Valhalla Knights 3 is a Japanese role-playing game delivered by Marvelous AQL in partnership with Xseed Games. It’s the first entry in the series to grace the PlayStation Vita, and as such it has been met with great expectations after previous titles failed to titillate audiences, and perhaps this is where many of its problems stem from; attempting ferociously to add excitement to a stale franchise. Despite having a serviceable story and solid action-rpg mechanics it is all for naught when-much like rotting flesh atop of solid bones-the game embarrassingly degrades women at every turn, progresses slower than most free-to-play games; and is graphically on par with early titles in the PSP’s library.

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As mentioned in the intro the plot in Valhalla Knights 3 is serviceable considering its roots. Players take up the role of a fully customization protagonist and join a set of companions on a secret mission to infiltrate Carceron prison, where it is suspected that Flockhart’s Legacy-a great forgotten treasure that could turn the tides of war-lays hidden away. While Carceron may be a prison, it is in fact only one by name, and truthfully has more in common with Las Vegas than it does a penitentiary. In this forgotten and overrun prison the corridors are buzzing with activity, whether it be the many markets and businesses than run alongside each hall or the many low-lives who freely wander them, very little is locked away.

It is due to this unconventional confined-freedom that myths, legends, and power struggles are born; including that of Flockhart’s Legacy. As you may expect given the genre, the tale undergoes numerous twists and turns as it progresses. Without spoiling too much, you never quite know who is friend, and who is foe. With Valhalla Knights 3 essentially being a tale of espionage, this sense of paranoia fleshes out the plot and begs you as the player to unravel the thread.

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Carceron prison is a unique beast and this is proven by the fact that prisoners commonly exit the facility and venture into the wild. Yes you read that correctly, inmates are able to walk straight out the front door and explore the wilderness until their hearts content. What is the logic behind this? Who knows. What is for certain is that the outside world serves as the game’s vast dungeon, with many animal and humanoid creatures to combat. The world outside the gates of Carceron is quite extensive as it splinters off into multiple elongated paths; truly lending the player a sense of scope when it comes to the universe created by the developers.

On the topic of the outside world, it is where you will spend most of your time in Valhalla Knights 3, battling with enemies in the attempts to gain valuable experience points and level up. Thankfully combat is one of the elements that VK3 manages to do quite well. While it may not necessarily being an action-rpg, combat does occur in real-time and is quite involving. Confrontations are not random, as you see enemies wandering the field with typically very little interest to your presence. It’s usually up to you as the player to initiate contact and begin a battle, which occurs immediately in the same space, albeit with a designated perimeter for the length of the fight.

Attacks can vary from basic weapon based assaults to skilled magic and melee moves; but it is the basic combo system that is the bread and butter of every encounter. After each basic attack a timed prompt appears on screen, if you manage to attack during the duration of the cue you can link together another attack of increased speed and damage. This can continue near indefinitely and can be essential to winning and losing a skirmish. While you are afforded parries, blocks, and ability to charge enemies; it is clear that the combo-system is at the heart of any fight.

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Quick reflexes are not all you will need to be victorious in warfare; you will also need a carefully constructed clan if you plan to survive. You are able to recruit allies from within the prison to aid you in your quests and encounters, but recruit may actually be the wrong word as what actually occurs is more akin to creation. For a price you are able to dictate your party’s species, gender, appearance, stats, and class. This sense of customization is a great bonus and truly allows you to form a team that serves your personal style of play.

Having a clan of several allies’ aid you on the battlefield lends the confrontations a sense of grandiosity that perhaps they may not have had otherwise. A carefully put together squad can mean the difference between life and death, and much like real life death in Valhalla Knights 3 is something you want to avoid at all costs. Letting your main, or supporting characters fall in battle doesn’t mean the end of their adventure, but it can mean either a huge loss of time or a massive dent in your wallet. If all of your clan falls in battle you are offered the ability to either revisit an old save state, or to revive the last standing of your party and return to the gates of your prison.

While the latter may seem far more seductive in theory, in the harsh money-driven world of Carceron prison; you may find yourself opting to replay rather than re-pay. In order to revive fallen characters you must visit priest within the facility who offers to heal your allies, for a price. How costly could it be you ask, Extremely. The amount of “donation” this servant of god requires to aid your party depends on how powerful they are, the higher the level the more costly the job. In a game where money is hard to come across, paying 700 gold to revive just one character can be a major setback, especially when you have multiple friends who are in need of service.

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Given the harsh penalty for failure, the obvious adjustment is to pick your spots and choose enemies carefully, but it can be next to impossible to do so due to the games lack of transparency. When approaching enemies you are not given any information as to how powerful they are, and you will only find out through trial and error. One opponent can be taken care of in a pair of strikes, whereas another only meters away can be five-times as strong and spawn a party of his own after battle has begun. Moreover the challenge of main-quest missions are equally ambiguous and can spike ridiculously in difficulty without any notice. This lack of knowledge can be detrimental to not only your characters health, but your enjoyment of the game.

It becomes frustrating to never truly know what you are entering into, and what it leads to is endless amounts of grinding and farming in order to keep up with the unknown forces that lie ahead. In the first 20 hours of my time with VK3 I was able to complete only a handful of main quests because of the slow pace in which you are able to level-up your party and catch up to the run-away difficulty the game’s central missions employ. When you find yourself making very little progress and having to repeatedly enter battles for no sake other than to gain experience for hours on end; no level of visceral and engaging combat will save your waning interest in continuing.

Worse yet is that when you spend hours upon hours battling it because painfully apparent how ugly of a game Valhalla Knights 3 truly is .Areas are bland, visuals are muddy, and it is clear that the game was not designed for the resolution of the PlayStation Vita. While I personally am not one to say that graphics make the game, it is shocking to charge full price for a game that looks like it belongs on last generation hardware.

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In addition to how terrible the game looks, it sounds equally as bad. The musical scores themselves aren’t necessarily bad, but they are repetitive and so loud that they deafen all other noise in game. Valhalla Knights 3 is one of the only games that I rushed into the settings to adjust the SFX-Music ratio, but what I found in the options laid the foundation for how misguided the title would be in the long run. As I searched for an option to adjust the volume levels, I was shocked that not only were there none to do so; but there were a plethora of sexually driven options instead. In place of typical normal sound options, there are multiple options to toggle the “panties” of the women of Carceron prison. This was just a hint as to how degrading an experience VK3 would reveal itself to be.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, Carceron prison features both men and women; the latter of which are typically found as either scantily clad shop clerks or prostitutes. There is actually one thread of the game’s story that deals with a female character who is kidnapped and forced into becoming a “lady of the night” and upon rescue refuses to exit as she has grown to enjoy it.  The problems don’t stop there though, as I mentioned earlier there are a ton of creation tools for your party and if you choose to create a woman you have the ability to alter her “bust size”, something which is completely immediately noticeable considering the physical customization of the male counterpart largely has nothing to do with anything outside of the facial structure and skin tone.

The most egregious of offenses is ability to enter into a “sexy time” mini-game at the brothel in which you tap and rub the PlayStation Vita’s screen to pleasure your hostess. While I do understand that many of you will perhaps have a higher threshold for content such as this, I personally found it offensive and embarrassing. Believe it or not women make up a large portion of the industry I find it upsetting that many of them will pick up Valhalla Knights 3 not knowing what it holds, and will have to play through this sleazy garbage.  Keep in mind that I have no issue with sexuality being involved in video games, but I do have a problem with misogynistic degradation. The adult tones are fine and should be welcomes, but the means in which they are handled here feel as though the game was created by pre-pubescent boys rather than probing adults. There is literally nothing “sexy” about Valhalla Knights 3, but there are a buffet of frankly gross portrayals of women.

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Valhalla Knights 3 does a satisfactory job of meeting the essentials of the genre, and even includes player vs. player online combat; but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter when the rest of the game is a mess. You won’t want to explore the sprawling world because it is ugly, you won’t want to continue battling because it becomes tedious, and you won’t want to play it in public because it is embarrassing. Even if you do not share the same view as I do in regards to the “sexual” content, the fact that this game carries a full-price tag is nearly as offensive as its portrayal of women.

  • Jonathan Harding-Rathbone

    Ouch. That sexism is wrong. Nice review though…was actually considering this and now I know to avoid it!

  • XtemmA2

    Yeh, its a boys’ game as much as men’s magazines. I’m getting it, but not at full price tho.

  • Slizarus

    I think sex games have their place, but this one isn’t one of those games, and it makes a bigger deal out of it than GTA, Witcher, and GoW, honestly, in the Playstation Blog and in it’s ads, it liked to go on about the sexy things.

    I think that’s ridiculous, so much of the whole sexy prisoners/prostitutes are your new party members is a little silly. I don’t like it, I don’t support games that try to go with sex sells as their main draw..

    I’m still on the fence about Dragon’s Crown which I think is likely better about it all than VH3 (I can’t say this with assurity, but DC characters aren’t adjustable and don’t offer your choice of panties) I think I’ll pick up a cheap used copy so I don’t pour more money into over sexualized games. (This is just a “Voting” with my dollar kind of thing)

    I had much higher hopes for VH3, and I am more concerned about what impressionable minds might look to this as, validation that oh, a woman can be abducted and turned into a prostitute and it be fine. That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Just because I know the difference, does everyone who plays the game because of an inauspicious cover and a rating that’s glanced over and assumed for blood and gore, something we’re immune to nowadays.

    Anyway, I’m done giving thoughts about it, I’m just waiting for YS:MoC and Zelda.

    • aros

      Dragon’s Crown is just an art style – it’s not offensive at all, think with your mind, not other people’s ranting. The male characters are just as exaggerated with regards to the elements women like. The Wizard is male and not exaggerated I hear you say, but the Archer is his female equivelant. People complaining about Dragon’s Crown has been flabbergasting – it’s strange it’s got worse as the game hit EU, when the USA is supposed to be the sensitive souls with regards to this kind of thing.

      50% of the playable characters in Dragon’s Crown are female and all them are strong, powerful women capable of soloing in the hands of a skilled player. There’s nothing about it that makes women seem less powerful or capable than the men and personally the game is quite forward thinking in that respect. How many other games have 50% female playable characters across a six character game?

      It’s like complaining the sculptures of topless women are offensive and degrading – Dragon’s Crown is high fantasy and totally unrealistic in all aspects. If it was a gritty realistic game and the women looked as they do, people would have grounds to complain. It just makes gamers look like utterly pathetic white knights when they complain about DC, who don’t speak to real women.

      In a small survey, my girlfriend, mum and sisters both quite liked the art work and were impressed. It’s only men who seem to be complaining about it.

      • aros

        There are also no sexual mini games or any aspect of the story that degrades women as the main character IS a woman 50% of the time. The quality of the classes available also means a lot of people who always choose the male character will be playing as a woman. Lumping the brilliant Dragon’s Crown in with this rubbish is stunning and just makes companies feel they are right not to bring such quality games west. This is regressive junk – people who actually own Dragon’s Crown can see past the art, think for themselves and recognise it as very progressive. If all the women were chubby and the men skinny and pale the game would be a lot more ridiculous – people should view a game as a whole rather than a couple of screenshots.

        • Slizarus

          Yeah, as I said, I’m coming around, I know it’s not the kind of sexualized junk and has dysmorphic bodies everywhere not just in the females.

          Honestly it’s my GF who has the biggest problem with it, I didn’t even think about it much until she brought up some articles and some points. That’s why I’ve made my decision not to buy it new.

          As I said, my decision with DC is more of a vote by dollar thing than being offended.

          Thank you for your opinion though. I know DC is good, that’s why it’s been redeeming enough to make me want it eventually 🙂 I’m not against high fantasy, just sexy gimmicks and I know it’s just an art direction on top of a deep game. I’m fine with it.

  • Lights

    A point to bear in mind about the ‘sexual’ stuff is that as you mentioned it is Japanese game, and they have a very different culture over there.

  • Lester Paredes

    I was hoping that the gameplay would give me a reason to play despite the sexy time aspect. Now I know it doesn’t. Thanks for taking the hit on this one, Brian.

  • Trent Berlinger

    Honestly, I haven’t played an immense amount of the game yet, but I’ve played it for at least a good 8 hours or so, and I like it.

    There is a sexism element in it, but that’s just a small, optional part of the game.

    From what I’ve played so far, it’s a fun MMO-style game. But to each their own.

    • nonscpo

      I considered picking this game but held off when I heard that there was a definitive Gold eddition. Since we all know Vallhala Knights 3 Gold is never coming to the west. If the game is as low as $20 would it be worth picking up?

  • Zenks ren

    “Believe it or not women make up a large portion of the industry” That is false and you know it. Most of the women who represent the 48% of gamers in that poll only play casual crap like mobile games and Nintendo and don’t give a crap about a mediocre niche action/RPG series, let alone the 3rd installment on a niche handheld. The same handheld that also has Dragon’s Crown, Monster Monpiece, Criminal Girls, Senran Kagura and the Neptunia games review and yet I don’t see you cucking and whiteknighting over any of those.

    tl;dr Just another reason why SJWs shouldn’t be allowed to make game reviews.