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Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume Review

Square's Norse RPG May Be Falling Out Of Favor
by Joe Juba on Sep 22, 2009 at 02:02 PM
Reviewed on DS
Publisher Square Enix
Developer Tri-Ace
Rating Teen

Turn-based strategy revolves around two concepts: moving and attacking. Games in the genre layer other tactical elements on top of those basic tenets, and those layers set the good strategy titles apart from the rest. Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is one of ''the rest.'' In its attempts to fuse grid-based combat with the series' RPG roots, Covenant of the Plume doesn't capture the essence of either, descending into a jumble of mismatched design decisions.

In other strategy games, your primary concern is winning battles. Here, you need to worry about a bunch of meta-game annoyances. For instance, each battle requires you to collect a certain amount of Sin – which accrues by doing damage to enemies after they're defeated – in addition to meeting the victory conditions. In other words, just killing an enemy isn't enough; you have to blow entire rounds to set up massive assaults against weakened foes. If you don't, you might not hit your Sin requirement – for which you're punished in the next fight with a ''bonus'' boss enemy.

Gathering Sin isn't the only thing that poisons the combat. Difficulty balancing is all over the board – a mistake made worse by the fact that you can only bring four characters into combat, limiting your strategic options. If you feel outmatched by a fight, there is no way for you to take time to level up, since your side-quest options are extremely limited. You also have a super weapon – the plume – that is basically unusable; it secures victory by permanently killing one of your party members, but it also ruins your shot at seeing the best ending.

The shame is that Covenant of the Plume's other innovations could have made for a good game. Setting up formations and delivering multiple attacks per turn adds an interesting twist to the formula, and I really liked the story of Wylfred and his grudge against Lenneth. Unfortunately, these redeeming qualities suffocate under an avalanche of extraneous junk, ruining even the simple process of moving and attacking. I hope there is another true Valkyrie Profile sequel in the works, because fans of the series deserve better than this.

Focus on the mortals instead of the gods in a grid-based Valkyrie Profile spin-off
Good character art, though the in-battle sprites are nothing special
The soundtrack is occasionally excellent, but there are plenty of generic tunes
Though the controls are easy to learn, poor balancing makes each fight hit-and-miss
Some great ideas are overshadowed by the cumbersome mechanics

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Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plumecover

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume

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