White Knight Chronicles II
Platform: PlayStation 3 (reviewed)
Released: 9th June 2011
Level-5 is a developer that should be commended. They’ve been behind some great games and franchises, and practically everything they get behind always sees favourable reviews from a variety of critics. With titles like Professor Layton and RPG’s like Rouge Galaxy, Dragon Quest VII and Inazuma Eleven in their portfolio, its safe to say these guys are good at making RPGs. This is why it may of shocked some with the release of White Knight Chronicles in 2008, with mixed reviews from critics, (we thought it was alright, check out our review here) although the game still managed to gather quite a fan base. These fans stuck by the title though and now they will be rewarded for their loyalty with a prequle in 2009, and now White Knight Chronicles II, which is Level-5’s attempt to set out to create a sequel that address the issues of the first game, mainly the combat system in order to do the game justice, that even includes a couple of features the publisher claims were suggested by fans. The game also comes with the original game on the same disc with the feature to port your characters over from one game to another to continue onwards, which is awesome for anyone who either wants to play them both back to back, or if your like me who never got the chance to play the first one! Chronicles of Narnia, Chronicles of Riddick, Good Charlotte’s Chronicles of Life and Death, I wasn’t too keen on any of those Chronicles, lets see if Level-5 and their magic and summon some good fortune for White Knight Chronicles II…
Story & Characters
White Knight Chronicles II takes place a year after the original, where the original team meet Lady Miu, daughter of Archduke Dalamand, and her knight named Scardigne who are both fleeing for their lives. These characters place a vital role in the story as thet play a part in the civil unrest in the Archduchy of Faria, with revolution about to arise. However what strings the story together is that they discover the Magi is out looking for the fifth knight, and Leonard’s goal is to find it before they do. The game eventually will conclude the tales of the conflict between Yshrenia and the other powers, ending the series’ on going story. Its not all that crazy unique, but it is slightly more engaging than the original plot. White Knight Chronicles II also includes more cutscenes than the first which is nice, but in both games cut scenes are accompanied by mediocre voice acting and terrible dialogue and presentation making the story far less interesting than it could be. Perhaps if presented and told a little better, the story wouldn’t seem so average.
This leads into one of the biggest flaws of the game, which is a shame as its not only a huge flaw, but it kind of sets the tone for this review to seem a lot more negative than it’s intended to. See White Knight Chronicles II picks up right where the first left off without properly introducing anything and throws you smack in the middle of everything. Gameplay begins with characters already levelled up with a variety of items in your inventory, and it overwhelms the player. It feels like you picked it up second-hand and someone’s played a good few hours already and your starting halfway through the game. The story does the same thing, throwing in characters and situations without explaining them at all, assuming the player knows everything already. This creates an awkward learning curve for both the plot and the gameplay, as the story throws players straight into combat without a tutorial. All this makes the audience really apathetic towards the heroes they control, as you don’t get a chance to fall in love with them and see their rise to power, infact, your fighting giant monsters with ease that look like bosses almost straight away, every few minuets.
What goes hand in hand with this issue is the characters. With a bad introduction to them and not such appealing voice acting, its hard enough to love these characters, but even worse for the exception of Scardigne, all the characters you control are designed to look pretty plain and average, so is even harder to like them. You also get a really, really deep character customisation option for an avatar. Let me repeat, REALLY deep! Im saying like, choose the hight of the eyebrows, depth of the chin and size of the feet deep. But after you spend so long creating this person, it become a speechless sidekick. Sure you can play as him/her, but its not the star, so all that effort feels kind of confusing, pointless, and a little disappointing. However, this avatar is the main character in the online mode, but we’ll get into that later. Oh yeah, and it now included fan-requested feature of designing your own custom Incorruptus, which are those hella bad ass robot knights we were talking about before. Boo-yah!
White Knight Chronicles II plays similar to Final Fantasy XII, as combat while turn-based, takes place in real time. The entire game feels like an MMORPG like World of Warcraft, and it kind of is thanks to its online mode but we’ll get into that a bit later! White Knight Chronicles II is successful in capturing that epic feeling of exploration and adventure, with enemies being visible from the distance, players can decide if they’d like to engage combat or simply try and walk by potential threats. Players can switch between party members at anytime, and program individual behaviours for each member on how to react to enemies in combat, and with multiple allies and enemies on the screen at once it can be really satisfying taking down large creatures through the use of teamwork with NPCs. It would’ve been nicer to see some more options for programming these behaviours, but whats there does work well. While combat can sometimes feel like your just pressing ‘X’ over and over until your enemy dies, the ability to move around the field, preform combos, use items, magic and change attacks and characters while waiting for your attack meter to replenish often saves it from feeling like a boring button-masher, although this isn’t always the case. Leonard can also power up by turning into the White Knight at almost any time. The knight looks great and is really fun to play as, but you can only control him for short periods of time which is a bit of a let down. However these moments are truly good ones and can really turn the tables in battle. Deciding where to stand while attacking now plays an important part, as you now have to be close to an enemy to land a hit, and where you stand will effect how much damage the enemy takes and how accurate you’ll be. Attacking from behind is more powerful, so there is a some extra strategy involved. A break system is also introduced, which adds to a new level of strategy. Break attacks let you target specific body part of an opponent to stun them, which helps speed up your kills.
The better you get at combat, the more enjoyment you’ll have, but I fear many players won’t give WKC2 a chance to reach that point. White Knight Chronicles II’s biggest flaw by far is that it is quite a complex game to play with all these various systems for combat but none of them are explained. There is no tutorial at all, and players are expected to pretty much figure it out for themselves. Sure there is a help menu, but they don’t even tell you there is one, but rather let you find out by yourself. So first impressions are quite bad as your expected to play without being taught how, and your thrown into a quest straight away with an massive learning curve. Another thing that seems to hold WKC2 from all it could be is that many objectives aren’t always so clear, and sometimes your left wondering around not sure what to do. It’s also only about 30 hours, but so is the original title, so together its about 60 hours gameplay, which Im sure some fans may be disappointed in. Top it off your doing a lot of collecting and fetching and it can feel a bit like a chore in some small instances. However, If RPG fans stick through this and a couple other flaws they will see that this game does have a lot of charm and can be quite fun to play once you give it a chance and get used to it.
As previously mentioned, the single player feels much like an MMORPG, minus the whole multiplayer thing. So it’s not surprising that the online multiplayer for White Knight Chronicles II has a major focus for the title. While the story itself may only last 30 hours, the online section will last for much longer as long as you enjoyed the single player. In fact, that’s the whole main basis for WKCII, that links into the single player as well. Levelling up your characters online will also level them up offline which is awesome, and if you were a fan of the original title and still have your data, you can transfer it to WCKII and play online which is just awesome fans service. In the online section you actually play as the custom avatar you previously created in the single player campaign not the star of the show, Leonard, and you can also use your customised Incorruptus as well. You can play with up to six players online (in WKCI you could only play with four) where you can do various side quests and missions together. It also includes the return of the Georama system where players can create their own custom hometown that can be uploaded to Sony’s servers and then visited by other players.
It’s got more of everything than the first title, yet the way the two modes are links hasn’t exactly been perfected. For example the whole online communication system where you can type to each other and such is also included in the single player. Who are we gonna talk to? No one, cause your playing by yourself. Also the fact you spend such a long time creating a custom character for the single player mode which is practically ignored in the storyline, only to be the main focus in the online portion of the game seems a little odd, but with these aside, its still a nice element of the game, and the fact that levelling up online levels up offline too is a nice feature as well.
Graphics & Audio
The graphical presentation is good for the most part, making a nice improvement from the previous game in the series. It has a few moments where you will notice a few pretty looking things, but don’t expect to be amazed. It’s the settings where the graphics truly shine with vibrant and luscious textures that make your surrounding look nice, so while some things may look a little rougher than they should, the textures seem to make up for it. However, there is a slight inconsistency as some places do look better than others, and often things look better from far away than up close. Oddly enough, character models are another story as many designs seem uninspired and can be quite plain, especially with faces. On the other hand though, both the presentation and design of enemies looks superb and is truly a highlight of the game. They look great both up close and from far, and are filled with a beautiful level of detail and their models look smooth. If the rest of the game was consistently kept at the same standard the game would look much prettier, but what they do have gets the job done. Magical effects also look quite flashy and do add to the whole fantasy element and make things interesting as well.
The audio on the other hand is a massive disappointment. The voice acting for the most part is average at best, with some voices seeming a bit out of place, like they don’t fit into the world of White Knight Chronicles. Other voices sound a little cheesy and the often terrible dialogue doesn’t help the voice actors either. Admittedly there are some decent voices in there, but they are overshadowed by a few not so good ones that are hard to ignore. What does suck though is the terrible attempts at lip syncing. It doesn’t even look like they tried on the most part, and while it can easily be ignored, it is an annoying flaw that really takes away from the cut scenes. The soundtrack is generally good, although a little cliché for the genre. It doesn’t take any risks, but rather gives you what you’d normally expect. Most tracks are forgettable and you probably won’t be humming along, but they do set the tone for the game well and the soundtrack is successful in engaging the player, and hey that’s good enough for me.
It seems a lot of effort went into making White Knight Chronicles II, and I hope the fans appreciate it. However, a few things hold it back greatly from being an amazing RPG. The story isn’t all that engaging and the characters just aren’t properly introduced to allow us to connect with them, and the voice acting and basic character design of the main party for the most part makes it harder to love this cast unless you already have with the previous title. While this basically destroys the single-player mode, everything else seems pretty good. White Knight Chronicles II has a lot of heart behind it, and if you give it a chance you’ll see its charm. However it feels more like an expansion pack rather than a sequel on the most part. It has a nice depth to it, but it’ll probably only appeal to hardcore RPG fans rather than casual gamers, as it isn’t exactly pick-up-and-play, and the lack of a proper tutorial is just unsatisfying feeling at first. It’s no Final Fantasy, but if your into RPG games, specifically ones with real-time battles, White Knight Chronicles II is definitely worth checking out. And if that’s not enough to convince you, at least it comes with it’s predecessor on the disc. Two for the price of one! You got to admit, that’s pretty cool.
- Entertaining and deep combat system
- Includes White Knight Chronicles I on the same disc
- Great character design for enemies
- Deep customisation for online avatar and Incorruptus
- Online mode can level up for offline play and can be done with six players.
- Terrible voice acting
- Massive learning curve with no tutorial
I give White Knight Chronicles II: