Having played Valkyrie Elysium the night before writing my thoughts on the title, I needed some time to let things settle down because I am polarized by this title. Historically, I have been a fan of games that the general populace seems to dislike, and nothing exemplifies this further than Saints Row. While I still need some time to finalize my thoughts on that game, I'm noticing a trend here. I tend to like games that dare to be different. As someone with zero attachment to the Valkyrie series, this is my first outing in Square's cult classic IP.
I knew that Valkyrie Elysium was to be nothing more than an appetizer to the upcoming remaster of the PSP's Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, which in turn was a remaster to the original Valkyrie Profile. Rather than turn-based combat, Elysium is an all-out hack-and-slash brawler that I've seen many compare to the Nier series. It's a bit less complicated than that as it lacks the various nuances that make the series stand out. There are no shmup sections here, Elysium is a basic "dungeon crawling" action title at its core.
Setting the world of the Valkyrie series, the player controls the titular Valkyrie as she's served under Odin to purify the lands of evil. Based on Nordic mythology, it's quickly revealed through lore told through blossoms that everything is not what it seems. Disease and vile creatures plague the land, with many of its residents caught off guard as demons run amok. What was once bustling villages and settlements are laid barren, with the occasional unsent spirit roaming about requesting the aid of the Valkyrie.
It would seem that it's barren until it's revealed that there's a sole human who has survived the events. I hadn't gotten far in the game yet to see how important said human is, but it's clear that he will have a role in the future. Gameplay-wise, much like Soulstice, you have your light and heavy attacks. Valkyrie can evade, block, dodge, and can learn skills that amplify her combat potential.
She can even use a zipline to dash across gaps, summon familiars to fight by her side known as einherjar, and use various combat arts. Each enemy is tied to a weapon and an elemental weakness, making it up to the player to take advantage of their weakness and overwhelm their foes.
Unlike my complaints with Soulstice, the camera works very well within combat and outside of combat. Adjusting the settings can allow the camera to follow Valkyrie when she's locked on to a target, but the specific angle can be adjusted to be as close and as far away as the player requires. The maps featured in Elysium are vast and broad, allowing the camera to do its job and dynamically adjust to the combat in real-time. The developers, Soleil, are best known for the Naruto Shinobi Strikers and Ninjala games, both online action titles, so their expertise is felt here.
Valkyrie Elysium's biggest controversy lies in something purely subjective and that's its potential repetitiveness. Every encounter involves Valkyrie storming an enemy location, fighting waves of enemies, and moving on to the next map. As I mentioned it's a 3D beat-em-up at its core. If played like a beat-em-up, players will appreciate what Elysium has to offer. If you expect it to be on the same wavelength as Valkrie Profile, then you'll be disappointed. But then again, it'd be foolish to have those expectations as Elysium is not Profile.
It's like Crisis Core compared to Final Fantasy 7 (Another game from Square that was originally on the PSP that will release around the same time. Coincidence?) Overall, if you're looking for a solid classic 3D beat-em-up, a genre saturated by the 2D market subjectively, then you'll enjoy Valkyrie Elysium if you keep your expectations in order. The $60 price tag may be a bit too steep, especially for games just like it for a fraction of the price, but it is poetry in motion if you play the game the way it was meant; to have fun.
Valkyrie Elysium is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.