Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Valkyrie Elysium review: a cult-classic made average

Nora fighting Hilde.
Valkyrie Elysium
MSRP $59.99
“Valkyrie Elysium delivers an average action experience that fails to revive a classic RPG series.”
  • Beautiful world
  • Decent combat
  • Extremely basic story
  • Cardboard characters
  • Lack of depth
  • No exploration

Square Enix has been on a roll lately when it comes to reviving dormant franchises and remaking its classics. That process kicked off in earnest with Final Fantasy VII Remake, but the company has kept things moving since then. There’s been a new Front Mission here, another Star Ocean there, and now an addition to the Valkyrie series with the recent release of Valkyrie Elysium.

The inherent trouble with this new initiative is that these projects have to live up to all the expectations and nostalgia its players still strongly feel. In the case of Valkyrie Elysium‘s original predecessor, Valkyrie Profile, that’s an even larger problem due to its cult classic status. The difference between these two isn’t just the generational gap or gameplay changes, but the lack of effort and innovation that Valkyrie Elysium brings to the table in a world where we’ve seen Japanese role-playing games and action integration perfected again and again.

Simplistic story

The largest weakness of Valkyrie Elysium comes from its extremely simple story, which boils down to “Ragnarok is coming. Go fight and save the world.” You play as Nora, a new Valkyrie who has to complete this task as ordered by Odin. She follows this command until a predictable plot twist that you’ll see from a mile away turns her against the all-father.

Valkyrie recruiting a knight.

Everyone has a personality constructed out of cardboard, including the adventure’s main hero, Nora Valkyrie. There were no narrative hooks for me to get invested in, which made me feel like most of the development attention went to the combat and visuals instead. That wouldn’t be a problem if this was a fully fleshed-out action romp, but it struggles to deliver in that department too.

Average action

When going into Valkyrie Elysium, all I could think about was how far JRPGs have come as a genre. After tackling games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Scarlet Nexus, and Tales of Arise, I could only imagine how Elysium would follow in their footsteps and deliver an action experience for casual and hardcore players while perfectly meshing with the role-playing genre. This is where Elysium really struggles.

Valkyrie Elysium took all the depth I hoped to find in a modern action-RPG and threw it to the side in favor of something that feels even emptier than what many expect from something like a Dynasty Warriors game. From a gameplay standpoint, it’s a bare experience. You’ll find no dodge cancels, jump cancels, huge combos, or advanced tactics here, making its combat a bit of a button mash-fest.

valkyrie elysium gameplay fight

The simplistic approach to combat feels like it’s only built for one audience. Sure, players who want to turn off their brains and hit buttons will be fulfilled, but that’s about it. Even so, those players will still run into some issues. The reason you can’t cancel an action is because you can’t act out of an attack string. Once commands are input, Nora will complete that combo. That’s also why you can’t dodge out of danger during an attack on enemies like you can in a Bayonetta or any other more polished action game. Instead, you’re limited to guard canceling, which is a fine, albeit more boring workaround that plays into the central issue of Valkyrie Elysium.

Most enemies are brainlessly easy to fight.

After playing through the earlier pieces of the game in its demo, I hoped that as I unlocked more ability trees, weapons, Einherjar (assist attacks), and spells, these options would open up more. That just wasn’t the case. Instead, the game’s combat mostly focuses on exploiting enemy element weaknesses.

Apart from making boss life bars melt faster and freezing them to make an easy experience more effortless, that approach felt unnecessary. Most enemies are brainlessly easy to fight. I could just mash attacks without a thought unless I wanted to add a bit of flash to keep myself entertained. I see so much potential here, but the budget nature of the title really shows, which shouldn’t be the case.

A beautiful world wasted

If nothing else, Valkyrie Elysium does excel on an artistic level. In both combat and exploration (I use that word very loosely, as there’s not much to be done), I can’t deny the visual flair on display. Everything from lightning hitting demonic enemies to the sun peeking over a destroyed castle brings a painting-like beauty to the world. It’s an art style built out of limitation, as it’s masking a budget look, but it does it well.

Nora standing in a grassland infront of a ruined castle.

I can’t help but feel that all of that beauty is squandered, as Valkyrie Elysium is all dressed up with nowhere to go. The first map of the game had me wandering aimlessly for a bit around identical buildings with no real landmarks to latch onto. That was followed by tons of linear levels that I had to revisit again and again during subquests. This isn’t a standard JRPG experience where you need to explore the world, but a more linear one that plays into its overall lack of options and budget nature. It doesn’t help that a lot of its levels are just made up of dark hallways with nothing to look at inside them.

Valkyrie Elysium can be categorized as a missed opportunity. There’s a general feeling that it didn’t get the time or attention the series deserved, with the largest disappointment coming from its action. After the release of so many great games that do what it tries to do so much better, it’s hard to recommend it among a crowded field. Games like Scarlet Nexus and Tales of Arise just integrate action combat and the JRPG formula much better, which makes Elysium feel dated. Elden Ring decorates and tells a story through its world in ways I wish this game even attempted.

Unlike these titles and previous entries in its own series, Valkyrie Elysium tries to play it too safe. A lack of effort leaves the game feeling like one of those completely average titles that were popular in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. And that’s what stings the most. It isn’t a terrible RPG by any means, but an utterly OK one if you’re just looking to mash some buttons and do absolutely nothing else.

Valkyrie Elysium was reviewed on PS5.

Editors' Recommendations

These were the 7 best video games we played at PAX 2023
Three women float in front of a bright blue orb of light in Trinity Fusion

This weekend, PAX East returned to Boston with a lively show full of panels and game demos. It was a return to form for the gaming expo after suffering a few difficult years during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital Trends was on the scene once again this year, sampling a wide range of indie games during the multi-day event. There was a lot to get excited about this year, from stylish roguelikes to a riff on Vampire Survivors featuring capybaras. After many hours of behind-closed-door previews and on-the-floor demos, we’ve put together this list of seven titles that stood out to us most during the show. You'll want to make sure these games are on your radar.
Trinity Fusion

Read more
Ubisoft will not attend E3 2023, but it will still host a summer live stream
Basim showing off his hidden blade.

Ubisoft will no longer be attending E3 2023, even though it said it would participate in February. Instead, the game publisher behind Assassin's Creed and Far Cry plans to hold its own Ubisoft Forward Live event in Los Angeles this June.
Ubisoft confirmed its change in plans to Video Games Chronicle today, with a spokesperson saying that while Ubisoft "initially intended to have an official E3 presence, we've made the subsequent decision to move in a different direction." This is a change in messaging from just over a month ago when Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said, "If E3 happens, we will be there, and we will have a lot of things to show."
What caused this change of heart in Ubisoft is unclear. However, it seems like the company found that it could still successfully promote its game lineup without being attached to the Entertainment Software Association's event. We don't know much about the Ubisoft Forward Live event other than it'll take place on June 12 in Los Angeles, but Ubisoft tells VGC that "we look forward to sharing more details with our players very soon."
This puts E3 2023 in a weird overall spot, as we currently know more about the companies that won't be at the event -- like Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Nintendo -- than we do about the publishers that will actually be there. After being canceled in 2020 and 2022 and being digital-only in 2021, E3 2023 was supposed to be the annual gaming trade show's grand return. Right now, though, the relevance and viability of E3 2023 are questionable.
ReedPop has not yet commented on the fact that Ubisoft is no longer attending E3 2023. 

Read more
Resident Evil 4 ending explained: what the remake changes
Ada Wong holds a gun in Resident Evil 4.

Capcom's excellent Resident Evil 4 remake isn't a 1:1 copy of the 2005 action-horror classic. The 2023 version departs from the original in some key ways, fleshing out characters and completely reimagining some plot beats. Some of those changes help better connect it to Capcom's previous remakes, while others rid the game of some of its crass humor.

Some of the biggest changes happen in the remake's ending -- though you may not notice them at first glance. The general plot beats aren't too far off from the original, but there are some important tonal changes that might be setting the stage for whatever's next. Here's exactly what happens in Resident Evil 4's new ending and how it departs from the original.

Read more