Have you ever seen a trailer for a new game and gotten excited because it looked like so much fun, only to be disappointed once you got your hands on it? I have. Luckily, as I spend more time in the gaming industry, it happens less and less. However, despite my experience, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story deceived me with a trailer and synopsis that made the game sound great when it’s far from good.
In Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story, you are the principal of an academy and are tasked with building and managing your school to train heroes, mages, and adventurers for the surrounding 5 queendoms. To do this you must enroll, train, promote, and graduate students, while also adding/updating facilities and managing the day to day affairs of the academy.
I’m not going to go into detail about the story to avoid spoilers, but I will say that the story is not exciting or intriguing. I’m not sure if the story itself is to blame, or if the problem lies with the NPC characters that are just flat. They have no personality and do nothing to help you become invested in them. The students have no dialog, no stories of their own, and you don’t miss them when they graduate because they are basically puppets with names. It’s hard to become interested or invested in a story when the characters are glorified placeholders.
The gameplay is divided into 2 parts, training the students and managing the academy. Each student starts as a level 1 Apprentice. To level them you first must create parties that you send on Errands or Missions. Errands are “unsupervised” quests that they fulfill without any input from you. Missions are “supervised” quests where you control the party and fight monsters while fulfilling the quest. Completed Errands and Missions award you XP, gold, weapons and accessories, and crafting materials.
The Missions are fun for the 1st hour or so, and then they become repetitive. There are few environments, so you explore the same maps over and over and over again. While the layouts of the maps vary, the scenery does not, and it is boring looking at the same backdrop for hours on end.
The fighting isn’t interesting either. Each student has a weapon attack and a special attack, and they all look the same. There’s also no gauge or anything to tell you when the special is ready. So a battle is just mashing the attack button repeatedly and tapping the special button occasionally to see if it will fire off. The lack of consumables is also a problem as there’s no way to heal your students or refill their MP that is needed for the special.
Another problem with Missions is the map, which is shown in the upper right corner of the screen. While big enough to clearly see the area immediately around your party, it’s not big enough to see if you’ve cleared out all of the enemies and secured all of the loot. You cannot open the map independently and you can’t zoom out.
The Errands are also a problem because you don’t accompany your students. If you have 2 parties of students or have some building to do, the Errands are fine. However, if you don’t have a party to take on a mission or building at the academy to do, you are left to sit and twiddle your thumbs until they return. The Errands take a long time and there’s no way to speed up time or skip to the end.
As if these problems weren’t enough, training your students becomes more frustrating as they progress. Once they reach level 10, you can either graduate them as Apprentices (which is frowned upon) or promote them to a new class. Promoting them to a new class changes which weapons they can use and drops them to level 1 again.
Not knowing this, I had a task of graduating a Knight, so I promoted one of my students to Knight. Suddenly my level 10, very strong student was level 1, weaker, and no longer had a weapon equipped. Knights can only equip swords, and I didn’t have a sword recipe, so I couldn’t craft him one. Recipes drop from enemies or can be bought from traveling merchants, but my Missions and Errands were all 2-star difficulty, and my party got slaughtered trying to complete them.
Clearly, my students needed to be promoted and leveled before they could handle 2-star missions, but with only 2-star missions available, I couldn’t do that. Without missions, they were an appropriate level for, they couldn’t kill enemies to get recipes for weapons that would make them stronger. When the traveling merchant comes, how long they stay, and what they sell is random, so I couldn’t even buy the recipe. I was stuck and it was infuriating.
Managing the academy is straightforward and boring. As you complete Errands, Missions, and tasks, your academy gets XP and goes up in rank from F to A. At each rank, you unlock facilities you can build. Each facility gives you a bonus in missions, as well as allowing you to craft new and better gear or promote your students to new ranks. You cannot really decide how or when to add facilities, as the game forces you to add facilities in a certain order and in a predetermined spot. There’s really no customization at all, which negates the “build and manage” aspect of the game.
The crafting is oversimplified and frustrating. As I stated earlier, recipes drop from enemies or can be bought from traveling merchants, but what the merchant sells when they come is random. Unless you are extremely lucky, they won’t have the recipe you need, when you need it. The materials needed to craft drop randomly from enemies or can be bought from traveling merchants, so once again you are at the mercy of the RNG.
All in all, Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is a mobile game that was ported to the Switch that should have stayed a mobile game. While the graphics are cute and the controls are smooth, the game itself lacks substance. It is not the “management/action RPG” that was promised. Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story isn’t worth your time or money.
A Nintendo Switch review copy of Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story was provided by PQube Limited for the purpose of this review.