The making of VALKYRIE ELYSIUMTo mark the STEAM release of VALKYRIE ELYSIUM, Takahiro Kondo, Producer and Director of the game, shares the story of its development.
Hello everyone. My name is Takahiro Kondo, and I am the Producer and Director of VALKYRIE ELYSIUM.
This new game is a fresh take on the legendary VALKYRIE series - an action RPG with exciting combat, amazing music and an interesting world inspired by Norse mythology.
Many players have been enjoying the game since we released on PS5 and PS4 in September, and now PC players can join the fun, too. To mark VALKYRIE ELYSIUM’s STEAM release, the team at Square Enix asked me to share the story of how we made this new adventure!
Read on, and I’ll share some thoughts about the development of the game!
An RPG legend returns
We always knew we wanted to bring the VALKYRIE Series back to players, but it had been 14 years since the last console instalment. That meant that before any work could begin, we had to think about what sort of game we wanted it to be.
At the start of development, the whole team played the entire series from the very beginning and looking back over the previous games helped us to determine the direction for ours.
We felt that these original VALKYRIE games had a lot of action and real-time elements for the time. However, when we considered the kinds of games that are played these days, the situation is very different from when the original VALKYRIE titles were released. There is an undeniable preference for extremely fast-paced action games.
Taking these two factors into consideration, we felt we could expand the VALKYRIE IP in a new direction by making an action RPG.
The vision for the combat system
Of course, when making an action RPG, you have to get the action right! This is something we put a lot of focus into when making the game.
We wanted to realise elements from the VALKYRIE series in the action gameplay - the sense of fighting alongside one another, the combo system and the elemental strategy. The game uses a familiar system from the series, where special techniques are triggered with combos, and summonable Einherjar fight alongside you - but achieving that wasn’t easy.
Finding the right balance
One of the biggest challenges was finding the right balance of all these series staples. For example, we initially had Valkyrie and three Einherjar fight together at once, as in the original VALKYRIE PROFILE. We tested many different methods to make this work, but ultimately it meant that there were too many characters on screen at once and it was difficult to tell what was going on. It also generated a heavy processing load.
One solution would be to have battles involve Valkyrie and a single Einherjar, but that meant we couldn’t create that important sense of fighting alongside each other, or make combos feel as good.
In the end, and after a lot of testing, we thought that a three person team made up of Valkyrie and two Einherjar fighting on the field was just right. Even so, it still felt like it lacked strategic elements, and this risked fighting becoming monotonous.
To avoid this, we added a system where Valkyrie is reinforced with an element when she summons an Einherjar.
These elements all came together to make a really fast-paced and fun combat system. However, we found that in these early builds, players struggled to keep track of all the information.
There were lots of places on the screen that players had to look at, and during tests we received a lot of negative feedback about this point. We used an eyeball tracker to analyze how the player’s gaze moved during the game and used the information to remake the screen layout.
By concentrating the gauges in the center of the screen, players no longer had to keep track of elements that were all over the place, making for a much more enjoyable experience!
Divine Arts are another big element of the VALKYRIE series. They’re triggered on command in VALKYRIE PROFILE, and we put a lot of thought into how to implement them into the real-time gameplay of VALKYRIE ELYSIUM.
To ensure that every Divine Art was useful and viable, we made it so that their elemental power changes when Valkyrie is reinforced with the same element from an Einherjar. In doing so, we created a compelling reason for players to use that power - and ensured all the elements of combat supported each other.
We also made the decision that Valkyrie becomes invincible when using them. That way, you could use them to escape dangerous situations - another way to encourage players to use them strategically!
Of course, these various elements of the combat system wouldn’t be much use without enemies, and we worked hard to create an awesome bestiary to battle!
Our design process for these foes was to first decide on broad enemy types. From there. We started designing different variations within that category. One thing that we really wanted to do was revive some of the enemies from previous instalments of the VALKYRIE series - the witch-type enemies for example. That’s something I hope fans keep an eye out for!
We actually designed a lot of enemies, but we were worried that their attack patterns would end up being too alike. As a result, there were many designs didn’t include in the game. We also discussed having some of the Naglfar bosses change into a different form during the fight, but we passed over these this time round as well - we were concerned that the boss fights would become overly complex and drawn-out, and less fun as a result.
We put a lot of effort into the visual designs of these bosses, too. For example, in the case of the Naglfar Eygon, the narrative theme for a key character in this scenario is that of being bound - of shackles.
We associated this concept with chains, which we used as a motif in the boss design. The warped form also takes inspiration from a fly, the insect - drawing from the flag of the country in which Eygon lived, Be’elze.
On that subject, we actually designed national flags for each of the countries you visit in the game - but we haven’t revealed them!
The path to power
A key part of any RPG is that feeling of growing stronger, but with VALKYRIE ELYSIUM, we wanted to put control over that into the hands of the player.
In the original VALKYRIE PROFILE, you obtain magic crystals through battle, and the same is true in our game too. You can invest these magic points into multiple skill trees or weapons - and it’s entirely up to you how you use them.
This ties in with one of the core themes of the game: ‘what will you choose’? We wanted players to choose their own path, rather than have everyone follow the same trajectory.
The last piece of the puzzle
Another hugely important element of the game is the music by the wonderful Motoi Sakuraba.
Mr. Sakuraba has worked on all the music for the series, and it was important to have him involved in VALKYRIE ELYSIUM. His music is a key piece in building the world of the game - and the series as a whole.
We didn’t give many specific instructions or requests regarding his composition. We felt that the music he creates himself, after having seen illustrations and screenshots, perfectly represents Valkyrie in the here and now.
Finally, I’d like to express how grateful I am to everyone who’s picked up and played VALKYRIE ELYSIUM. It’s the first console game for 14 years, but we’ve packed it full of elements from the VALKYRIE series. It also has multiple endings, so I do hope you’ll see them all!
We’ve also just released free additional content that lets you play through additional chapters as Hilde - a mysterious rival Valkyrie that you’ll encounter multiple times in the main campaign. I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers - but I hope you enjoy it!
Valkyrie Elysium is out now on PS5, PS4 and STEAM. In addition to the standard Edition, there’s a Digital Deluxe Edition, which includes:
In-game item “Svartaljr: Sword of the Goddess of the Underworld"
PlayStation Only: A digital port of the PSP version of VALKYRIE PROFILE: LENNETH (PS4/5 version) - the beloved first entry in the VALKYRIE series available at last on modern consoles (due for release on December 22, 2022)
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