Revival of a popular series can be a gamble. Stay too close to the original and the project can feel like a makeover. On the other hand, total reinvention can alienate loyal supporters. More than a decade after the final chapter of Square Enix’s Norse-themed JRPG series, Valkyrie Elysium abandons the turn-based roots of its predecessors in favor of a new action-packed hack-and-slash direction. In this transition, Elysium has established a fun and eye-catching combat system, but sacrifices part of what made the original PlayStation game memorable: a focus on characters and world-building.
In many ways, Valkyrie Elysium feels like a Square Enix take on Falcom’s Ys RPG series rather than a return to the original PlayStation-era DNA of Valkyrie Profile. And just as the modern Ys feels like a throwback to the PS3 era of gaming in terms of the structure of its worlds, combat, and progression, so does Valkyrie Elysium. While I’m largely satisfied with the action on offer, Elysium is far less able to build an engaging story.
The obedient and no-nonsense deity warrior named Valkyrie meets with her creator, the all-father Odin, before each chapter. Your base of operations is opulent but sparse Asgard, which looks wonderful but is very small and has little to do except pick your next quest. Once descended into the mortal realm of Midgar, the environments are much larger than Asgard. Unfortunately, the regions of Midgard, while more expansive than the divine domain, are far less entertaining to look at. Devoid of activity and life, the locations you visit offer an overly linear path to adventure where there is little else to look for. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of crates to smash for gems, treasure chests with valuable loot to find, or tiny lore drops called Hollow Blossoms, but I would have liked more reasons to stray off the critical path and seek spectacular landmarks out.
Valkyrie’s ever-present mission on Midgar is to cleanse the spirits that trouble the human world and claim their redemption after a devastating war. Although the structure of Valkyrie Elysium revolves around a war between gods and mythical creatures with characters such as Odin, Fenrir, a rival Valkyrie and a looming apocalypse in the form of Ragnarok, the story of Valkyrie Elysium has the potential to be an exciting Norse epic, but his story falters from the start. The main plot unfolds slowly, with Valkyrie and Odin being the only real characters in the opening hours, and yet it’s about halfway through the 20-hour campaign before it begins to move towards Valkyrie’s character development and the central conflict within View. Even when major revelations play out in the climax, its overall predictability dampens the plot’s impact, and moments that should be insightful and emotional simply aren’t deserved.
One of the biggest reveals in the last hour can be missed entirely if you don’t explore a certain part of the map, and missing that will also lock you out of one of the few possible endings. Her band of Einherjar warrior spirits lend the battlemaiden much-needed levity, personality, and exposure through camaraderie and support, but much of that is wasted in the grand scheme of the story. The final few chapters focus on the humanity and agency Valkyrie picked up from close by her einherjar, but if the gist of the finale boils down to a decision, everything that emerges depends on your acquiring certain items during gameplay collected or not let the player choose their fate. This lack of player input is disappointing considering Valkyrie’s internal conflict of right and wrong is central to her character arc.
Although the regions of Midgard are rather small, there are only a handful of areas to explore in Valkyrie Elysium. The world lacks life, which makes sense given its imminent demise, but often feels empty rather than a successful atmospheric choice. Luckily, every bit of Midgar that has been leaked is well reused in awesome side quests that justify returning. Offering challenging and fun combat scenarios, rewarding you with useful upgrades and items, these optional adventures are a better use of time than scouring the normally desolate environments for the odd treasure chest or two.
While I found the exploration and storytelling underwhelming, the driving force – and saving grace – of Valkyrie Elysium is its combat. Valkyrie is a formidable warrior on the battlefield, and while easy to control, she has plenty of moves and combos to explore. Once it kicks off, ramping up to unlock all of your powers and abilities is terribly slow, like the storyline. Your combat options are incredibly limited in the early hours, with light and heavy vanilla punches accompanied by a guard and dodge. These are taken for granted in action games and work well enough here. What spices up the fight are the interchangeable spells called Divine Arts, which offer a variety of elemental, ranged, and utility spells, as well as a nifty grappling maneuver called Soul Chain. I love the mobility that Soul Chain offers, as it gives Valkyrie the ability to dash to a targeted enemy and start a combo before she even hits the ground.
Most regions you travel to will introduce a new reluctant Einherjar spirit to join your crusade. While the quest repeats itself after collecting the first two, collecting and completing their backstory side quests brings some much-needed purpose to the opening times and adds a semblance of context to those who once lived in these decimated lands. Those warriors, like Eygon and Cypher, helped me take care of the whole arc a bit. Their quips, anecdotes, and opinions about the mission ahead often bring lightness and warmth to a mostly sterile and uneventful story. The Einherjar provide a human perspective on the unfolding events, helping to soften Valkyrie’s narrow view of the world and broaden her horizons.
Valkyrie Elysium – Official Screenshots
You can also summon them to fight alongside you with elemental-charged attacks (and imbue your own attacks with elemental effects as well), making them strategically relevant in certain enemy pairings. Einherjar makes crowded fights much more manageable, and it’s fun to choose who to call on to quickly deal with enemy hordes that would otherwise be a grind with Valkyrie alone.
However, since there are only a handful of Einherjar who can summon and counter monsters’ weaknesses, Valkyrie must also use Divine Arts to deal a lot of damage herself. These are powerful spells like lightning, holy stings, and firestorms that look great when exploiting enemy weaknesses to deal extra damage and possibly put them in a stunned state. A meter limits its use, but it fills up quickly enough that arts are readily available as reliable combat tools that add a much-needed visual boost to liven up those dull and empty areas when skirmishes ensue. I often get lost in the gratifying tension of switching between my Einherjar and Divine arts and replenishing their resources to continue the attack. It’s an effective distraction from the dull world and slow storyline, though battles are far from free from problems.
I often had to struggle with the camera when in close quarters with enemies because it would get caught on walls if you got too close. When this inevitably happens, it becomes almost impossible to tell what’s going on around you or if you’ll even hit the enemy you’ve cornered. Since the aiming system is tied to camera controls, the reticle tends to bounce around to different targets and it becomes a struggle to fire a Divine Art or Soul Chain in the intended direction. There are several settings to tweak your desired camera distance or lock-on preference, but I’ve never found a good solution that felt like I was in full control most of the time.
https://www.ign.com/articles/valkyrie-elysium-review Valkyrie Elysium Review – IGN