The Valiant - Solid Strategy With A Cool Story
The humble squad-based RTS is something of a rarity these days. With not much on the new and trending lists for those with a hankering for some classic Dawn of War or Company of Heroes action (though CoH3 is coming soon) it seems like the perfect time for The Valiant to hit the market. The targeted player group is starved for content which gives a new IP a better chance of finding a player base and achieving success. But the RTS crowd is a notoriously picky one, so getting the timeframe right is only half the battle. The real key to victory is the gameplay and I am pleased to say that The Valiant does a pretty darn good job at feeding those RTS desires.
So, what is The Valiant? Well, as I said it is a squad-based RTS set during the 11th Century Crusades. The story starts with two knights protecting a small village from maruders when they discover a sceptre buried beneath the sands. One of the knights becomes obsessed with the sceptre, slaughtering villagers as he tries to learn of its origins, while the other is at a loss as to why his once faithful friend has become a ruthless killer. Fast forward 10 years and the knights have returned home. The Knight who holds the sceptre has become a ruthless tyrant while the other has retreated to his estates for the quiet life. That is, until a travelling monk arrives at his door, warning of the sceptre and its companion pieces and the damage they could do.
I am sure you can follow along with what happens next. Our Hero Knight dusts off the old armour and sets off to stop the mad bugger with the fancy stick. It is a tale ripped straight out of an Indiana Jones story and I actually had a blast with it. It is cheesy with just enough Christian mythology mixed with occult touches to make a tasty pulp story that will satisfy most players. Award-winning writing, it is not. A B-grade good time is what they are going for and I would say they have achieved that with ease.
Gameplay-wise, things are pretty standard for the genre. You have a small group of units that must be commanded in real-time through an expanding map that clears as you explore. The goals are all genre staples. Protect the village, hunt down an enemy hero unit, save a maiden in distress. If you have played this sort of game before you know the drill. There are a range of standard squads, units like pikemen, archers and swordsmen and then there are hero units that are much tougher, can be levelled up in between missions and have skills that can even the odds against superior numbers. Controlling the units on the battlefield should be no problem as it is all done through tried and true RTS methods. All the shortcut keys, grouping units and pathing work just as they did in every RTS from the last 20 years. If it ain’t broke, why fix it right?
Things can get a little hectic on the battlefield which can make targeting groups tough and while the game does give each group a handy floating icon above them, it can still be difficult to take control of a specific unit in the heat of battle. A small sin and The Valiant is certainly not the only RTS to suffer this problem, but one worth mentioning all the same. The other problem with the gameplay is the boss battles. These can be annoying (especially the final one) and feel like they force the game from a strategic endeavour to an MMO-style skill spamming session. It breaks the flow and instead of adding challenge, it adds frustration.
On the presentation side of things, The Valiant is a nice-looking game without ever being stunning. There is nothing ugly about the game at all and it all shows a nice level of polish, but at the same time, there is nothing that really wows either. Once again, not uncommon for the genre. The voice acting ranges from solid to great, with the main character being especially enjoyable with his gravelly, noble tones resonating across the battlefield. Finally, the storytelling is primarily done through cutscenes that have been created in the style of a book from the time and it works quite well. I would also like to point out that in my time with the game I encountered no bugs or graphical issues which is a welcome change in this day and age.
What it boils down to is, we have seen this game before. Be it as WW2 soldiers or Orc stomping space marines, this is an experience that has been around for quite some time now. That being said, The Valiant is still a welcome addition to a genre that is currently underserviced. It has been put together by a talented team that knows exactly what they are doing and as a result, have created a game that fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy. The Valiant won’t change the world, but it will entertain its target player base for some time to come. What more could a developer ask for?
The Valiant was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by Plaion Australia.