Lanseal Academy is a Disneyland boot camp. A 200-foot spire at the centre of the military school's grounds jabs at the clouds, while far below a moonfaced clock tower leans heavy on ancient Doric columns. The building is seasoned with the intricate stone decoration of so many fairytale castles, an unlikely centerpiece for an institute designed for little more than turning tweens into cold-eyed soldiers.
Around the citadel, where your character, Avan, has enrolled in the hope of discovering the mystery behind his brother's recent death in the grounds, tanks roll to and fro, while a timpani of blanks rattles around the buildings. This surrounding layout is more Sandhurst than magical kingdom, containing as it does Drill Grounds, an R&D centre and a Briefing Room, all arranged and spaced with uniform precision. It's in this contrast of exaggerated fantasy with the orderly arrangement of a military barracks that Lanseal Academy, Valkyria Chronicles II's central hub, communicates a great deal about the game it houses.
Because, on the one hand, this is the sequel to the smartest tactical RPG of the past five years: a Chess-like military sim built on layered order and immovable mathematics. You direct your handpicked squadron of infantry around each battlefield, flanking opponents in complex manouevres that can outclass even some of PC gaming's most celebrated playpens for the armchair general.