Playing Valhalla Knights 3 I had to wonder, 'who is this game for?' Is it for the people who love a good sadistic challenge ala Demon/Dark Souls? Is it for the creepy voyeurs who thought that Killer Is Dead's 'Gigolo Mode' didn't go far enough? Or is it just not a very good game that isn't really for anybody out there now that the Vita is getting more quality content these days? Unfortunately I think it might be the later in all that and it looks like the team at XSeed picked up a bit of a dud to hold us Vita owners over until the long awaited day when a new Y's game comes out.
Valhalla Knights 3 stars your mute hero as he/she descends upon the hell that is Carceron Prison, a once heavily populated castle that has been turned in to a penitentiary, where the inmates literally run the asylum. The castle is supposedly hiding the great treasure of W. Flockheart who was such an irredeemable soul that he was put to death. I wonder if he's as bad as half the inhabitants that now reside within Carceron Prison. Upon arrival, your party is quickly broken up, some biting the bullet almost instantly, while another character is dragged off and sold in to slavery. Survival of the fittest rules the realm here, and you're going to be struggling quite a bit just to survive, and that's after the purported change to the game's difficulty for the Western release.
My initial hours into the game were not helping sell me on this game. I assembled my crew, and went out for a bit of a grind session since this is a JRPG, I figured leveling up will be a necessity. What I didn't expect was to have to grind the first mob of rabbits for multiple levels before I could take on more human opponents. Nor did I expect those human opponents to wipe my party, and to revive them was going to cost the entirety of the cash I had on hand, leaving me to grind for quite a while to get back to a point where I could afford gear. Thankfully those rabbit mobs had a quest associated with wiping them out that paid decently, too bad their spawn rate is agonizingly slow. Yes even most failed MMOs figured out that high spawn rates of low level trash mobs were good for something, too bad in this game, for all its MMO trappings, they got that wrong, along with a few other things.
So this game plays somewhat like an MMO, combat is in real-time on the overworld, there is no maneuvering via a map, which is nice, but it makes getting to outer zones a bit of a chore. When you want to fight a mob out on the field, you've got to be the one to initiate contact, that poses a bit of a problem when it came to my archer. She can't initiate combat with ranged attacks. What?! A quick press of the select button though and I'm a melee character who can bash stuff with his fists, and he makes a good tank. But still, a ranged character in most MMOs is the most valuable asset when it comes to pulling mobs, how could that not be the same here with a game that feels like it desperately wants to be an MMO?
You control one character at a time, and each other character acts independently based upon their personality that is generated when you create them. From there they can level up and learn new skills or characteristics that build upon the character type they are trying to be. So the Fighter class will learn skills for close combat and earn stat bonuses that apply to strength and HP. The wrinkle here is that you'll want to swap jobs every now and again so you can earn more bonus points to increase your stats and to cross pollinate between skill classes so that you wind up with something of a hybrid class. There are also special classes that can be unlocked through side quests, or by participating in some of the seedier activities in the game. This growth system is probably the strongest part of the game as building up characters winds up being the most enjoyable thing. The party system allows for some pretty diverse setups and you can even nitpick the formation of your group, though with enough melee attackers it often becomes a shoving match between your allies, trying to get in close enough to hit your target.
Quests will be your main form of income in Valhalla Knights 3, as there is plenty of dirty work that needs doing around Carceron Prison. A lot of these quests involve killing X number of Y objects, or pick up X number of Y drops, which means there isn't a whole lot of depth to the gameplay, and you'll be repeating a lot of these quests to get up the necessary cash to get gear which can be acquired in the seedy Lower District, or the somehow seedier Light District. In the Lower District you'll find cheap gear at low prices that will get you along well early in the game, but after a few hours and some coin later, you'll want to visit the Light District, and then you'll want to put down your Vita and go take a shower to wash the filth and disgust off.
The Light District is home to a number of shops that employ courtesans that act as your gateway to the shops respective services. Pay the escort their fare and they'll let you peruse more than the shop's wares. You can also give gifts to your favorite escorts who will repay your patronage with a 'Sexy Time' mini-game that is pretty off-putting. If you had a problem with 'Gigolo Mode' in Killer Is Dead, get ready for new levels of outrage as you rub the escorts to please them, but you've got to be on the lookout for prying eyes and be careful when it comes time to giving them a well placed kiss. All this 'work' at getting them into loving you will eventually get them to join your merry crew after a visit to the local love motel. It's incredibly creepy and you've got to wonder about the mindset of those coming up with gameplay modes like this, because it's not even like its fun, and it's actually kind of tough to get these escorts to join, but apparently they are ridiculously powerful members if they parley into your party.
Visually this game is a mixed bag, the overworld doesn't look like much, but the castle itself is bright, colorful, varied, but when you're out in the field and you will be spending a lot of time there, things kind of start to look the same after a while. The character models look alright, and are pretty varied thanks to the somewhat robust character creation system, that has a ridiculous emphasis on the breasts of female characters. You'd think that these proportions were dreamed up by a twelve-year old who had only just discovered the female form, it's borderline offensive to me as a male, and I say that just because they are so ridiculous that they make me laugh. Audio is also a bit scattershot, the music is decent which seems strange for a Motoi Sakuraba score. The voice acting is decent but features a lot of repeated lines, and the escorts have lines to go along with their sexy time minigame that makes things all the more uncomfortable.
While I hate to trash on a game, Valhalla Knights 3 contains a lot of elements that don't quite work together very well, or seem underdeveloped. The MMO aspect of gameplay is fine, until combat becomes an unorganized mess, or mobs become scarce. This game is downright ugly at times, saving its best visuals for mini-games that are meant for titillation but come off as amateur and simply off-putting. I can't find a whole lot in Valhalla Knights 3 to recommend to people, and really I'd say that you're better off saving your money for what we all know XSeed is bringing us later this year, another Y's game.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.