Valhalla Knights

Knights of the Round... And Round... And Round...

Valhalla Knights' old-school gameplay is almost good enough to excuse how broken the rest of the game is. Almost.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 17, 2007
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It's entirely possible that console gamers will play 20 minutes of Valhalla Knights and have no freakin' clue what's going on. There's no tutorial, the first couple battles are so mercilessly hard that every fight has the potential to end the adventure, the quests system is woefully uninformative and storyline goes absolutely nowhere for hours.

Seriously old-timey PC gamers might actually get a whiff of nostalgia once they've figured everything out, because for all intents and purposes, VK actually tries to revive some of the truisms of early RPG dungeon crawls. Repeated trips into the dank underbelly of a castle, slowly building a party that gives you a real fighting chance against a handful of monsters, the ever-present search for mad lewt, all of these things have been supplanted in recent years -- particularly on consoles -- by epic stories and mini-games and wacky/effete characters.

VK has none of that. It's about as straight a concept as you can get: Charge into the fray repeatedly, slowly making your way deeper into the towering castle in an effort to regain your memory and... well, again, story isn't exactly important here. Thumping on puddles of goo and skeletons is, and once you start to build some momentum, it's actually fun.

The problem is, many of the concepts in the game start to reach critical mass a dozen or so hours into the adventure; suddenly that arena where you had all that room to scurry around is choked with enemies and your six-man party all trying to duke it out. Sussing out just where you're supposed to go or who you need to talk to becomes ever more cryptic until you're just repeatedly visiting the same bar to chat up the same locals over and over again in the hopes that it triggers the next leg of the adventure. And, in perhaps the biggest turn-off of all, you might spend a couple of hours bumbling through all these things before you realize you've screwed the pooch on creating your party and you'll have to trash it all and start over again.

If nothing else, this lets you get familiar with the game's character creation and jobs system, which is strikingly deep. Though you as the main character are stuck as a Human, everyone else in the party can be Dwarf, Elf or Halfling. Later on in the game, the Machine "race" is added, and their job is to basically soak up damage as a tank while putting a serious hurt on enemies. No one race is set in their particular job, though obviously it makes sense for the speedy, agile Halfling to go the Thief route at first, while stronger characters are better off starting as Fighters, for instance.

You're never locked into these roles however, as any character can take on additional sub-job classes to slowly gain attributes for those particular affinities. Have a Fighter sub in Priest to learn support magic or a Mage for attack, or, if you're feeling really saucy completely change out the job to start pouring more skills into those areas. Here too, though, knowledge is key. If you take a pure melee character with no MP and make them a Mage, they'll be more or less useless for spellcasting (though, thanks to high strength, they can at least thump on enemies with a staff for some damage). Because all of your skills transfer over, just spending time grinding to level up subjobs becomes incredibly addictive.

And that's not even counting the late-game jobs with even more specialized skills like a Ninja or Anchor (think Priest and Mage mixed). There are even evolutions of the starting classes that reward you for just pouring points into one primary job class right from the start, so you don't have to mix things up, but it obviously helps.

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