Creating your own band of characters, taking them on dangerous quests, then watching them slowly become richer, more powerful, and equipped with much cooler gear can be a powerfully engrossing experience. Valhalla Knights 2 proves that it can also be extremely tedious and frustrating. This rote dungeon crawler for the PSP is not worth even a few minutes of the countless hours it will try to take from you.
The story here is standard and uninteresting. In ages past, a battle raged in the kingdom between the destructive Goddess of Judgment and the noble Witch of the Crystal. Now the conflict between their acolytes stirs anew, and your character joins an anti-Goddess order of knights and sets off for war. The story advances in fits and starts, moving at a snail's pace. The overwhelming majority of your time will also be spent engaged in action that has no real connection to it. This isn't a story-driven game by any stretch. The plot is more of an afterthought than an integral part of the experience. It's just a flimsy structure on which to hang all of the dungeon-crawling you'll be doing.
That would be fine if the dungeon-crawling were more compelling. Unfortunately, the gameplay is marred by a number of frustrations that make the whole experience a real chore. You start by creating a character, which is a simple process that involves choosing from one of five races and one of five jobs. Then you select from a handful of different face and hairstyle options. The job you choose at the start--be it fighter, mage, priest, thief, or monk--doesn't limit your experience later. You can switch between jobs at any time, and you'll end up creating playable ally characters for your party as well, so you'll experience each of the available jobs during your time with the game.
As you navigate your way through the numerous monster-infested dungeons, battling bees, bunnies, dragons, mushrooms, pixies, insects, robots, and all manner of other creatures, there are no random encounters. You see all the foul beasts moving about on the world map, and coming into contact with any of them sends you into battle. You're tossed into the thick of battle without any kind of tutorial, although you can read up on all the details in the manual. If the game took a moment to familiarize you with the options during combat, however, it would have been helpful because there are lots of them. On the other hand, the game's real-time battles tend to go by so fast--in such a quick flurry of blows--that you probably won't end up using many of the available options much anyway. To access magic spells, for instance, you need to call up a menu, indicate the spell you wish to cast, and then select the target for the spell. That may not sound like much, but considering how fast things are happening, it's actually a significant amount of time. Because there's no option to pause the action to issue commands, having spells and items buried in a few layers of menus limits their effectiveness during battle. You may be better off setting your AI-controlled allies to handle such things as casting healing spells while you do the grunt work of running up to enemies and hitting the attack button. You can have up to six members in your party, and your companions tend to stick to the behaviors you designate for them, which makes them effective support. In any case, the combat is simple and shallow, lacking both the strategic depth found in many role-playing games, as well as the visceral fun found in good hack-and-slash action RPGs. That's a shame because you'll need to do an awful lot of it in Valhalla Knights 2.
To earn a little extra scratch for your monster-slaying efforts, you can undertake quests at a guild that involve heading to a certain area and killing a predetermined number of a certain monster. Oddly, there's no indication of how much progress you've made toward completing a quest, so it's up to you to keep track of how many more creatures you need to slay before you can head back to town, collect your reward, and start the process all over again. What's more, you can only undertake one quest at a time, which is tremendously inconvenient and results in a whole lot of unnecessary back-and-forth travel. And while you can find items or learn spells that let you warp back to town from a dungeon, you can't warp back to where you came from. As a result, a very significant portion of your time is spent just passing through the same areas over and over again. And you can only save your progress at inns, so should you make your way deep into a dungeon, only to fall in battle, you'll once again have to hike all the way back from town. You might also get lost trying to find your way back because the dungeons are full of forking paths and the map only shows your immediate surroundings. Each of these frustrations could have been alleviated with basic features found in other RPGs, which makes their absence here baffling.
There's an option for two players to take up to three characters each on some missions that are as mundane as those found in the single-player game. Experience and items earned here carry over with your characters back to the single-player game, but if you're playing with someone whose characters are significantly more powerful than yours, you're liable to get slaughtered because the strength of the monsters appears to be on par with the more powerful characters in the group. You can also pit your party against your friend's characters in an arena battle in which the victor wins a wagered item or set amount of gold from the defeated player. It's more interesting than fighting the monsters you find throughout the dungeons, but not by much.
Valhalla Knights 2's visuals are unremarkable. The limited options for customizing the appearance of your characters are disappointing, and while towns have a quaint, charming design to the buildings with interiors that have some attractive touches, such as windows with light streaming in, the monster-infested areas in which you spend most of your time are bland, and lacking in detail. The action plays out smoothly, though, even with several party members and monsters battling it out at once. The sound is thoroughly lackluster, with repetitive music that may put you to sleep and muted sounds of battle that lack any sense of character or urgency.
Even if you're just looking for the satisfaction of killing monsters, leveling up your characters, and scoring some nifty loot, there are so many better options than Valhalla Knights 2 available out there. Thus, there's really no reason to bother with this tedious, frustrating, and generic dungeon crawler.