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Sega’s new Valkyria game is very different

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The Valkyria Chronicles spin-off plays more like a tactical musou game

Valkyria: Azure Revolution

Sega’s latest entry in the Valkyria series, Valkyria: Azure Revolution, was playable at Tokyo Game Show this week, giving PlayStation fans an opportunity to see how the game has progressed since it was released in playable demo form earlier this year. The new build of Valkyria: Azure Revolution still puts the emphasis on action, but offers a bit more tactical depth for fans of the franchise’s role-playing games.

When I fired up the TGS demo, a Sega rep asked me a potentially ominous question: "Do you know how to play musou [aka Dynasty Warriors] games?" Sort of. I’ve mastered the button-mashing component of those games, and can get by. Combat in Valkyria: Azure Revolution is primarily performed with just one button (circle on a DualShock 4 controller) though there’s more to it than that, thanks to magic spells, side arms and various battlefield conditions.

The demo had four playable characters: Amleth, the main character and leader of a group known as the Traitors; Ophelia, the heroine and "diva" of the group; Blum, an anti-Valkyria troop engineer; and Jordur, an armored trooper who’s armed with a shield and halberd.

Each character has its own affinity for alchemy. The giant sword-wielding Amleth specializes in offensive fire-based spells, while Ophelia uses wind to deal damage or heal allies. Blum and Jordur use water and earth, respectively, to attack enemies and buff other members of the group. All four take the battlefield simultaneously and players can choose which one they want to control, on-the-fly, by pressing up or down on the d-pad. The AI will take over for the rest of the team.

Valkyria: Azure Revolution

While the close-quarters melee combat is simplistic, players can’t just spam the circle button to attack endlessly. An action gauge determines when players can attack. Unleash a combo and that action gauge will drain; once it fills up again, players can continue their attack.

Players can cast spells, called alchemy, by using an element called Ragnite. By pressing the triangle button, players can pause the action and bring up a "battle palette" interface. In the TGS demo, each character had five types of alchemy at their disposal, as well as a pair of side arms: a rifle, rocket launcher, sniper rifle, grenade or smoke bomb.

The combat may be Dynasty Warriors-esque, but players won’t face dozens of mindless enemy troops at once. Instead, they’ll encounter small squadrons, usually less than a dozen or so, at a time. Players can choose how they want to approach these combat encounters, thanks to the tactical combat tools at their disposal. Do they want to sow confusion among the group and take out a few enemies from afar? Pull out the side arms and take a few potshots. Are the enemies taking cover behind makeshift barriers? Toss a grenade into the enemy encampment and then rush in.

Valkyria: Azure Revolution uses a combination of "emotions" and "conditions" to determine how well players are performing in battle. If players attack an enemy squadron suddenly, they can sow fear and panic among the group. That fear may spread throughout the troops, reducing their effectiveness. Similarly, if players target a squadron leader, who is highlighted with an icon over his head, they’ll induce fear among the remaining troops.

Battlefield conditions are exposed with a Condition Gauge, which transitions from blue to red, near the top of the screen. If players cause fear and panic among the enemy or occupy an enemy base, they’ll gain advantage on the Condition Gauge. But if things go poorly, they’ll lose advantage, and your allies may retreat.

Valkyria: Azure Revolution‘s TGS demo was brief, consisting of a handful of enemy troops encounters and a boss battle against a massive, spider-like tank. It was promising, even if it’s a sharp turn, gameplay-wise, from what Valkyria Chronicles fans may expect of the property.

While the game is currently announced for release on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita only in Japan, a Sega rep told Polygon that the company was "thinking positively" about localizing and releasing the game for other territories.