White Knight Chronicles II (PS3)

So after a few weeks of play, a few distractions, and many hours spent online – I have finally finished the story mode of White Knight Chronicles II – the sequel to Level 5’s rather underrated Japanese RPG White Knight Chronicles. An 8-hour review for WKC2 can be found here: http://www.tgr-net.com/2011/09/8-hour-review-white-knight-chronicles-ii/ if anyone wants to see my initial thoughts. The game does include a full version of White Knight Chronicles as well, so if you’ve missed the first, you don’t have to shell out extra. For those new to this series you can also read my discussion of White Knight Chronicles here: http://www.tgr-net.com/2011/02/revisiting-white-knight-chronicles/

Learning From the Past

And no, just to stop you right there, this isn’t a gameplay section – this is the story section. As anyone who played White Knight Chronicles knows, the game bears a heavy relevance in what happened far in the past… well, this game takes that a bit more literally. A large aspect of the game involves using an artifact to travel into the past to learn from those who have fallen. This, on its own, sounds kind of corny – but in White Knight Chronicles II, it actually works pretty well. It fits the tone of the story they’ve set, and it does help to build on the lore that was established from the start.

The story itself is much in the same tone as the first one, and as such is very very Japanese. To me, that’s a good thing – but just a warning to keep in mind for those who might not be so fond of Japanese-style storytelling. The story is very linear, incredibly well written, and once again travels through the rich world that has been created for this series. Unfortunately, you only get to see a few new areas, although it is really cool to travel to Faria and see how their culture differs.

The game features a great deal of emotional content, and seems very much centered on Yulie for a large portion of the story – which was nice since she really seemed to be left out of a lot of things in the first game. Unfortunately Leonard still moons after Cisna for no apparent reason, and is very annoying in his desperation to please her – and desperation really is the only word to describe it. Caesar’s character has matured a lot, which makes him a lot less annoying and actually quite funny. The addition of a new ‘mystery character’ named Scardigne creates a lot of puzzling moments until the inevitable unveiling of their identity, which is a pretty massive twist although there is enough foreshadowing that if you pay really close attention you might just figure it out – I know I did.

The worst part of the game’s story was the ending. The game’s story had a lot of potential, the buildup was there, all of the elements were right for a classic ending that would’ve finished the game in a perfect way… but it just fell down. The actual ending you got was less than 2 minutes in length, and didn’t really give you anything worth watching and left me sorely disappointed. Not that the story itself wasn’t kind of wrapped up, but the lack of a good ending cinematic/cutscene really does take away from the joy of finishing the game – and this was, in my honest opinion, one of the most lackluster and anticlimactic endings I’ve ever seen.

As a final note on the story, if you’ve never played the first game – White Knight Chronicles 2 is not going to hold your hand. It does, as I mentioned above, give you access to the full version of the first game, but it doesn’t go into much detail at all about what happened there if you choose not to play #1.

Not So Slow Anymore!

My number one biggest complaint with White Knight Chronicles has been largely fixed – the combat speed has been improved noticeably. I no longer feel like I’m waiting ages just to get to issue a new command, which has made the combat feel a lot more dynamic and engaging. As a side result of this, enemies are a bit harder as they act more quickly as well. My second biggest complaint was unfortunately not addressed, and range still doesn’t seem to matter much to enemies, but still matters to you which, as with before, leaves the bow path a little bit weaker than others. However, redone skill trees do a largely successful job of balancing this out, giving the Bow tree for example some phenomenal support and caster-aiding abilities to help round it out and make it feel more useful. Other trees have also been modified in similar way, adding abilities to help make them feel more complete. Unfortunately, once again the only option to respec your characters are found when you hit max level, which takes days of solid grinding.

The ally AI has been improved noticeably, although they still don’t use the Action Chips very often, and they never use combos which is a bit disappointing. But aside from those factors, the AI is much smarter for using heals appropriately, and managing their mana, and using items – which makes for a much more engaging game. They’re still not as useful as a player, and they won’t always try to match abilities to weaknesses, but they’re much better than I remember; although that could just be my memory.

Near the end of the game, you’ll get access to a customizable ‘Knight’ for your custom character. This addition makes a whole world of new gameplay options, but it happens so late in the game which was a bit disappointing. Once you get the Knight there are a ton of little rifts you can go through to get special equipment for it.

Large monsters in this game can be a bit disproportionately difficult in battle, especially in cases where you’re unable to transform into a Knight. Some of the larger monsters, such as spiders and wyverns, are often far harder than many of the boss fights.

Same old… literally!

Most of the environments you visit are exactly the same as they were in the first game, which I suppose makes sense since it’s only been a year. However, this is a bit of a disappointment, since there are only a very small handful of actually new areas to visit. The environments are still as pretty to look at as ever, but since many people have seen them for the entire two years that have passed since the release of the first one, having little that’s new is a bit of a letdown. The areas that are new, especially Faria and the Lost Forest, are absolutely gorgeous – some of the best environments I’ve seen in games in a long time. I loved visiting Faria whenever I had the opportunity just because of what can only be described as a unique mix of Elven naturalism and Japanese-style architecture. The other two new areas were a little less pretty, but just as well designed – and definitely did a good job of portraying what each was supposed to be. The character models were basically the same as in the first game, but that isn’t a bad thing as the characters; for the most part, all looked quite impressive back then. Animations and spell design have all gone a significant step up, with certain abilities being redesigned and new abilities looking very cool.

The cinematics are incredible, some of the best I’ve seen in a while – with the exception of the incredibly lacking end cinematic. Each of the other cinematics is fitting in place, has good effects, is of a good length, and has great music to back it up. This game also has one of the most epic cinematics I’ve seen in quite a while near the end. One minor thing, that may not even be an issue to most but bothers me is that the first time you turn the game on unless you sit at the menu and wait a while you don’t get an opening cinematic. However, there is one if you wait long enough at the menu screen, and it also appears in the game a few hours in after you finish the ‘prologue’ of the game which seems like an odd place to put it.

The game’s music is mostly very well done. All of the in-game music fits the region, and much of it is memorable. The song in the ‘opening’ cinematic would have strongly benefited from some better localization as it feels like they took the Japanese language structure but tried to fit English lyrics into it without doing much to adapt it; leading to it sounding kind of strained. Aside from the lyrics it does have a very catchy tune though, and is not unpleasant to listen to – which is good because it appears at a few other moments throughout the game as well. As with the music, most of the sound effects are; as always, suitable and well-done. The same can be said for the voice acting, which is all very solid again, with many of the conversations feeling natural and all of the dialog being relatively well-translated and localized. The game contains the stellar talent of Nolan North, Liam O’Brien, Kari Wahlgren, Crispin Freeman and more, with all of the original cast returning.

Georama-rama

Once again the online component returns, now with more levels, more guild ranks, and more craftspeople to recruit to your hometowns! White Knight Chronicles 2 contains the ability to build your own hometown and recruit people from the cities of the game to live there. Based off of the people you pick, and how you build the town determines what’s available in the stores, as well as what is available for you or others to harvest when visiting. The only component in White Knight Chronicles contained potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay – in WKC2 it contains about as much on top of the return of all of the content from the original game.

The online component is fun, and tackling missions with other people definitely is a lot more of an interesting combat experience than just using AI, allowing up to 6 people to join forces to tackle various tasks and missions. This allows for some really cool teamwork experiences, as well as the ability to strategize for those of you in possession of mics or keyboards.

The Georama editor is much the same as it was last game, but due to the increased level and availability of rarer materials, the editor feels a lot more fun to play with since you are able to get better parts more quickly – even though I don’t think any actual changes were made to it.

Final Thoughts

The game also adds a bunch of fetch quests that are completely optional, but can generate some pretty significant rewards, but often at a very significant cost in time or materials. In addition, there are a number of ‘hunts’ you can go on to help you out in the endless grind of guildrank which is used to access the online quests. The game should end somewhere around level 60, while the level cap is 80 – leaving a lot of room for other content. After completing the game, a new series of quests opens up that technically continues the story, but doesn’t actually contain any real story content, just more new regions to quest in. The game also contains a new game + mode, but the NG+ mode doesn’t seem to actually contain any new content or any increase in difficulty or level of monsters, so you end up just burning through really low level stuff since you retain your levels – making this mode largely pointless from what I’ve seen. The game does contain some secrets where there are treasures and gathering points off the map, so make sure to keep your eye out for those or you may miss them.

Overall

White Knight Chronicles 2 is a worthy sequel to the first one, fixing some of the most frustrating issues the first game had without really sacrificing any of the first game’s best assets – replayability, story, and customization. WKC2 is a strong Japanese RPG with a ton of depth and longevity, and for JRPG fan who can deal with the slower pace of the combat here it is a very good choice to add to your library.

Pros:

  1. Strong story.
  2. Good voice cast, with all of the cast returning from the first game and some good additions.
  3. Improved gameplay in nearly every way.
  4. AI is relatively good.
  5. Very deep customization available through skilltrees and gear with respecs available eventually.
  6. Incredible longevity through online quests.
  7. Multiplayer aspects are well-designed and thought out and add a ton to the game.
  8. Georama adds a fun constructive element to the game.
  9. Good development of Yulie’s character which was largely undeveloped in the first game.
  10. Game’s presentation is very strong with good graphics and audio.
  11. New environments are absolutely gorgeous, with Faria being one of the most amazing game locations I’ve seen in a long time.
  12. Addition of Errands and Hunts makes the guildrank grind less tedious than it was in the first game.
  13. Good use of foreshadowing.
  14. Addition of customizable Knight as well as battles involving multiple Knights adds a great deal to game.
  15. WKC2 includes full version of WKC, increasing it’s value.

Cons:

  1. Combat is still very slow, even after significant improvements made.
  2. AI still won’t use combo attacks and is stingy with AC.
  3. ‘Opening’ cinematic song is poorly localized and sounds awkward.
  4. Leonard is still very annoying.
  5. Errands are largely bland fetch quests.
  6. Game is tremendously grindy.
  7. Terribly disappointing ending.
  8. New game+ option is superfluous.
  9. Weird placement for opening cinematic.
  10. Large Monsters are almost excessively difficult in some cases.
  11. Customizable Knight comes right at the end, which is a bit disappointing.
  12. Does not make much effort to help you understand events of first game if you’re starting with wkc2.

 

Review Written By: Sean

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