I want to love The Valiant; I really do. It’s got medieval warfare, siege weaponry, betrayal, an epic tale, all of the trappings that make for an excellent period piece gaming experience. Truly, there’s moments of brilliance and captivation and they are unfortunately hampered by middling missions with almost boring extended periods of gameplay. Presumably these periods are aimed to flesh out the story and make the journey across various lands seem that much more epic (normally a good thing), but at a severe detriment to the gameplay. In short, The Valiant strikes me as a game of what could have been rather than what is.
Set in 13th Century Europe and the Middle East, you play the role of Theoderich, a knight torn between his duty and long friendship with Ulrich, a fellow knight. A disagreement between those two is the impetus for an elongated campaign traveling all over Europe and the Middle East.
The Valiant is a squad-based RTS consisting of several medieval units, usually capping at six, with an emphasis on main story characters with various specialties ranging from archery to cavalry to pikemen, et cetera. Any of the main story character units can be revived by fellow main characters and a game over is typically received when all of the aforementioned units have fallen. Then there’s fodder units that resemble the main story characters, albeit much weaker and lacking in special moves. These units can permanently die and they can only be replaced by using gold, The Valiant’s rare currency. Lastly, we have siege weapons like trebuchets and catapults, but these are only featured in a very small amount of the missions (more on this later).
The typical missions revolve around killing all opposing units, reaching a destination, or escorting units. It feels very barebones in terms of strategy. You engage, retreat, and repeat. Then suddenly at the midway point of the game, like a ray of sunshine from the heavens, you get to participate in siege warfare on castles! The gameplay takes a drastic positive shift as you have a central base to protect and multiple key control points on the map that are essential for acquiring gold and wood, which allow for defensive and offensive upgrades. Meanwhile, your opponent is attempting to send units to your base as well as the key hardpoints on the map. This creates an engaging yin and yang for map control and requires you to time your advances and retreats. This is when The Valiant truly shines and I’m saddened to say that you only have around three missions that take advantage of this type of gameplay. It’s fantastic, a divine breath of fresh air, and happens far too infrequently.
Your upgrade paths are designed around two elements, experience points gained and equipment. Each mission will reward you with experience points based on several goals, which you can then use between missions to level up and denote ability points to various abilities for each main character. The equipment is found randomly throughout the map or by defeating certain opponents, which allows for various bonuses like DPS improvements, new abilities, and the like. It works well enough, but you’ll certainly find the difficulty spikes in this game could be mitigated if it would allow you to complete various missions over again and acquire more experience. Instead, once you fulfill a particular goal for a mission, you can no longer gain experience points from said goal. Very frustrating.
There are also multiplayer modes that could be good, in theory, especially when considering the siege trebuchets and various control points on the map, but I was unable to get an online game going.
While the overhead map graphics are more than adequate, I think you’ll find the in-game cutscenes with the various characters leave a little bit to be desired because none of the characters’ mouths are fully animated while speaking. Not the end of the world, though. However, there MUST be some applause directed towards the voicework and narrative storytelling between missions with these beautifully rendered pencil-like drawings of various characters. When some of them are minimally animated it’s just…**chef’s kiss**
The need for storytelling, something I’m normally very fond of, seemed to derail the fun factor of The Valiant. Instead of doubling down on the siege battles, the developers instead chose to focus on an extensive amount of mission environments due to the expansiveness of Theoderich’s journey. The various missions, albeit expansive and interesting to the eye, simply had the end result of creating frustration and boredom with the same mission types appearing over and over again. The characters don’t move very fast either, so some of the missions just seem like a slog.
Speaking of frustrations, there’s three missions where I would imagine many players will quit due to massive difficulty spikes. One in particular featured random points where you play a game of capture the flag. The problem is getting past some of these sections seems to require cheesing the game, which just isn’t very satisfying. I look at those missions and wonder how much better it could have been had they changed those into more siege battles.
Also, it’s quite shocking how difficult the last mission is. Honestly, I initially gave up on it on what was supposed to be my final playthrough day. One grievance is a particular unit is supposed to excel at hiding in bushes and surprise attacking enemies, but it seems like that ability just magically vanished. Additionally, the units you go up against seem drastically overpowered. My only answer ended up being to cheese these battles to finish. Again, I would have liked to see more ways to confront a difficult mission.
The Valiant is a story of what could have been. Honestly, the siege battles are so good that it truly bums me out that multiplayer is nonexistent at this time. My hope is there will eventually be a sequel with more focus on the siege elements in the future. If you’re a diehard RTS fan and just looking for the new thing, The Valiant is adequate, but I don’t think it will blow you away.