It’s nearly 2012. Is there still any room in today’s modern gaming world – one filled with mobile games, plastic peripherals, and motion controllers – for a breathtaking and story-driven RPG? The answer has largely been a resounding “no,” but that doesn’t mean it’s too late for Level-5 to bring some of their fabled RPG magic to the table – does it? White Knight Chronicles II is a sequel to last year’s White Knight Chronicles – a series that attempts to take well-liked traits of RPGs and blend them into one big drink concoction. The end result is similar to mixing various flavors of icey slush drinks at the local gas station. You think, “This is gonna be the best drink ever!” It’s full of flavor and taste, but generally leaves a bad aftertaste and questionable stomach irritation by the time you’re through.
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Genre: Too Much of Every RPG You’ve Ever Played
Release Date: September 13, 2011
ESRB Rating: Teen
White Knight Chronicles II is exactly what it seems – a direct sequel to the original White Knight Chronicles. In fact, the original game is included on the same disc as White Knight Chronicles II. To be honest, I wouldn’t even call this game a sequel. It’s more like an overly lengthy expansion, teeming with similarly tedious gameplay. This game picks up approximately one year after the events of White Knight Chronicles, but do the characters look any different? Nope. White Knight Chronicles II still features the same PlayStation 2-in-high definition character models with equally uninteresting environments, for the most part. The only exceptions are the few new environments that have been added in – the kingdom of Faria, its neighboring Lost Forest, and the last few areas of the game. When compared to White Knight Chronicles’ environments, these new environments are exponentially more beautiful and creative, bubbling to the brim with detail and creative care. That being said, it’s a real shame that 90% of White Knight Chronicles II takes place in the same locations from the first game.
The game’s story is still something of little depth – a hardly-interesting attempt at tying together the series’ MMO-like nature. It was difficult for me to really get involved with the game’s events when I could have been out killing things, fulfilling bounties, and playing quests online with other players. Now, let’s talk about that instead. I don’t want to be entirely mean to this game.
The quest system largely works in the same way as that of the first game – continuously reaching more prestigious guild ranks (or GRs) allows you to purchase a series of quests which can be played solo or via online multiplayer. Quests still list a level requirement, a GR requirement, a time limit, and the quest’s objectives. White Knight Chronicles II features some new quests, but also a slew of added quest-like variants, such as Bounties and Errands.
If you’ve ever played World of Warcraft, you’ll be familiar with Errands – they involve you acting as the NPCs’ messenger, relaying messages and items from NPC to NPC, whether it’s across the street or across the map. Some of these are fairly easy to complete, and they offer decent rewards – usually an item needed for another Errand, some GR points to help you reach your next GR rank, a piece of gear for your party to use, or something as simple as a cheap Mana Potion. Bounty hunts are the more interesting addition, where players venture into the region noted on the Bounty request in order to defeat a troublesome monster – usually those of a more legendary status. The rewards for Bounties are much greater than those of Quests or Errands – more often than not, at least one weapon or piece of armor will be issued as a reward. These are almost always an upgrade to what your party members are likely to have, assuming the bounties roughly match your party’s level.
The battle system in White Knight Chronicles II is the exact same as that of the original – a system where the player assigns commands learned within each character’s skill tree to an action bar that spans the bottom of the screen. There are three action bars to toggle through by default, but players can opt to add more in an effort to squeeze all of their characters’ learned abilities onto the screen. Battles still take place in real time – a timed ring gradually fills, thereby signaling when an ability can be used. This battle system moves roughly five percent faster than the battle system in White Knight Chronicles, but it still takes too long to get through even the simplest battles. Players can also still construct combo moves from any abilities learned in their characters’ skill trees, but not even combo attacks can make battles go by any quicker. The skill trees are also clones of those found in the first game, where players spend earned ability points to unlock new abilities for the cast of characters as they level up. If you’ve played through White Knight Chronicles, you can import your character data into White Knight Chronicles II. However your characters will start at level 35, and their skill points are refunded – forcing you to take the time to spend these points all over again.
Like the first White Knight Chronicles, when a character activates their Ark – a key item received in the first game – they summon the ability to transform into a giant Incorruptus. An Incorruptus, simply put, is a giant Gundam-esque knight representative of said character – sort of like those Zords from the Power Rangers series. White Knight Chronicles II obviously still features Incorruptus transformations in battle, but now only one Incorruptus may be active at one time, until that character reverts back to normal form. Customization is available as well, where the player is granted the ability to add weapons and components, thus increasing the stats of these knights. There is another specific reason for this customization factor, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you.
As far as RPGs go, White Knight Chronicles II is an apple that fell a bit too far from the tree. It carries a lot of mechanics and ideas that players have come to love in many modern RPGs, but it doesn’t execute these ideas as successfully as it could have. Including too many features and gameplay mechanics seems to weaken all of them equally, and then the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind. If White Knight Chronicles II wanted to be a story-driven RPG, it should have focused much more on character development and narrative. If it wanted to be an MMORPG, it needed to drop the story and focus on building a better game world and network infrastructure while dropping some of the more obscure battle mechanics. Doing this would allow players to quest freely around the game with numerous other online players, rather than exclusively socializing in an enclosed online hub – or HomeTown, as the game calls it. Even though White Knight Chronicles II is a majorly tedious game expansion by nature, there are aspects of it that will draw you back for more, and that will let you revel in some seriously fun content if you know where to look.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of White Knight Chronicles II was provided by D3 Publisher for the purposes of this review.