Valkyrie Elysium is an oddity for the Valkyrie Profile franchise at large. The first two titles were on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 respectively and both were heavyweight RPGs that came late in the consoles’ life cycles. This latest entry emphasizes 3D hack and slash action over what the games were known for.
These were turn-based RPGs that incorporated 2D action-platformer elements, where the player assumed the role of valkyries who gathered the souls of warriors to prepare for the impending battle with Ragnarok. The last time we saw this franchise was as a strategy RPG on Nintendo DS – a game that was so hardcore and difficult, it killed the series.
Can Valkyrie Elysium bring the Norse saga back from obscurity? With tri-Ace no longer shepherds of the Asgardian mythos, it is on the shoulders of Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time developer, Soleil Ltd., to revive it. What connections does it have to Lenneth and Silmeria? Read this Valkyrie Elysium review to find out!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Soleil Ltd.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: September 29, 2022
Price: $59.99 USD
Valkyrie Elysium gets many things wrong before the game even begins. “Elysium”, is not a part of Norse mythology, it’s ancient Greek lore for where souls go after death. After realizing this mistake on the title screen or box art- a worrying chill climbs up your spine, like a devious snake that is about to lure a woman to an apple.
“Where else can things go wrong?”, you begin to wonder as a low budget introduction animation plays out. This sloppy exposition tells an inaccurate story of Odin’s battle with Fenrir, who is not killed by Víðarr in this interpretation. Instead, Odin triumphs over the massive wolf and needs to recover after the battle.
The player is tasked with leaving Valhalla and seeking the various accouterments that the All-father Odin needs to regain his strength, and to recruit a few einherjar along the way. Once the story gets underway, there is very little going on. Valkyrie Elysium has a very sparse plot with only a handful of characters.
There are only four einherjar in Elysium– a pittance compared to prior games which would have a staggering 40 total recruitable party members. This is where the low budget becomes apparent and is only made worse the longer you play.
Between the limited cast, low cost cutscenes, repeated enemies, recycled assets, and barren levels; it is hard to believe that Valkyrie Elysium is a full priced title.
The story in Valkyrie Elysium also suffers by its lack of scope. With such a small cast, it isn’t hard to be a few steps ahead of the plot and figure where it is all going, long before it does.
As for the cast itself, the protagonist is an utterly cold and dull character who comes off as a dumb rock for not piecing together blatantly obvious cues.
For the longest time, her name is almost never said and everyone refers to her as “Valkyrie”, only. It wasn’t until parsing the data logs that it was revealed that her name is “Nora”. Odin is especially poorly characterized.
The All-father looks nothing like his previous iteration in Valkyrie Profile, nor does he have any of the traits that the Norse myth describes. Early on, it was assumed he might have actually been Loki and was misguiding the player, but it is actually Odin.
Surprisingly, Valkyrie Elysium manages to have multiple endings. Considering how many corners had to be cut to give the impression that this was a full priced game, there is some replay value. The game does run pretty short – even for a 3D action game. Clocking in at around 15 hours, most players will have seen all that Valkyrie Elysium has to offer.
Playing normal, Nora’s romp in Midgard will be very easy. There is no way to adjust the difficulty either, which seems like a mistake since the levels are picked from a menu in a hub. This could have been an easy way to allow players to choose their preferred challenge between stages. Once a player chooses a difficulty, there is no changing it.
Most gamers expect the game to start fairly light and to adjust to a rising difficulty curve. Valkyrie Elysium on normal never gets harder. By the time you realize its too easy and you’ve maxed out healing potions and nothing can stop you; the only option is to restart the entire game on hard or try to stay awake during a very easy hack n’ slash.
After the disappointment of the barebones narrative and lack of continuity with Lenneth and Silmeria washes over you like terrible sewage, maybe you can try to appreciate the finer aspects of Elysium. There are some good qualities to be had and they just might catch you off guard after expectations were set so low.
The combat in Valkyrie Elysium is its high point by a mile. This is made by the team that made a very underrated Samurai Jack game, and they brought a lot of panache to the kinesthetics and Nora’s playability.
It isn’t perfect; some of her animations take priority during some attacks that can’t be canceled. Once gamers come to grips with her handling, she can be very fun when enough time has been put into expanding her moveset and she has a few spells under her belt.
A lot of stylish-action game mechanics are all present and accounted for: parrying, perfect dodge, charge attacks, air-juggling and generous i-frames when dodging.
On top of all the refined fundamentals, Nora also has a grapple-hook. She is able to close gaps between foes very quickly and it even has a very effective guidance on it that rarely makes mistakes.
Nora is able to rain down a divine hellfire like a real Æsir and stagger massive foes, while summoning four warriors to kick them while they’re down. There are a lot of options while in combat and it never seems like the player will be limited with their approach.
Compounded with the flurry of effects on screen, the audio and visual feedback makes each hit feel very satisfying. Battles tend to become a storm of particle effects, sparks and explosions. It becomes palpable, with everything being felt.
Where the gameplay falters is how side quests are handled. During the main story, players may come across wayward souls and speaking to them unlocks the option to do the side quest later on the world map. The side quests always recycle the maps, shuffle enemy placement, and alter the route the player must take.
On top of this, the side quests rarely amount to anything different than standard combat and exploration. Rewards are usually a stat boost, a spell, or a new weapon, which are also lacking variety. There are only six (eight if you count DLC), and only three of them are any good to use, while the others feel too slow.
The graphics are a mixed bag but feel mostly good. The main complaints are the drab and plain locations. Some vistas are genuinely impressive and character models are appealing and easy on the eyes. This is an Unreal Engine 4 game, so it does have the signature look that most UE4 games tend to have.
The artists opted for a subtle black outline shader on the models. The effect helps make characters pop out more and adds an illustrative quality to the visual identity. Sadly, Nora’s “Naruto” running animation is one of the goofiest things ever, and she looks intensely stupid dashing around with her arms flopping around behind her.
A lot of Valkyrie Elysium can feel cheap, but the score never does. Matoi Sakuraba’s music can be hit or miss. He has a very distinct sound and thankfully, his worst qualities don’t manifest here. This soundtrack sounds very classy and airy, perfectly fitting the style and tone that the game has in its visuals.
Valkyrie Elysium has some pretty sad lows, but it does have a few highs that make it endearing. The developer clearly has a lot of talent at making stylish 3D action games on a shoe-string budget and they got the most important parts right.
For what you are getting, Valkyrie Elysium is not recommended at full-price. There is fun to be had, but it is more of a guilty-pleasure kind of fun, like Stranger of Paradise. Fans of the past entries will be confused and disappointed, but most gamers will enjoy the visceral and fast action.
Valkyrie Elysium was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Valkyrie Elysium is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.