The Battle Trial 2.0 demo of Valkyria: Azure Revolution comes with three missions of increasing difficulty. While both the second and third missions become available as soon as you beat the first, easy one, you really shouldn’t just charge in.
The second mission features level 10 enemies, and they’re barely doable after beating the first mission once. You’ll be between level 5 and 6, and going into it without grinding some more levels will be a tough challenge. The third mission is a boss battle against the beautiful (and definitely well endowed) valkyria Brunhild, and she comes at level 20.
Needless to say, when I first tackled the demo, I tried all three missions in a row. I barely managed to scrape by in the second one with my level 6 characters, and attacking Brunhild with my heroes between level 8 and 9 ended up into a suicidal mission and in them being cut into tiny strips by that big scythe of hers.
Thirsty for revenge (or maybe I just wanted to see her again), I went back to the drawing board, and started building up my characters, coming back to the battle at level 20 (which happens to be the level cap for the demo), and a better ability build.
If you still haven’t defeated her, and want to find out her mechanics on your own, don’t read the following few paragraphs (under the screenshot), as I’ll describe how the battle works.
The main mechanic for the battle is the fact that Brunhild swaps her ragnite resistances periodically. Looking at the sphere floating around her is the key. It’ll change between red (fire), blue (water), orange (earth) and green (wind). When she has a sphere of a given color, she will be nearly immune to the corresponding element, and weak to the opposite. She will also be neutral to the other elements. This means that if she has a blue sphere, water-based ragnite abilities will deal paltry damage to her, fire-based abilities will hurt her really badly, while wind and earth attacks will deal normal damage.
By observing her sphere, you’ll know which members of your party will deal the best damage to her at that given time, and it’s mostly a question of switching to one of them, and hammering her face.
Of course, her defense is just part of the picture. Brunhild has very powerful attacks, which take different forms. She has a gravity well that can slow down your movement and even paralyze your characters, a ice strike that will follow your character around hitting anyone in a straight line between her and him (which means that you can effectively drag it around to obliterate your companions if you aren’t careful), and several devastating area strikes of various shapes and effect.
Even at the level cap, the fight is exhilarating, and she keeps you on your toes all the time. You can’t outlevel her, so losing is definitely a possibility. As a boss fight, it’s a whole lot of fun, and it definitely shows the potential of the battle system.
How did my final battle go? You can check it out in the video below, with some screenshots thrown in as bonus at the bottom of the post. At the end of the video, there is even a special cutscene that the developers put in as a “reward” for completing the demo. Underneath, you’ll find a few of my conclusions about the demo and the new battle system.
The battle system is a hybrid between action and tactical gameplay. You can move around as you wish (which is great for boss battles, because it allows the developers to implement a lot of area dancing similar to what you’d see in a MMORPG boss battle or raid), and perform normal attacks on the fly, but when you bring up the battle palette, time stops. This allows you to take your time selecting and executing your most powerful attacks.
The battle palette can’t be used at all times, and there are moments in which you’ll be required to wait, in a way that somehow simulates a turn progression in real time.
You can switch between your characters at any time, controlling the one that has the abilities most crucial for the situation. You can also issue direct orders to other characters while in the battle palette, which will temporarily switch to theirs, letting you instruct them to perform a specific action without controlling them directly.
The emotion system is quite interesting, giving you the chance to put enemies into different states of mind that will influence their performance negatively. For instance, sniping leaders will drop their morale. This adds another tactical level to the battle. Of course Brunhild is immune to those effects, but she’s a Valkyria, after all.
The Ragnite system grants you the ability to customize your characters very deeply. By defeating enemies, completing missions and opening chests you can acquire Ragnite shards. Each shard is basically an ability, and it can be equipped by each character that has enough points in its specific element (up to 5). For instance, the hero Amleth can equip very powerful fire and earth Ragnite shards (level 5 and 4 respectively), but he is more limited in equipping wind and water ones. Ophelia is exactly the opposite.
Each ability can be found in all five levels, and they can even have up to three additional attributes that lower their cost, increase their power or range and so forth. The system is very deep and gives you wide room for customization (quite a lot more than in previous Valkyria games), definitely comparable to the most advanced JRPGs. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, because the final game will allow you to research new equipment and use Ragnite shards to upgrade your main weapons.
Ultimately, the system is very promising, and it really shows its worth with more challenging battles that test your characters to the limit. I know many resent this game for diverging in quite a few ways from the original Valkyria Chronicles series (which you know I love with every cell of my heart), but it’s definitely worth giving a chance.