Valhalla Knights 3 takes place in a dark and corrupt world where nations crumble and empires fall. You are put in the shoes of a warrior whose nation was destroyed by the Beigen Empire. You are forced to do the bidding of your new Emperor, who has placed a life-threatening magic seal on your body. If you choose to do anything but the Emperor’s bidding, you will be executed by the magic seal instantly. From the moment you set foot in the Valhalla Knights 3 universe, you are slapped in the face by the harsh reality of how the world your character inhabits works.
The emperor of the Beigen Empire sends you to investigate an incredibly dangerous prison in the hopes of finding a legendary treasure that is said to grant any wish. In order to survive, you must remain undercover as a prisoner with no special treatment. The story takes every chance it gets to remind you just how expendable you are to the Beigen Empire. The prison in Valhalla Knights 3 isn’t an ordinary metal bars and jumpsuits type prison, either. Rather, Valhalla Knights 3 takes place in a massive castle that has been converted into a prison. Inside this prison, the convicts are left to their own vices, which creates a paradise for those that like to do things that would otherwise be considered… well, criminal. It’s kill or be killed, and the very second you set foot in the prison, fellow inmates get killed, and one girl in particular gets taken by two men for illicit purposes.
The story in Valhalla Knights 3 is interesting but presented quite poorly. Visually, the game suffers from very flat textures and an overall bland color palette. Some of the characters in the game look cool, but almost all the NPCs you run into look the same. Much like the visuals, the audio in the game leaves something to be desired There are almost no voice recordings throughout the entire game, and the little bit of audio that was recorded is heard over and over again in rapid succession–it’s agitating after a few hours playing, let alone dozens. The dialogue in the game is presented in pop-up speech bubbles much like a graphic novel or manga, which isn’t the issue; rather, the dialogue itself is fairly stiff and lacks character. What makes the story even harder to enjoy is that the animation in cutscenes is awkward and generally doesn’t sync with what characters are saying. It’s hard to take the story seriously when it is presented in such a poor and careless fashion.
One thing that Valhalla Knights 3 does take seriously is making everything, at some point or another, revolve around sex. Sex is a very common theme throughout Valhalla Knights 3, and the game’s strange merchant system practically revolves around it. You can shop for weapons, items, and gear in two districts–the Slums and the Red Light District–and both sell the exact same stuff. In the latter, however, every merchant is female, and you’re required to pay a certain sum of gold for the privilege of shopping every time you visit. So, why would you shop with the female merchants? For the "Sexy Time" events, presumably, though the result is pointless to gameplay and in rather poor taste, besides. After spending enough gold with a particular female merchant, you’re treated to an event in which you tap on the girl’s mostly naked body to fill Hearts that cause her to remove more articles of clothing. By building a "relationship" with merchants, through gift-giving, shopping, and grinding "Sexy Time" events, you’ll eventually unlock a hotel room sequence in which the two of you consummate your feelings, some tidbits of backstory, and items of affection that are really only useful for selling right back to the girl who gave it. Prices don’t change. New items aren’t put up for sale. You’ll still have to pay the merchant fee every time you visit. It’s fan service in its most raw form, with little to no practical gameplay function.
It doesn’t help that gold is hard to come by, and items, gear, and weapons are prohibitively expensive throughout the game. When you need to buy good gear for your party, be prepared to grind quests for hours (I personally recommend grinding "Seven’s Request 1" because it nets you 3000 gold and doesn’t take long compared to other repeatable quests).
If "Sexy Time," paying fees, and relationship building isn’t your thing, you could always shop in the slums, though one hassle you’ll always be stuck dealing with are Valhalla Knights’ frustrating load times. The time it takes to load is bad enough, but in Valhalla Knights 3, loading happens at some of the weirdest times. For instance, you might experience an incredibly long load time before a brief, 10-second cutscene only to live that load time all over again when the scene ends. Loading screens are pretty frequent, too. Individual game areas aren’t that big, so once you come out of a load screen, you might walk for a minute and go into another upon entering the next map.
On a positive note, the game has a good amount of race types to choose from when creating a character, and as you play through the game you unlock more options. All of the different races in the game have strengths and weaknesses–some are better at being a certain class than others–but you can build your character to fit just about any play style you may be interested in. Valhalla Knights 3 even has a cool robot character that you can build as you play through the game.
The class system itself is really interesting, besides. There are quite a few classes, from the classic Thief to the Akatoki (an interesting brawler type), and you’ll unlock more as progress. Having all these different options in the game is great, but it isn’t what makes the class system in Valhalla Knights 3 so exceptional. On top of having a main class, you can choose to have multiple sub-classes, which gives you access to skills outside your main one. So, you could be an Akatoki with Thief and Priest sub-classes, which equates to being a stealthy, self-healing boxer. How cool is that? The game’s combat might revolve around only two buttons, but it’s more fun than it sounds. X is your basic attack button, with Triangle acting as a supplementary special attack and parry button. It’s all about timing when setting up combos in the game, and if you get your button presses just right, you net some extra experience for you and your party at the end of the fight.
That little bit of extra experience adds up to a lot when so much time is spent grinding. In my first 10 hours, I got through only two story quests, which was probably only about an hour of game time. I spent the rest of that time grinding mobs for XP and quests for money, out of necessity. Everything is a grind in Valhalla Knights 3, and after 100 hours of play, I imagine the breakdown would be something like 70 hours of grinding, 20 hours of staring at loading screens, and 10 hours of playing actual story quests.
The structure of Valhalla Knights 3 is similar to that of a poor man’s free-to-play MMORPG. This is especially disappointing because Valhalla Knights 3 is not free-to-play, nor is it an MMO; it’s just a button-mashy RPG with MMO trappings, like kill quests, fetch quests, and the like, ad nauseum. If it were actually a free-to-play MMO, you could at least play with your friends and have, say, large-scale clan wars, making the mediocrity of the overall experience a little more enjoyable. Unfortunately, as far as multiplayer goes, Valhalla Knights 3 only has local and online competitive party vs. party duels. It’s rather peculiar that there is no cooperative mode, which has formerly been a staple of the Valhalla Knights franchise.
Valhalla Knights 3’s concept is impressive, and the experience could impress if it were executed properly. Far too much grinding, lame "Sexy Time" events, and obnoxious loading keep this game from living up to its potential. The Valhalla Knights universe holds promise, but as it stands, the latest installment is very flawed. I can recommend a purchase only to the most hardcore RPG enthusiasts and game-starved PS Vita owners.