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Hands on: Valkyrie Elysium can be a pleasant surprise

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announced in State of play Showcase as Star Ocean: The Divine Force, the return of the Valkyrie series with Valkyrie Elysium isn’t getting as much fanfare as it probably deserves. With a PS5, PS4 release just weeks away, a demo was quietly released PS Store One of Square Enix’s last hopes to build momentum. The good thing is that it is going to work for those who take a chance on it. While Valkyrie Elysium isn’t likely to set the world on fire, it’s a rock-solid action RPG with a fun combat system and satisfying abilities.

The demo covers the entire first chapter of the game and some side quests, and you’ll be able to transfer your progress to the full experience if that’s what you like to play. An introduction to an impressive throne room sets up the story, and then you’re sent to a hilltop castle for the first set of matches. The battles and battles in Square Enix’s latest aren’t doing anything particularly original, but they make up for it by feeling satisfying and fun.

Valkyrie is equipped with the simple sword and dash abilities many action games have come to standardize, so it differentiates itself somewhat with the Soul Chain ability and elemental powers. The former can be used as a magical whip, wrapping around enemies and pulling the Valkyrie forward to instantly close the space between them. If you’re trying to keep the heat on a particular enemy, this is a great tool to use. Then there are elemental powers that can trigger vulnerabilities and deal damage from afar.

A neat trick is Crushed State, which gives a fighter stability if you combine one of your strengths with its biggest weakness. Encounter the same enemy type and you can freeze them all in one place. After turning on the effect several times throughout the demo we can report that it’s a very satisfying operation.

We’re curious to see how the combat system grows in complexity throughout the game, but hints of upgrading the character, using new weapons, and other skills have already whetted our appetites. Three skill trees divided into offense, defense, and support are complemented by separate weapon upgrades. It remains to be seen how deep Valkyrie Elysium can actually get, but the signs are positive. The demo already allows us to take our first steps to wake up an enemy in the air with our sword slashes, so hopefully, the sky’s the limit.

We wish those possibilities extended to level design as well because the demo we played throughout remains incredibly linear. Sometimes you’ll come across an alternate path to take, but that’s usually a treasure chest or a plant on the ground that represents someone’s memory. For the most part, you will be filed through a single dirt road or path to the next combat encounter. It’s all a bit unnerving.

Valkyrie Elysium can be a pleasant surprise on hand 4

There’s also a weird juxtaposition going on with the visuals, where the art style is really great but some of the textures are of very low quality. The game may look great in spots — Valkyrie’s character design is lovely on the eye, for example — but then the debris she leaves in her path looks bad. This is likely a recent build of the game, so seeing this disparity so close to release is a little worrying. Still, there’s always another day.

With release just over two weeks away, Valkyrie Elysium deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting if the demo is anything to go by. It’s not going to come anywhere close to being the best action RPG of the year, but the Square Enix title is shaping up to be actually quite fun for those quieter periods when your slate is clean. An action-packed experience with the expectation of a deep combat system, put Valkyrie Elysium on your Christmas list for some hack and slash fun.


Are you paying more attention to Valkyrie Elysium before launch? Have you tried its new demo? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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