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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.