Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4
Developer: Agate Studio
Release: 2nd October 2018
Who didn´t want to be the principal of his own school? Well, maybe less than I think but still, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story offers you exactly that! After seeing it at Gamescom this year I was particularly interested in this concept which seemed to blend simple fun combat with more in-depth simulation gameplay and it works pretty damn fine in practice too!
We´re appointed the headmaster of a hero academy, responsible for training heroes to help the neighboring five kingdoms. However, in the beginning it doesn´t look really good, having a tiny, limited school with not many teachers nor facilities. So it´s not only our job to keep the whole thing running but also expand it into a truly giant facility respected by many.
As exciting as that may sound, the first few hours are heavily guided, linear missions, lacking much of the simulation gameplay you might expect. Instead they focus on teaching the basics in an almost too slow way, giving you only a few buildings, missions and teachers to handle, which can become quite dull really fast. Luckily, once this lengthy tutorial is over, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is an actually really fun game, mainly because it doesn´t aim to bring the deepest system ever seen but rather an experience that´s challenging but relaxing as well.
Throughout the game your academy will grow, offering more and more dedicated space for classrooms, dorms and such, hence largening the number of students you can take in. Since the layouts are always predefined you can only assign the already laid out rooms what purpose they should serve, removing the aspect of managing an efficient layout. In general, building your academy is more focused on the order you build those rooms, because all of them are way too useful to not be built, and it´s impossible to really construct something useless. In exchange, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story lays a far bigger focus on the students itself. Every semester you have to graduate at least one of them and depending on their level you get bigger rewards as well.
So how do you increase their level? With missions you send them on. The teachers will have a plenthora of things they need or problems and it´s the job of those newcomer heroes to solve them! You can send four of them in a team on such a mission and actually control them as well. Taking over as one of them, you have to accomplish the task in a pretty fun but simple system. One button is for attacking, another for casting spells and a few others for blocking or changing students. It´s easy and if you´re the right level never too hard, very simimlar to Cast Quest actually and I loved it there already. For a fun time, it´s almost the perfect system, especially since missions are never longer than 5 minutes.
With the obtained XP they naturally gain levels and new skills, as well as new possible classes. There are a total of 9 specialized proficincies for your students, each offering their own abilities and downsides. In order to not overwhelm you though, nearly all of them are locked and you have to find the required teachers in missions first. After all, they have to be taught how to be a knight or wizard by them. It´s not only a great way to create a really smooth learning curve but also to weave the general theme into the experience. To craft new weapons or buy
Unfortunately, the actual customization feels somewhat too limited in many departments for my taste. Every student can only learn a tiny handful of skills, only has three equipment slots and many just feel the same. After I found a good knight setup, I simply repeated it as many times as I wanted, creating an army of the same students. Not only did it introduce a repetitivity into the creation of them but also made it boring. At least in my eyes, heroes should learn to be unique right?
The main reason for this repetitive student system is the lack of many systems, since Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story isn´t really made as a challenging simulation game but as a an experience best enjoyed in shorter bursts. Naturally the Switch is a great fit, especially because of the rather mediocre graphics. While the mushy textures aren´t really a problem during the school sections, mission environments can end up looking quite uninspired. Otherwise it looks pretty good for the price, featuring some nice artworks and a really colourful, happy style.
In the end, I end up liking Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story but not for its deep simulation gameplay or so. It´s a really fun, not too complex little game, perfect to sink some hours in here and there, building your own school and enjoy some simple combat.
[A Review Code was provided by PQube]