My Hero Academia and Sky High have proven that the concept of a school for heroes makes for interesting stories. Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is a new action-RPG/simulation game from PQUBE that finally brings the idea to the videogame world, albeit in a fantasy setting. Managing a school of heroes and sending them out on quests is a fresh and fun experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
Valthirian Arc begins with the retirement of a famous hero academy’s principal, at which point the player takes over as the new one. You can name your character and school. The cinematics primarily feature static 2D artwork and text, though some involve in-game character models instead. Royal intrigue and nefarious plots make up the bulk of the narrative. It starts out slow and picks up a bit after players have learned the ropes, but don’t expect quite as compelling a narrative as you’d get in a pure JRPG.
The simulation portion of the game consists primarily of running the school, recruiting and equipping students, and assigning them to parties. The academy starts out small, with little space to build and few building options. Naturally, each type of facility provides unique benefits to the school and/or students. Classrooms increase the XP students gain in battle, dormitories increase student capacity, special rooms unlock new classes (when the proper mentor has been recruited through missions), etc.
The number of slots and types of facilities available are limited by the level of the school. Raising the school’s level takes a lot of time, and building slots are fairly limited even at higher levels. These scarcity limitations stretch the pace of the game, but also keep the simulation aspect from reaching the depth of other sim games. Still, it works as a decent framework around which to build the game.
Managing students is the more time-consuming element of Valthirian Arc’s simulation. Randomly generated students come to the school as apprentices, a neutral class. After an apprentice reaches level 10 from the passage of time and going on missions, he or she can be promoted to one of three classes: knight, mage, or scout. The promoted student can further be promoted to one of two sub-classes after reaching the appropriate level. Students learn permanent skills (stat bonuses) at certain levels, and they can be equipped with three stat-boosting items as well.
Students are not meant to stay at the academy forever. During each in-game year, players must select at least one pupil for graduation. A graduating student leaves the school forever, but the school receives money and XP as a reward. Sending several students to graduation initially provides the best source of badly-needed money for school upgrades, though later in the game (when students can be leveled much farther via classes and subclasses), your graduating classes will likely be minimal. The temporary nature of the playable characters here takes some getting used to, but it fits with the setting of the game.
Although the school can eventually sustain a few dozen students, players can only have three mission-going parties of four students at any one times. Going on missions is the best way to level students up, earn crafting materials and other rewards, and advance the story. Normal missions are short action-RPG missions in which the player controls the party of students; errand missions are automated and will automatically complete after enough time has passed.
Missions have a difficulty rating to help judge whether a party is strong enough to tackle it. The challenge comes from the constant need to level up apprentices and lower-level members of other classes. Maxing out one party of students and just holding onto them isn’t a viable strategy until late-game because better-quality (but low-level) students keep arriving at the school over time. So, you’ll likely want to mix a low-level student or two into a higher-level party when taking on missions.
Missions play out like those of a typical action-RPG. You can switch between any party member at a time, with the rest following behind and automatically participating in battles. Mission objectives include collecting resources, killing certain enemies, escorting NPCs, and more. Combat is simple but fun; one button attacks and another one performs MP-consuming special abilities. The one element I really wished for is a dash or roll move. Party members walk a bit too slowly and don’t have any way to dodge attacks, annoyingly.
The simplicity that holds back the simulation and combat in Valthirian Arc also applies to its production values. This is not the prettiest game on PlayStation 4, though the visuals are certainly acceptable for a Switch title. I don’t mind the simplistic character models, but the color palette of the mission environments is drab. There is no voice acting other than shouts during combat, and the music is functional but forgettable.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story is not the flashiest or most robust RPG around. But it does possess a lot of charm thanks to the unique setting and mixture of game styles. No other game I know of lets you run a school and send the students out on action-RPG missions. As a proof of concept, Valthirian Arc is a resounding success. Hopefully enough players will enjoy it to inspire the creation of a bigger-budgeted sequel. The world needs heroes, and that means it needs hero schools as well.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story
- A unique concept that blends simulation, action, and role-playing
- Managing a school, raising students, and sending them out on missions is a great gameplay loop.
- The lack of a dash or roll move makes the action a bit slower than it should be.
- Graphics are simplistic for a PlayStation 4 game, though perfect for Switch.
- Management options for the school itself might be too limited for simulation fans.