I can’t get enough of all of the amazing games PQube are publishing lately. First, we had Gal*Gun 2, then Punch Line, and now Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story. Developed by Agate, with the help of Kickstarter backers, this latest iteration in the Valthirian Arc franchise has just landed on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Steam. Not only are you tasked with running an academy, taking on new students in order to train them up and send them on quests, but you’re also going to be responsible for the safety of the entire kingdom.
Utilising an intuitive and interesting set of mechanics, can you build up your dream-team of trainees or is school out for summer? Let’s find out as we jump into this rather addictive micro-management RPG simulation game.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story opens with us, the faceless protagonist, taking over as head of the academy as the existing owner is set for retirement. As a student over a decade ago, you’re prime material to continue it’s legacy as you know how things work around here and you didn’t turn out that bad after all! Your first task, as the principle, is to both name your luxurious academy and also design your official crest, I opted for the simple ‘St. Turnips Academy’ and chose what can only be described as a blob of slime as my crest.
There is a story which flows throughout your time in Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story, a story of a lost Heiress, five factions at war, an evil emerging from the North, and perhaps some sneaky double-crossings. The majority of your time though, you’ll be ignoring the actual story and just randomly helping people out until you uncover a mission which relates to the storyline. As such, can you save all of Valthiria? Perhaps, but first, you have to take care of your primary mission…
Upon returning to the walls of your establishment, you’ll be choosing which students get enrolled, who are rejected, which students should be graduated at the end of a semester, and who you think will do best out on excursions and quests for the academy. There is a lot of micro-managing to be had within Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story and a lot of trial and error. At times, the game feels like a Free to Play mobile phone game which isn’t as bad as that sounds, I’ll explain it in more detail within the review below. One thing is for certain though – You’re going to have a lot of fun as you sink hours upon hours into Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story as you aim to build the best academy in the world!
First up, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is a little hard to describe in terms of its gameplay as there are four key aspects to the overall experience; School construction, Quests, Armour and Weapon construction, and Student management. As such, I’m going to talk about each aspect one by one below and then I’ll do a summary of the way everything works together as it should all make sense then!
When I first saw Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story, I instantly thought of games like Two Point Hospital or Dungeons III – could I build the school of my dreams and buy a load of different facilities and put them wherever I want? Yes and No. Yes, you can build a load of different rooms and choosing the right combination will help you out – No, you can’t put them wherever you want as rooms are limited to the spaces the game gives you. So, initially you can only build a few rooms, classrooms and a few training rooms are your best choices. These will auto level up your students who remain on the school grounds and also let you upgrade certain students to a new profession. Rooms also generate certain benefits when you send people on quests, so having a certain room may offer more experience whereas having another may result in more item drops from your downed foes.
One thing which annoyed/disappointed me about the school is the lack of interactions. Every now and again, a pop-up will appear which you click on and it will ask if you should hold an exam – yes gets XP but the students are sad. Yes – after dinner means you get the XP and the students are happy. No means no XP but the students are very happy. This is one of about three popups you get. There is no variation at all or new interesting things to choose. I know the developers don’t expect you to spend long periods of time looking at the academy, but those of us who do – it’s rather pointless and boring. You need to move on and take on a quest!
As you’re running an elite school here, you don’t want any old riff-raff enrolling within your academy. As such, you can look through your list of applicants and pick out the best ones which you wish to take under your wing and mentor. Your choice isn’t too important though as everyone starts at the bottom, as a level 1 apprentice, and must work their way up through the ranks as you continually re-assign new roles to them and gain experience in the field. The big mechanic here is when a student hits level 10 or above, you can either re-assign them OR allow them to graduate. Graduation brings with it perks for your academy in the form of prestige points and a large sum of money – you’ll lose that student forever though. So it’s a choice you can’t take lightly – unless the game forces you to graduate someone (which does happen if you have someone who can be done yet you refused to pick one).
Armour and Weapons:
You don’t only build rooms and buildings within the academy itself in Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story. You can also build farms and housing in order to allow more people to stay and generate more income. You can also spend your money, and found resources, on new gear for existing and new students. The blacksmith/armoury has the ability to create swords, axes, shields, rings, lances, wands, etc… As long as you’ve found the blueprints for the item, which are scattered all over the place, then you can create it. It’s all well and good sending a level 20 student into a fight, but without a weapon to support them, they won’t be able to slap an enemy to death as easily as you may have thought!
The quests are the major part of the game and they come in two variations. The first is why I feel this game ‘could’ have been a mobile phone free to play title – the timed ‘Rabbit Hole’ missions. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘Rabbit Hole’, it was used during The Sims games primarily. It’s where your characters go off and do something but you don’t see the action taking place. In this instance, you would pick a quest then assign one of your three teams of four students to participate and set out. They will be gone for a set amount of time (two – six weeks in-game) and that’s it. You won’t hear from them until they return from their mission.
The second type of quest is the manual missions. These operate the same, you pick a mission and a team, only this time you’ll be taking full control of all four characters at once as you manually take on the mission in a top-down 3D chibi-style action game. The mission objectives can vary but a lot of them will be to ‘kill X amount of Y’, ‘find X amount of Y object’, ‘Help X get to the end of the level’, and ‘X is missing, find them’. However, I never found myself getting bored of the tasks, even though a lot of them were similar, as the missions were only short and fun to play though.
So, what you’ll end up doing is… You’ll spend your money buying new rooms in your academy. Once that’s complete, you’ll look through your active list of students, re-equipt those who need new weapons by forging more of them at the blacksmith. Once that’s done, you’ll go to the map screen and send a team or two on Rabbit Hole missions as you take on a manual quest so you can be fully in control. Upon returning to the academy, you’ll be promoting various students, if they’ve hit level ten and you have the relevant teacher, and then sending people back out once again – rinse and repeat until graduation time.
On the map screen, you’ll actually see multiple flags and it can be a little confusing as to what means what. Basically, there are five factions, all with their own flag, who will ask you to complete missions for them. You can side with one or all of them as you encounter new endings and unlock new story pathways depending on who you choose to help out.
I briefly touched on it above, but in order to promote your students to a new class, such as a Mage or a harlequin, you must first build a specific building such as a theatre as well as find the relevant teacher during your manual quests. These quests are usually a lot harder than the others you have done up to this point but they still follow the same structure I put above in regards to what the quests are like. Once you’ve saved/found the teacher and built the room, once you hit level 10 then you can promote if you wish. All of the professions have their own additional roles as well. You can initially upgrade to one of three professions and each of those upgrade to one of two new professions.
One thing to be aware of, and something I wished I knew about (especially since when I was playing, there was no way to undo this like there is now), an in-game week is about 15 minutes in real time. If you send off all of your students on Rabbit Hole quests, you have to literally sit there and wait until they return from their mission. This can result in having to sit there for about an hour until you get to do anything. Thankfully, the developers now let you cancel a Rabbit Hole and get the students back – a much-needed feature! However, manual quests have an ‘ETA’ on them – so if you send off your teams to 2 two week Rabbit Holes and you do a manual quest with a three week ETA, once you’ve completed the manual mission, three weeks have passed and everyone is now home.
Again, I feel IF this game was a mobile one then I can see Microtransactions, energy requirements, or actual in-game timers being present at this point. There are none of those, so don’t worry, it just feels like there ‘could’ be some there…
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story isn’t realistic, it’s not the best looking game I’ve ever played, nor is it a technical masterpiece within its aesthetics. However, the overall artistic design is really cute, the textures look quite simple up close but work really well as you zoom out, and it has an interesting combination of anime, comic-book and Diablo. I love how each of the characters looks like their avatar – something a few games don’t do, even in 2018 – and every class has their own combat personality.
Overall it just a very cute game that’s pleasing to look at and runs really well on the consoles. Well, my Mage learnt an ice spell and every time they use it my PS4 Pro drops a lot of frames! I imagine it’s a bug or a glitch as it’s only that weapon – but it’s something to be aware of. Also, I’ve begun to notice a bit of screen-tearing since the recent patch during manual quests. It’s not too distracting but hopefully something the devs can fix?
In regards to the audio, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story has a decent soundtrack which I don’t mind listening too. Each themed area has its own music which to me, sounds like it would have fitted in perfectly with games like Mystic Quest Legend and Final Fantasy on the SNES. What you’ll hear more than the music though is the barrage of sound effects and grunts coming from your characters. They don’t ‘talk’ as such, but they have one-word phrases in-game like ‘Yeah’ and ‘huh’ as well as the various sword slices and spell explosions. You’ll also be told how “it was so easy” when you use the portal to return home. I would have liked it if there was more talking in the game, but it’s not a deal breaker as there are some games out there which have way-too-much talking in them!
I personally loved Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story. I played it pretty much non-stop once I got it, all the way through the night. Why has it taken me so long to write my review then, I hear you ask? I hit a bug in the game, a bug which isn’t letting me progress any further as the end boss (at least I presume it’s the end boss) won’t descend so I can smack him around and beat the game. As such, I’ve been awaiting a patch to fix the issue but there hasn’t been one yet and I didn’t want to sit around and not tell people about this game anymore. As far as I’m aware, the issue has been spotted and will be resolved shortly as well. Looking on PSNProfiles, people have got the platinum, so I think the issue I hit must be a random one and not a common issue. **The game got an update about 30 mins ago. I was able to progress just fine now** That being said, even with this issue, I adored the game immensely and I can’t wait until I can progress and continue to save the land and join up with the other five factions.
The game is super addictive and I can see the Switch version probably selling the most copies due to its portability and the ability to play in short bursts as well as long sessions. It’s a shame it never came to the PS Vita, but I imagine this game would most likely struggle on the discontinued Sony handheld. The overall core mechanics behind levelling up, picking missions, building the right facilities for your particular needs, and choosing the right students, can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating at first as there is help but it’s very vague at times. However, once you’ve put in a decent amount of time and have gotten to grips with the whole process, it will come naturally as you level your teams all the way up to be grandmasters within their profession – until the game forces you to graduate one of them and having to re-train a new student!
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is an incredibly addictive and entertaining take on a fantasy academy simulator. When you’re not running the day-to-day business of building facilities and watching over your students, you’ll be gearing them up and sending them on many quests into the unknown. The difficulty does spike quite drastically if you’re unprepared and don’t have the best teachers within your grounds – however, the only punishment for defeat is the loss of time you could have spent more constructively.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is great in both short bursts and long play-sessions as there is always people to train and a new mission waiting for you.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story£9.99
- Very interesting combination of genres
- Great soundtrack
- Very, very addictive
- Perfect for short bursts and long sessions
- lots of things to micromanage - if you like things like that!
- Some of the missions are the same task just in different locations
- The initial amount of customisations and setup is a little overwhelming
- I hit a bug which has stopped me progressing (yet others have managed to get the platinum so it may just be me)