Valhalla Knights is the upcoming PlayStation Portable role-playing game from publisher Xseed Games and developer Marvelous Entertainment. This original game was developed specifically for the PSP and plays around with many elements from the conventional RPG formula we've been seeing for years. We had the chance to try out a near-final version of the game and see how it's coming together.
The game's story draws on a couple of RPG staples: an amnesiac hero and an evil lord that shatters the idyllic life of a peaceful people. You'll play the role of said amnesiac who's on a hunt for his memories. Your search is guaranteed to be bumpy because the land is still suffering from the unsettling influence of the battle that ended the dark lord's reign. The good news is that a noble hero put him down. The bad news is that, metaphorically speaking, some eggs were broken to make the omelet that stopped the big bad lord. As a result, the land was messed up something good and has remained that way, giving everything a bleak layer of despair, which is not the ideal environment for an amnesiac looking to find his way in the world.
The action in the game follows the standard RPG conventions closely. Your time is going to be divided between talking to folks in town, taking on quests, adventuring, and coming back to town to work the whole cycle again. As you go about your business, you'll level up your character, get new gear, get yourself a party, and generally get bigger and better as you play. Though it sounds pretty standard, there are some nice touches included to keep things interesting. You'll be able to customize your amnesiac alter ego by picking his or her sex and class, as well as by tweaking his or her attributes. You'll also be able to do the same to the party members you get. You'll need traveling buddies to help out on the various quests you'll pick up at the local guild, which will send you into all manner of dangerous areas, stabbing and casting your way to your various goals.
The game's combat system is a real-time brawl between you and your party members and whatever evil critter crosses your path. You'll move around in real time and be able to melee your enemy assisted, when you bring them along, by your artificial-intelligence-controlled party members. Melee offers two options: a pretty meager normal attack and a special attack that unleashes a powerful blow. The one bit of the action that isn't real time, thankfully, is spell selection. Hitting up on the D pad will call up a spell menu and let you target enemies. While this is going on, the action freezes, so you don't get mowed down while doing your business. You'll still have to worry about casting the spell, which you can be knocked out of if you're too close to your enemy. Successfully defeating enemies yields experience that levels up your character. While leveling is pretty standard, Valhalla Knights lets you switch your character class as needed, which adds a bit of strategy into the mix.
The visuals in the game feature a stylized look that plays to the PSP's strengths. Characters are a little on the blocky side but do feature a good amount of detail. The environments are a good mix of sizes, offering wide-open spaces and more claustrophobic indoor areas. Although there are a decent number of non-player characters to interact with in the world, the locales we've explored so far are a little on the barren side. The enemies we've seen are run-of-the-mill slimes and assorted baddies that fall into the standard archetypes you'd expect out of an RPG. One thing that hurts the presentation is the game's color palette, which is muted. While it captures the "things are bad" vibe, it also gives the game a bland look.
The audio takes an understated approach that is pretty retro. You'll hear a mellow score that hits all the notes you'd expect in terms of themes. You'll get standard town themes, as well as combat music. Combat will be punctuated by attack effects for melee and spells. The one area that's pretty thin, though, is voice, of which there is next to none. Though it's a minor thing, it's a noticeable omission when you consider how accustomed we've become to hearing chatty PSP games.
Based on what we played, Valhalla Knights is shaping up to be a solid RPG for the PSP that should please fans of the genre. The game covers all its bases and has all the ingredients fans would want. The story covers familiar territory but looks like it's going to have some twists to keep it interesting. The gameplay is solid, though some may find it to be a bit too by the numbers in some areas. However, there's a fair amount of depth to be explored in the job-and-partner system to keep things engaging. While there are definitely some rough spots to it, Valhalla Knights looks as though it's going to offer the PSP some much-needed RPG action. Look for a full review of the game next month.