be upgraded as far as their skills go. This game is deep as all heck. Nearly as deep as Tidus's cringe when he attempts to be tough when he yells and ends up just squeaking. I know I know, that's my last FFX reference for the review, I apologize. My point in all this is that this game is super deep in its gameplay mechanics that overall, it pretty much takes precedent over the actual story itself because while the story is enjoyable in its own right, its not very complex. I'll briefly explain.



You see when you're going through the motions of purifying souls by beating major boss fights in each area you're ordered to go to, you're given the task to get Einherjar's, humans who are deemed worthy warriors to fight by your side. These require you to do fetch quests in order to free their soul from whatever they're neglecting or regretting in their life. During your adventure in discovering these special humans, you meet a man named Eygon, who when you first attempt to recruit, turns the whole room into a blob liquid and you end up thinking to yourself that you're in Ghostbusters 2 or something because of all this ooze taking over. Welp, I guess since were here in this goo, you might as well give me a boombox so I can play it some music and then proceed to take the statue of liberty out for a joyride and purify the souls of this castle. Likewise with that same sentiment, Cypher's room is encased with ice and room's for characters like Taika taking place after the fire nation attacked, has a room that is charred and burned to a crisp. That right there is actually cool, I enjoyed it a lot, but its the in between that fell short for me. After purifying multiple souls, Odin wants you to recover the 4 gifts, the weapons of the gods and this is where the pacing gets completely screwed up. Instead of fighting through levels, achieving an objective with a big boss battle that makes your hard work seem worth it, instead you're sent on a fetch quest to find an item that may not even be in the level at all. For context of this, right after Chapter 5, you're tasked with going to an area where you feel immense power, its how you track one of the gifts, however after spending a good 30-40 minutes on the level, you get to the end of it only to get into ANOTHER fight with Hilde, and for her to run off AGAIN and the game to tell you basically ''your princess is in another castle''oh ya, guess what by the way, the gift was never there to begin with. You JUST wasted your time and now the padding started to show. Yikes. This continues to be the trend for Chapters 6, 7 and 8 as well, with each feeling like they should've been condensed or not existed in game at all. I will explain more in my downsides section of the review because I got a little triggered, even while still enjoying the combat and gameplay itself. Although even with all the headache during these sections, there is some unintentional humor involving your Einherjar friends. During one of your gift hunts, in order to open a barrier to obtain a gift you need, you must detonate it with your god power, however, doing so will cause an explosion so big, it will kill everyone in the village down below. Your Einherjar's plead for you to not do it and Valkyrie is just like ''who cares, let them die'', cold as all hell, but ultimately due to her becoming more humanized, she agrees with them and lets them evacuate the village first. Good lord. She nearly took the Michael Jordan meme to the next level. I thought it was pretty funny, personally.





 

BOSS FIGHTS:


Oh yeah, you knew we were going to get into this one huh? yeah you know how I work by now if you've been reading or watching my content. We can't do a review without talking about some of my favorite boss fights in the game, that would be absolutely criminal to do and if I didn't do it, it would almost be as big of a mystery as Who Shot Johnny Rock. Kudos to anyone that manages to get that reference. The boss fights in Valkyrie Elysium aren't necessarily in abundance, with only a handful or so of them actually being in the game, but that doesn't make them any less awesome or fun. You have a huge giant fly and spider hybrid named Naglfar Eyegon that shoots bluish purple flames at you, grabs and slams you, shoots homing missile fireballs, a Naglfar named Cypher, who'm is a 3 headed serpent that uses its elemental attack of ice to hurl icicle spikes toward you, turn the entire arena you're fighting in into cold air conditions and spams a blizzard AOE that hits you for some pretty heavy damage. Naglfar Cypher is tough as freaking nails. On the flip side of actual monsters, as stated previously, you also combat against another Valkyrie who goes by the name of Hilde, she serves Fenrir and is under her command. Its decent at first because she's super fast and hard to hit, but after facing her like 5 or 6 times, the novelty wears off and just isn't fun anymore. Lastly, depending on what ending you choose, for which there are multiple, you can take part in an ultimate fight against Fenrir herself and like Jim Ross used to say, BAH GAWD, is she hard. She's lightning fast, uses hard hitting dark energy and can get you in juggle combos that knock the tar out of you. This is one fight you BETTER make sure you brought enough elixirs and potions for you to use to raise your Divine Arts and Soul Gauge to maximum capacity, cause trust me, Einherjar's here are mandatory. Its hard, but still a fun time.





 


EXTRA STUFF:



Even after completing your 13-15hr playthrough of the main game, whether it be on easy, normal or hard difficulties, there is still quite a bit to do in order to extend your time in Midgard. For one thing, should you not like the ending you got your first playthrough, fret not, there are multiple endings, including a TRUE ending that you can strive to achieve by completing specific requirements to unlock that ending. Don't worry, none of them end with a big reveal that a Doggo has been behind the events the entire time, so you're safe from the revelation. Mostly though, in all honesty, your time will be spent finding either all of the Hollow Blossoms scattered through each level and hidden in hard to reach places that give you small insight to someone who once lived in Midgard. There's tons of them. Early on in my playthrough when I was being a freak breaking boxes by the hundreds like I was playing Zelda or something, I stumbled across dozens and dozens of them, some insightful, some sad and some confusing, but it always felt cool seeing one and being like ''Oooh! I found another''. It never felt like a chore and more like an event to me. The next major extra piece of content you will be able to take part in is in regards to the plethora of side quests at your disposal, and oh boy is there a ton. When you make your way through levels, keep an eye out for spirits that a roaming, because by talking to them, they will give you a specific quest to do that can only be done in that zone, such as finding a lost ring they need. What if you don't want to do them right away though? do you lose them forever? absolutely not. Luckily there's a system in place to go back and attempt them on your own time, which you can do by going back to Asgard and using the Astral Globe in order to choose a side quest given to you by a spirit or one of your Einherjar's and select it manually in any order you want. Efficient and streamlined, just the way I like it.



 

DOWNSIDES:



Oh no, this section might be pretty brutal. For disclaimer, I have very specific things that I consider cardinal sins for my own personal enjoyment and when one or more of them is constantly rearing its ugly head, it kind of triggers me a bit. Before continuing, know this will contain spoilers for chapters 6 to 8. My first gripe is the level variety lacking. While earlier I said I liked the aesthetics of them and even their design, this much is true, however with there being only 5 area's in the game, while they each look good to me, they do tend to lose their luster as the story unfolds because to make up for the fact there's only 5 area's, you have to backtrack over and over again. Growing up on platformers and older games, I shouldn't dislike backtracking through levels, but when there's no real variety to keep you occupied in between that time other than waves of enemies, it does drain ya a bit. An example of how this can be annoying is when you're progressing through a level to find a relic or to get your next Einherjar, you'll scatter and search the whole level to the end, only for it to tell you ''oh wait, your objective was over here the whole time, mid level'' so now you have to go back to that section, beat another set of enemies and be done. It literally makes a 20 minute level, stretched to up to 40 minutes sometimes. Its tiring. If it was one time or maybe two times, fine that's no biggie, but it's definitely not.


Now we get to the biggest gripes of the game I have, the mid game chapters. These are the biggest offenders of all for me personally. Chapter 6 through 8 is what I call filler chapters. Its not as bad as Studio Pierrot and their 200 filler episodes of Naruto, no no, but yeah, I'll explain. In chapter 6 the game gives you an objective to complete like usual, but then when you get to the actual object to get the item you need, for example one of your gifts, Hilde just says nah bro and runs off with it, forcing you to re-go after her... again in order to claim it. I consider that padding, but just slightly. Again, first time offender at this point, so I didn't really count it as a negative overall at that time, that is until Chapter 7 pulled something similar on me. Scour your way one more time through a 40 minute level for the same gift that was just taken from you after apologizing to Odin yet again for your failure, you backtrack through another area you previously were just at and oops, the gift isn't there ONCE AGAIN and then as per usual it seems you fight Hilde for the 6th time, only for her to say ''this isnt over!'' AND ESCAPE. Are you friggin kidding me at this point? seriously, how many times are they gonna do this trope, my mind thought. It was making me a tad bit bored if I can be honest. Finally we get to Chapter 8 and again nothing really happens to move the narrative forward in a meaningful way. Overall your objective here is to seek answers from Fenrir in order to learn Odin's REAL plans for the fate of Midgard and also obtain two gifts that you need. But do you get the gifts? of course not. After fighting through a dark eerie setting with fog and gloom, which looks awesome, for like 30 minutes, as you attempt to infiltrate Fenrir's lair, Fenrir just kidnaps you anyways and brings you to her lair. Oh. Well alright then, that speeds things up, of course this is where we finally fight and get the two final gifts right? yeah, no. You are literally sent here by Odin with an all powerful rope to restrain Fenrir and you listen to her and get info and then are like ''oh ok, byeeeeee'' and the mission just ends. What?. That's it? Man. Luckily though, the game makes up for chapter 8's folly with multiple great boss fights and a good conclusion to the story in Chapter 9, otherwise I would've probably raged harder than the Overwatch community right now after Activision Blizzard announced cracking down on the usage of porn. So yeah... there's that.




 

OVERALL:


At the end of the day, Valkyrie Elysium, while a pretty big departure for the series when compared to the Profile titles, ends up being an enjoyable experience that lays the ground work for a lot of positive things to come for the Valkyrie series, should there be another entry. So while yes, the combat feels so fluid, fast and exciting, game having a really in depth battle mechanic and leveling up system that gives the player ultimate freedom to decide how to play, really good characters like the changes your Valkyrie goes through, as well as the stories and dreams of your fellow Einherjar, super challenging boss fights and some good aesthetics designs for each area you traverse - even though these make the game enjoyable on an immense level, it still to me doesn't meet the level of greatness I think it should. With too much emphasis on back tracking, repeat Hilde boss fights that strain the same tropes over and over, lack of variety for level zones, story falling apart midway through and sometimes the camera getting stuck in awkward spots, makes this game miss the mark just shy of being truly great. Now do I recommend people to play this title? absolutely, I think you'd have a blast all things considered. However, do I recommend it at full price? sadly no, I do not. If you're in the market for a fun time with an awesomely fun fighting mechanic, then pick this one up when its on sale, at the $35-$40 price point, I do not feel you'll be disappointed at all. So with that having been said, my verdict is clear. GameNChick says WAIT