Despite its name, Valhalla Knights has nothing to do with Norse mythology. Instead, this action role-playing game is a hodgepodge of familiar themes involving vampires, helicopters, ninjas, robots, zombies, elves, mages, and more. You might think that an eclectic mix of themes would make for an interesting and unique game, but that's not the case in Valhalla Knights. Instead, it's an extremely repetitive, tedious, and unexciting dungeon crawl.
The story in Valhalla Knights is full of one cliché after another. You wake up as a young hero who can't remember anything, and you then set out on a lengthy and dangerous adventure to solve the mystery of your past. Along the way, you learn that a "Dark Lord" has turned the once-blissful world into a cursed land filled with monsters and demons. As you can expect, it's up to you to defeat the Dark Lord and ultimately save the world. In the case of Valhalla Knights, the yawn-inducing story takes a backseat to the action.
The action in this game consists of trudging back and forth through one huge dungeon, fighting monsters at every turn. You begin the game by choosing a sex and a class to create your character. From there, it's off to the dungeon. The main story simply requires you to fight your way through the dungeon, which will take quite a bit of time since many of the enemies are rather difficult, so you have to spend hours fighting weaker creatures until you've leveled up enough to proceed. In addition to the main storyline, you can also take on smaller quests at the guild in town. These quests are a good way to earn money and other items, but they offer no relief from the dungeon-crawling.
Although the dungeon in the game is essentially one huge, connected maze of hallways, it's divided into different, themed areas. You'll travel through an old prison to an underground cavern to a forest to a fortress to an industrial complex without any break between the different areas. There are some portals you can find to teleport to different areas in the dungeon and back to town, but even using those you'll end up treading the same ground and fighting the same enemies countless times throughout the game. If you're fighting a boss creature, it might take you a good 10 minutes to travel to him, only to die again and have to make the trek all over again. Do that a few times, and you'll be ready to give up on this game for good.
As dungeons usually are, this one is full of monsters that will attack you on sight. If you make contact with any of the creatures, you'll be drawn into a battle. You can have up to six characters in your party, and you'll be fighting up to six enemies at a time. The battle system is extremely simple. You can lock on to an enemy by holding the R button, and then just tap the attack button until the enemy is dead. Casting spells is just as easy; all you do is choose a spell and a target and then fire away. After a short time, you'll charge up a special attack, which can be unleashed on your enemies by pressing the triangle button. These special attacks are essentially slightly fancier, slow-motion versions of your normal attack, but they inflict much more damage. The battle system is completely mindless, and it's also occasionally frustrating due to poor hit detection. Whenever you're engaged in melee combat, you never get the feeling that your attacks are actually landing. Instead, you'll find yourself just watching the enemy's health bar to figure out if you're really doing anything.
As mentioned, you can bring up to six characters with you in battle. However, you can directly control only one character at a time, which means you have to leave the rest up to the customizable artificial intelligence. Switching characters is as easy as pressing the select button, but you'll rarely have any reason to do so. For each party member, you can allocate points to behavior parameters like attack, support, and cast magic. It's a simple way to program your team to behave the way you want it to, and for the most part, it works well.
It's not cheap to build a team of adventurers, though, and you have to be careful how you set up your party or you'll find yourself dying constantly. You can go to the guild in town and create a custom companion for a fee. You then choose a class, sex, and race, which all determine the stats of the character you create. Furthermore, you can assign subclasses to your characters to earn extra bonuses and abilities. The level of character customization in Valhalla Knights is impressive, and you'll wish the game let you put those characters to better use.
You can spend a good 40 hours grinding your way through the single-player game, but more tedium awaits if you can find a friend with a copy of the game so you can play cooperatively. The game supports two-player co-op via an ad hoc connection as long as each player has the game. Each player can choose up to three characters from his or her single-player campaign to take into the multiplayer matches. From there, you simply undertake various quests together. The quests in multiplayer are even simpler than the ones in the single-player game, sending you to complete mundane tasks like clearing enemies out of an area.
Valhalla Knights does at least look good, with interesting character design, colorful and varied backgrounds, and a wide variety of enemies. There's little in the way of special effects, though, so don't expect to see flashy battle animations or extensive summon sequences. As nice as the game looks, it doesn't run very well at all. With up to 12 characters in a battle at once, the frame rate often takes a dive. Outside of battle, the game usually keeps up a bit better, but then you have to deal with an uncooperative camera that gets stuck in doorways and behind walls. As a result of the bad camera, you'll often not be able to see where you're going, and you'll inadvertently stumble into a battle you didn't see coming. You can press the R button to realign the camera behind your character, but that works only about half of the time because the camera gets stuck when you're in confined areas. In addition to the poor frame rate and camera controls, the game freezes up every so often, usually while loading a new area after you step through a door.
If you're looking for an action role-playing game that just lets you kill monsters and collect treasure, Valhalla Knights will keep you occupied. If you're looking for anything more than that, you'll be sorely disappointed. It has the makings of a good role-playing game, but instead of bringing its best elements together around an engaging adventure, the game has you running through the same dungeon fighting the same monsters over and over again. After the first couple of hours of that, you'll be done with this game.