Valkyrie Elysium might just be a pleasant surprise

Announced in the same State of play showcase like Star Ocean: The Divine Force, the return of the Valkyrie series with Valkyrie Elysium isn’t getting as much fanfare as it perhaps deserves. With a PS5, PS4 release in a few weeks, a demo quietly released on the PS Store is one of Square Enix’s last hopes of stirring up excitement. The good thing is that it will probably work for those who give it a shot. While Valkyrie Elysium is unlikely to set the world on fire, it’s a rock-solid action-RPG with a fun combat system and satisfying abilities.

The demo covers all of the game’s first chapter and a few side quests, and you’ll be able to transfer your progress to the full experience if you like what you’re playing. An introduction in an impressive throne room sets up the story, then you’re sent to a hilltop castle for the first round of encounters. The fights and battles of the latest Square Enix don’t do anything particularly original, but they make up for that by feeling satisfying and fun.

Valkyrie is equipped with the usual sword and dash abilities that many action games have standardized on, so she differentiates herself somewhat with a Soul Chain ability and elemental powers. The former can be used as a magic whip, latching onto enemies and pulling Valkyrie forward to immediately close the space between them. If you’re trying to keep the heat on a particular enemy, this is a great tool to use. Then there are elemental powers that can trigger weaknesses and deal ranged damage.

An interesting trick is the crushed state, which renders a fighter immobile if you link one of your powers to their greatest weakness. Encounter the same type of enemy and you can freeze them all in place with one hit. We can report that this is a very satisfying action after triggering the effect several times throughout the demo.

We’re eager to hear how the combat system gets more complex in the full game, but hints of character upgrades, new weapons, and more skills to wield have already whetted our appetites. Three skill trees split between attack, defense, and support are complemented by distinct weapon upgrades. How deep Valkyrie Elysium can actually reach remains to be seen, but the signs are positive. The demo already lets us take our first steps at juggling an enemy in the air with our sword swings, so hopefully the sky’s the limit.

We want these possibilities to extend to level design as well, as the demo we played remained incredibly linear throughout. Occasionally you’ll come across an optional path to take, but all they usually lead to is a treasure chest or plant on the ground that represents someone’s memory. For the most part, you will be ranked by a single dirt path or passage until the next combat encounter. It’s just a little uninteresting.

Valkyrie Elysium might just be a pleasant surprise Hands On 4

There’s also an odd juxtaposition to the visuals, where the art style is actually quite nice but some of the textures are quite poor quality. The game may look gorgeous in places – Valkyrie’s character design is beautiful to the eye, for example – but the debris she leaves in her path feels poor. This is presumably a fairly recent version of the game, so it’s a little worrying to see this irregularity present so close to release. Yet there is still the day one patch.

With its release in exactly two weeks, Valkyrie Elysium deserves a lot more attention than it gets if the demo lives up to it. It won’t come close to being the best action-RPG of the year, but the Square Enix title is shaping up to be something really, really nice for those quieter times when your slate is clean. An action-packed experience with the hope of a deeper combat system, keep Valkyrie Elysium on your Christmas list for some hack and slash fun.

Did you pay much attention to Valkyrie Elysium before its launch? Have you tried his new demo? Share your opinion in the comments below.