The Valiant is a medieval squad based RTS developed by KITE Games and published by THQ Nordic. It released on PC on October 20, 2022 and is set in 13th century Europe and the Middle East. With Company of Heroes 3 moving to 2023, The Valiant popped up on my gaming radar and I’m glad to have dived into this heavy story based RTS. With cutscenes and illustrated sequences that strips back some of the micromanagement mechanics of a full RTS and focuses the player right in close to the action.
We follow the story of Theoderich von Akenburg, a former crusader knight who, after becoming disillusioned with the cruelty of war, is called back into action by events set into motion 15 years ago when he and his former brother-in-arms, Ulrich von Grevel, stumble upon a fractured piece of an ancient artifact – the Rod of Aaron. A young monk named Malcom appears at Theoderich’s doorstep, bringing him news that the Rod contains power never meant for mortals, and Ulrich has become obsessed with finding the remaining pieces and unifying the rod, an event that could bring untold evil and suffering to the world.
The voice acting of main characters Theoderich and Ulrich, along with the narrated cutscenes adds weight to the characters in each of the 15 main story missions. Barking orders to their troops, sometimes it wasn’t the visual presence of soldiers but the cries for help or the sound of arrows whoosing past that alerted me to knew foes entering the battle. The sound design is really well done, making you feel the clash of sword or crack of rocks thrown from trebuchets smashing into stone fort walls, bringing them crumbling down. It was also quite immersive to see the bodies and arrows sprawled and left behind across the battlefield as you move on to the next area.
Gameplaywise, The Valiant takes a less is more approach. Hardcore RTS fans will immediately notice there’s no base building other than occasional placement of towers, palisades and traps in some missions. In others, you will be able to clear and take over, or start with, replenishment camps. This not only provides your troops a chance to heal over time when in close range, which became handy in between waves of enemies. It also allowed you to deploy certain troop types depending on the mission. Spearmen and shield bearing warriors were the usual unit type, and each unit, including the hero units, has its own special skill that can be used. Hero units have skill trees that you can specialise to compliment your army as you progress through each mission to.
Theoderich has an area effect skill that replenishes vigor (stamina) or friendly troops. Ulrich has an awesome charge ability, allowing him to quickly move about the battlefield if a squad was getting smashed or to quickly move to melee range to take out enemy archers. Spearmen could throw their spears at a squad, while the warriors could use their shields to knockdown and stun a squad. However, there is a very low limit on the number of squad reinforcements you can summon, and this largely depends on the amount of vengeance points that you build up through combat. Vengeance needs to be balanced amongst your whole army, so skills can’t be spammed without thought and planning.
One thing I really appreciated was the AI of our squads. At one point I had to set fire to a cave entrance to make it collapse and cut off a reinforcement line from the enemy. We would throw fireballs at the entrance, slowly setting it alit. Meanwhile, streams of units would come through. In other RTS games, your troops would likely stay firing at the cave entrance, while taking damage from the enemy. You ordinarily would have to select your units, focus their fire on the enemy, then set them back to the cave manually. In The Valiant however, upon getting attacked, your troops automatically switched to fight the enemy squad, then went back to throwing fire at the cave. It was micromanagement that I didn’t need to do, and that suits my playstyle just fine.
Occasionally you will come across boss fights, and it was here where I had to make sure squad placement was fluid and reactive to whatever the enemy threw at me. You are given a second or two to react to large attacks by both the boss or by other enemy squads, such as charge or barrage from archers. Keeping your hero units alive was always a mission objective, so they’re your priority, but I enjoyed using each units’ special skills to turn the battle to my favour, or drop a quick vigor replenish at the right time. Bosses often dropped pieces of gear to bolster your heroes damage and ability outputs.
Once you complete the 15-mission campaign, with each mission taking between 30-60 minutes, sometimes longer depending on the complexity, you can then switch to two other modes – Multiplayer or Last Man Standing. I didn’t test either of these modes as I’m more of a story campaign gamer, but it was good to have the option. You can also see in the game’s menu, an area where you have unlocked character portraits, name plates and such things, and see which missions and objectives you may want to revisit and unlock more customisation.
Overall, The Valiant is a simple to play yet engaging and immersive RTS that novice strategy gamers like myself can concentrate on the main battle components without having to worry about micromanaging base building. Hardcore strategy gamers may find this severely lacking, but the detail of each battle, backed up by terrific storytelling and cutscenes, had me immersed in each mission. This is a great medieval RTS that I highly recommend.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis