It’s been a year since XSEED released the original (and disappointing) installment in the Valhalla Knights series. It was a game packed with impressive customization and fast-paced battles, but ultimately featured a shallow storyline and left a lot to be desired. Fast-forward 12 months and I found myself sitting in the same position as I did from the get-go; PSP in-hand, customizing the main character and praying I wouldn't have to endure an unrewarding story in a game satiated with unexciting mechanics. My prayers weren't answered. Valhalla Knights 2 can best be described as last night's leftovers -- there's a morsel of meat in it to satisfy you, but it's mostly an exercise in blandness.
The sequel takes a different route from the original by tossing aside the overused concept of a hero struck with amnesia. Instead, you’re an orphaned child in a world that was just ravaged by the Goddess of Judgment, who spread monsters across the land and destroyed everything in her path. However, before the world could be completely annihilated, the Witch of the Crystal showed up to save the day. Just before the Goddess reached her goal, the Witch was able to injure her significantly enough to stop her and banish her power. The world then slowly became divided with supporters of the Witch seeking out so-called heretics who worship the Goddess. These hunters often seek innocent blood, evident by their desire to pillage and burn orphanages to the ground. Mistakenly, they attack your orphanage. It is in this wake that you decide to join the Latroci (adventurers) on your way to becoming strong enough to one day be able to confront the Goddess head-on yourself.
The story may sound exciting, but that’s pretty much where it ends. You start the game by choosing one of five races (Humans, Halflings, etc.) which then leads you to choosing your job class. Much like other RPGs, certain job classes go organically with certain races. For example, Elves are better equipped for magic, while Humans excel in hand-to-hand combat. If your original choice isn’t something too tantalizing, that’s okay due to the ability to add two more job classes later on in order to create a truly customized character. Another option later on is to walk the path of more advanced classes which can result in you becoming something cool like a Samurai. Unfortunately, this is the only aspect of Valhalla Knights 2 worth gawking over. It also happens to lead into one of the more tedious obligations within the game.
Sadly, VK2 feels more like a chore than an entertaining experience when it comes to managing your characters. The game not only expects you to manage every minute detail of your original character, but the details of your remaining five party members as well. On top of these repetitive responsibilities, you’re in charge of figuring out what spells and which abilities go with what character. Believe it or not, the developers thought it would be cool if they left players guessing as to which spells and abilities would suit which class best. This may not sound like a game-altering mistake, but it causes great concern for gamers who prefer to do things right the first time around. Expect to waste a handful of hours trying to figure this system out. Another downfall of VK2 is the set of obligations that mages are stuck with. Unfortunately for the magically-gifted, this title favors the physical classes. While other role-playing games will generally give you easy access to automatic spell increases, Valhalla Knights 2 turn this simple process into an arduous task. Gamers are forced to search far and wide for ways to upgrade their arsenal of magic.
Considering the amount of options provided during battle, it will come as a surprise when the majority turn out to be useless. Chances are, once you have moved past the solo-mission segment into the full party brigade, you’re going to start ending battles swiftly and efficiently. This quick sweep tactic may sound innocent and fan-friendly, but it clearly pinpoint yet another couple of issues within the game. One of these issues is the inability for your teammate AI to differentiate between which monster is a higher level. This often results in your teammates killing the weaker monsters while the stronger guy waltzes over and slaughters one or two of your party. This wouldn’t be so aggravating if it weren’t so difficult to revive a fallen allies. Due to the genius idea that party members can only be resurrected near towns, you're obligated to venture across two or three maps to do so. And when you head back, if a party member dies again, it's time to rinse, wash, repeat. The other unnecessary issue -- due to the speed of battle -- revolves around the nullification of strategy. Instead of being able to utilize key items or abilities, the rest of your party usually just plows through the competition.
VK2 had the chance to redeem itself of these inexcusable problems through its ad hoc two-player mission mode, but it fell short in that regard as well. If you and your friend happen to be light years apart from one another within the game, it creates for a lopsided experience. The two-player mode automatically loads the game at the highest player level. Therefore, if one of you is sitting at level ten and your buddy is at level two, he’s going to get destroyed within each dungeon you enter. This is a huge oversight. Frankly, I’m quite surprised it was released in this fashion. Furthering the disappointment, the ad hoc also gives gamers the option to battle it out six on six. You’ve probably guessed by now that the same hindrance of the mission mode decimates any hope that the Player vs. Player aspect will play any better. You’re right. Sadly, if one of your characters is a significantly higher level, you’re capable of taking down an entire opposing party with ease.
When that dark tunnel feels like it’s never going to end, you finally see some semblance of a light. The visuals and detail within VK2 are nothing to scoff at. In fact, they are quite impressive for a handheld title. While some of the environments feature bland textures, the character and monster detail are top-notch. Combined with the cinematic experience of battle, you almost feel an incentive to continue playing. The sound bites from the heat of battle are acceptable for a real-time role-playing game, so there isn’t much left to be desired on that front either. Fortunately, like the character creation, presentation is one thing VK2 got right.
Overall, Valhalla Knights 2 is an extremely slow-developing dungeon crawler that won't appeal to most. The tedious micromanagement and the shallow story end up being too much for the great character customization and visuals of the title to overcome. What we’re left with is a very bland RPG that is destined for the bargain bin. Valhalla Knights 2 is clearly overshadowed by the plethora of other great RPGs already available on the PSP.
-The Final Word-
Even with its impressive character customization options and solid visuals, Valhalla Knights 2 falls short of being a must-own title on the PSP by a very wide margin.