Image Source: SEGA on YouTube

As I’ve been playing Valkyria Revolution, I’ve noticed its story shares a lot in common with Valkyria Chronicles–though with a major twists that begs the question: Are our “heroes” really heroes?

[Note: This article contains spoilers for the prologue chapter of Valkyria Revolution.]

If you’ve ever played Valkyria Chronicles, the setting of Valkyria Revolution should sound familiar. There is an expansionist eastern empire that is opposed by an alliance of countries in Western Europe. Smack dab between the two is a small neutral country that both sides eye greedily.

The small country is led by a noble princess who seeks to protect her country against the Eastern Empire. But while heroes arise in the small country to fight the Empire, the Empire has a secret weapon: a woman with white hair and powers that even a whole army can’t hope to match.

On the surface, both games are examples of “the little guy” standing up to the big. But while the war in Valkyria Chronicles is a purely defensive one, the war of Valkyria Revolution goes on the offensive, as the small country of Jutland liberates its neighboring countries that have been absorbed by the Ruzhien Empire, one after another.

Image Source: SEGA on YouTube

Leading the attack is Amleth Glencaire and his Anti-Valkyria Unit. Armed with experimental ragnite weapons (a special mineral with strange properties), the squad gains magic powers and claims to be able to fight against a Valkyria of legend… a boast which is put to the test numerous times throughout the game.

But as noble as Jutland’s war against the colonial giant seems, it is far from the righteous cause it appears to be on the surface. Unknown to the general population and even the royal family, the war has been orchestrated from behind the scenes. Thousands are dying on the battlefield not because of colonial ambitions or liberation of the oppressed, but for simple revenge. To the “Circle of Five,” the war is simply a means to an end: a tool to assassinate the four most powerful men in the Ruzhien Empire.

Image Source: SEGA on YouTube

As children, the “Circle of Five” were orphans. One day, four Ruzhien generals came to the orphanage, burning it down and kidnaping the woman who ran it. Only five children–four boys and a girl–survived. Alone in the world, the five swore a pact, to kill the generals and save the woman who raised them.

Over the decade to come, they infiltrated key points of power in Jutland society. The first chose the world of politics and became an influential member of the country’s House of Representatives, able to sway the nation’s leaders. The second entered into the world of manufacturing and became an industrial moguel to finance the group and provide the weapons they’d need. The third, the only female of the group, became a spy for the government, using her natural charm to pass the enemy’s secrets onto her companions. The fourth became a well-respected journalist, able to sway the hearts of the common man through words alone. And the fifth? He joined the military and worked to build the nation’s strongest military force–the sword they’d use in their revenge: The Anti-Valkyria Unit.

Image Source: SEGA on YouTube

This is the origin of the drama in the game. Amleth, our “hero” and player controlled character, is one of these conspirators. He has decided his revenge is worth the deaths of thousands. On the outside, he is a serious commander and a national hero. But on the other hand, he lies to those under his command every day, putting their lives at risk–and potentially even the fate of the country itself–for nothing beyond his personal goals. Of course, that’s not to imply that he cares nothing for those under his command. When his revenge is at hand, he tries to act alone, leaving the squad in safety. But, of course, there are times where his revenge may require the sacrifice of those he is supposed to care for.

This dilemma is made even more complicated by his relationship with Ophelia, the princess of Jutland. A classmate of Amleth’s at the magical training academy and fellow member of The Anti-Valkyria Unit, she sees early on that the friend she’s known for years becomes a brutal, uncaring person in certain situations. She’s worried about the sudden change in her friend but, of course, Amleth will say nothing.

Image Source: SEGA on YouTube

Thus, she and her personal guard begin to investigate him, trying to discover his past. And even as he tries to dissuade them, each secret they uncover brings Amleth one step closer to the moment of truth. Will he do whatever is necessary to get his revenge–even if it means the murder of his companions? And will Ophelia, when confronted with the truth, choose to stand by her friend or by her country?

In Amleth, we are given a protagonist who, while sympathetic, can quite easily be viewed as a villain. He, in turn, is forced to interact with a traditional lawful-good protagonist in the form of Ophelia. Their relationship–and it’s place within the overall conflict of the story–is the most captivating aspect of Valkyria Revolution.

So, even as Jutland fights to liberate country after country and freedom spreads, there is always the dark truth looming in the background. This war is neither right nor just. Rather, it is a tool for five orphans to get revenge, no matter the cost. And in such a situation, is anyone truly a hero?

Valkyria Revolution was released in Japan on January 19, 2017. It will be released in North America for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PlayStation Vita in Spring 2017.

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