When the Nintendo Wii first came out, gamers tried to be more patient with the games that were either ported to it or which simply could not adjust to the new style of the system. The Wii can be endlessly fun to play, but if not utilized properly it can also be frustrating, boring, and full of glitches. It is no longer possible to excuse bad games on the Wii, because too many companies have proven that excellent games can be made on the system. The videogame industry has been booming for years, and it has gone well past some of the early-ish charming console games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. These games had their place, but the industry has to keep developing and moving. I say all of this because playing Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga is a big step backwards. If it was released ten years ago, it would be an impressive game, but today? We've been there and done that a hundred times.
Valhalla Knights is a franchise with the first two games on the PlayStation Portable, so this release represents the first one for a non-portable console. Developed by K2, they are fantastical action role-playing games set in exotic far worlds.
In classic RPG style, this title has evil things to kill, levels to gain, stats to raise, items to buy and sell, and characters to join one's party. It also has that "pick up and play" feel to it — it has very little depth, but can be entertaining for a few spare hours. This makes the whole thing feel as though it would be much better had the franchise remained on a portable console.
Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga is about a land populated by several different races (humans, elves, dwarves, halflings). A meteor hit the planet and unleashed a great deal of monsters that started attacking everything in sight. Everyone worked together to push them out into Eldar, and that's where the story begins.
The player gets to design their main character at that point, but ought not get overly attached to them. The first chapter is designed to really get you used to the fighting system and controls, and the second chapter begins sixteen years later when the first character has a grown-up child. The player gets to choose the mother, although they might not be aware of that first, so be sure to choose her from a race that has great stats. It will matter.
In the second chapter, the character one gets to design is a little more specific, with the ability to choose looks, skills, starting stats, and job class. The problem is that in terms of the story, the character has very little personality, so even if one wanted to bond with her (or him), there's not much there to care about. Thus, even though there are a lot of customization and options available, many of which are done very well — including different race choices, a dozen job classes, and skills for each class — it all amounts to very little. It is unfortunate because it is in the customization where Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga shines, and had it translated better onto the story it would have improved things significantly.
Visually, the game has attractive qualities, such as the almost-realistic designs of the small towns and the outdoor world. The problem is that the look isn't very creative or visually pleasing; everything is in grays and browns, with some whites. They are not bad graphics, simply uninspired. There is clearly a world there that has great ideas behind it, but the execution falls flat. Plus, since everything looks basically the same, it can lead to general confusion out in the game. I ran around a town and everything looked so similar that I had to keep checking where the item man and the mercenaries were. It's annoying.
The combat is straightforward button mashing, although the option to add a mercenary to the team is rather interesting. The player can recruit them through the game and then equip armor and items onto them. This is helpful if the main character is a magic user and not a brawler, the mercenary can get down and dirty while the mage keeps back and fries the demons. Even though there is a difference in how things unfold with different character types, the game still requires less strategy and more button mash, button mash, button mash. Fighting is repetitious and it is very important to learn how to lock on to enemies early on, otherwise the character will die… quickly. They then will lose money and items and have to start over. Once a battle is finished, the character still often has to come back to the same place and fight the same kind of creatures over and over. This is often the case with classic RPGs, but here there is no real story to save one from the mind-numbing aspects of the gameplay. There are weapons and armor to equip and items that are recognizable for every RPG in the world.
If this game was on the DS or the PSP, it might have worked. The simple but tasteful graphics would work on the small screen rather than seeming boring on a console with better abilities. The story is drab and not necessary to really pay attention to in order to play, so on the go it could just be booted up, the player could go through a dungeon, kill a few monsters, and then shut down it down. For gamers to put 30+ hours into an RPG, they really have to like something about the game; the characters or the combat or the story or the look and feel of the atmosphere. That's why Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga just doesn't work. Nothing in particular stands out about it, and it feels outdated. There is a co-op mode and a wi-fi option, but it seems unlikely two friends will enjoy the game any more than one person on their own. There are better online multiplayers out there and much better RPGs. For people who have desperately wanted an RPG for the Wii, they might be willing to forgive a lot of these flaws just to enjoy it on their chosen console.
Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for alcohol references, blood, and fantasy violence.