I went into Valhalla Knights 3 with no prior exposure to the series, but got a vibe from pre-release trailers and screenshots akin to a fantasy MMORPG. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what the final product turned out to be. While definitely a fantasy role-playing game, with stats, swords, and sorcery, when it comes to the main component, it’s strictly a single-player affair.
And yet, structurally, it feels like a game that could have taken better advantage of the wide online player base that exists today. While there is a sparse online versus mode available early on, the fact that you guide parties of multiple characters into battle, and can even switch between each fully playable one, each with their own unique items, stats, and abilities, is begging for multiplayer.
Unfortunately, even if you ignore this setback, the actual game is pretty dull, routine, and standard to a fault. Both the gameplay and graphics lack polish and appeal, the plot, characters, and presentation are bare-bones, and the overall experience is repetitive and shallow. As far as exclusives on the Vita go, this is one of the less impressive titles available right now.
The plot has you as an undercover soldier infiltrating a prison in a location known as the Light District, while also adding the element of a continuous war between your home nation and several others. The whole thing is too routine and simple to leave much of an impression, and it doesn’t help that cutscenes are limited to rigid, unexpressive character models and dialog that’s almost entirely text-only.
This overall unimpressive look sums up the whole game’s style. Environments are unimaginative, bland, and hard on the eyes at points, looking more like an average PlayStation 2 game than something that belongs on the Vita. Weapons seem to instantly materialize in characters’ hands instead of being drawn from their holsters, while most of the models tend to look dead-eyed and lack any real emotion.
One plus I can give the game is its fairly in-depth character creation system. You can choose from multiple classes of fighting styles, different species (Human, elf, halfling, or dwarf, with more unlockable later on) and genders, and customize your appearance down to facial hair, scars, and one of several voices. You can even balance your initial stats in a specific way. It’s a fun and satisfying to make your own unique warrior and it’s a shame that this charm and novelty doesn’t carry over to the base gameplay.
Most of the quests you’re given boil down to journeying outside the prison and taking out specific targets, and the real-time battle system is depressingly shallow. True, you gradually unlock more abilities as you progress to make things a little more interesting, but it takes a long time for that to happen, and what you get isn’t worth the wait.
You do have many now-standard elements such as experience points and levelling up your stats, purchasing and finding new equipment and weapons, and developing special abilities to use in battle, but there’s nothing new or noteworthy in how any of these are implemented here. It doesn’t help that grinding for experience is pretty much a necessity in this game, especially in the early hours. I lost track of how many wild rabbits and random soldiers I had to slaughter before getting anywhere.
Purchasing items can be a chore in itself, as you actually have to pay extra money up front to get one of the female clerks to sit down with you and sell their wares. And then we have “Sexy Time,” a ridiculously dumb and out-of-place side mode where you can entice each clerk with items you find elsewhere, and eventually enable a touch-based minigame where you essentially feel her up, which can lead to you being able to recruit her as a battle partner. It’s as stupid and offensive as it sounds.
If I haven’t made it clear already, I didn’t care too much for Valhalla Knights 3. The gameplay is dull, the graphics are ugly, the lack of multiplayer for the main quest feels like a missed opportunity, and the added sleaze factor doesn’t help. If you’re dying for a new portable RPG to play and have already played everything else, you might be able to get something out of it, but only maybe. Everyone else can simply skip it.
This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes.