Welcome to Eldar, the land of many grays and browns, brainless enemies and mercenaries, and mute characters. A console first for the action role-playing series, Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga presents plenty of problems from the beginning: an awful color palette, yawn-worthy cutscenes, stiff combat, poor enemy and mercenary AI, and a predictable story. It’s quite a laundry list compared to the few pluses in the game.
Eldar Saga possesses many cosmetic problems which make it difficult to get into from the get-go. The art team apparently decided on using light brown, dark brown, medium brown and then some gray, creating some truly drab, boring environments in the first act of the game. Additionally, fog and rain bombard the screen at random times, making it even harder to distinguish objects – enemies, NPCs, breakable crates – from the environment. We once had to sprint around a region for a half-hour looking for an NPC, and only when a cutscene triggered did we realized we had found them.
In addition to the visual problems, the audio is just awful. The few voice-overs in the game are poorly done and make up long cutscenes jammed with meant-to-be dramatic pauses that had us hammering the 1 button to skip them entirely. Also, entering caves transmits loud, obnoxious, over-echoed footsteps that left us muting the TV.
The sub-standard sounds and visuals could be forgiven if the gameplay were exceptional – but such is not to be. Valhalla Knights is not special in this category. The combat feels stiff and you often find yourself caught swinging in whatever direction your initial blow was aimed. You can lock onto an enemy, which helps some, but you still have to make sure you are close enough to actually hit that enemy – no easy task considering the muddy visuals. Combat isn’t very exciting anyhow; enemies are easily avoidable and swing wildly, and fighting them breaks down to mashing either the strong or weak attack button and healing often with potions. This is also true for boss fights, making them more endurance challenges than battles of strategy or wits.
You can hire mercenaries to help you out, but they’re as dumb as your enemies. They’ll stupidly get stuck on ledges, or rush into battle only to be immediately destroyed. You can adjust their settings to make them stay back, but this is to no avail because they charge into battle anyway. You can equip them with better items, but this involves lots of guessing and checking. Why? Because item stats aren’t really known until you put them on, and the same item can have different stats depending on its rank, adding to the confusion. Also, changing equipment can only be done in towns, so get used to making stops in town if you want to try on a newly found item.
On the plus side, there are a plethora of jobs that skills can be mixed and mashed together to create an uber character, including special jobs that can be unlocked in the second half of the game. And if the first episode can be endured, the scenery becomes much more interesting and easier to identify enemies and objects in. And, well, that’s about it.
Ultimately, Valhalla Knight: Eldar Saga suffers from an overall lack of polish, as well as being an all-around boring game. Only those starved for an action RPG should think of treading the lands of Eldar. Everyone else need not apply.
Oct 27, 2009