XI
you are not logged in
Review

Review: White Knight Chronicles II

Hybrid hearth-ache.

Following on from the original title which launched last year, White Knight Chronicles II is a direct sequel, though not only in terms of narrative. Players are awkwardly eased back into Level-5’s mystical universe with a lacklustre overview of the first game proceeded by a lengthy introduction sequence.  Simply put, Yshrenia is looking to reinstate its tryannical  empire is once again, the Archduchy of Faria being their first target. After a brief clash of arms, Farian noble Lady Miu is escorted from the palace by her blade-friendly guardian, Scardigne as the kingdom is slowly overwhelmed.

Info:
  • Includes a free copy of the first White Knight Chronicles.
  • Features online play for up to 6 players.
  • Players have the option to build their own villages and upload them to the network.
At this point players are given their first taste of gameplay as White Knight Chronicles II grants you control of Scardigne during the escape from Faria. However, it is also at this point that you will unearth the game’s first and most flagrant mistake. White Knight Chronicles II makes the bold assumption that players have already championed the first game, hence belligerently forcing the reigns into your hands without so much as a tutorial or even vague hint as to how the game is played. It erects an intimidating barrier to entry that could even deflect the most hardcore RPG fans, and only gets worse as the first half-hour of gameplay swiftly comes to a close.

With Miu on the run, the game switches focuses to White Knight’s existing cast of main characters, Leonard, Yullie, and Eldore, as they travel across the kingdom via airship. Generic in appearance and personality, the game dangles the narrative thread of the original game just out of reach, failing to outline the relationship between these protagonists or what impact they have had on the story. Similar to the opening section of the game, there is also a healthy dose of bewilderment in terms of gameplay mechanics too. Instead of cleaning the slate and starting anew, White Knight Chronicles thrusts a cradle of four, level thirty-five characters into your arms (including your custom character,) each with a stockpile of skills points at their disposal.

Of course, for WKC vets, there is an option to import your data from the previous game, but for newcomers it’s a case of spending almost twenty minutes just to figure out which abilities do what and how to upgrade them. White Knight Chronicles II finally begins to gather pace as both sections of the game merge into one; Leonard and co. encounter Scardigne and Miu as they flee the Red Farian rebels and after a heated battle with civil war instigator, Ban Nanazel, the two parties unite and venture toward Faria to stop the usurpers.


More Incorrupti become available throughout the game; some can even be customized.
Trekking through the Lost Forest, the game’s first open environment, players will be able to get comfortable with how the game flows. Adopting a playstyle which combines elements from turn-based RPGs such as Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy, and today’s most popular MMOs, Everquest and World of Warcraft, White Knight Chronicles offers a completely unique experience and one which modernises how JRPGs are perceived. It’s hardly a secret that the once mighty turn-based RPG, a hallmark of Japanese gaming, is beginning to whither under the presence of Western blockbusters.

Level-5 must have taken this into account when developing the original game; White Knight Chronicles offers fast-paced combat, whilst still managing to harbour traditional elements of the JRPG.

From a third person perspective, players will assume the role of one character from their party of three. When in combat, a horizontal UI will appear, presenting a list of all the abilities you have equipped, navigated via the d-pad. Upon making your choice and selecting a target the action is performed in real time, and any HP/MP losses and gains are calculated also resetting your character’s time gauge. This is used to prevent White Knight Chronicles II from treading too far into action RPG territory and works nicely.

Another unique feature the game employs is Action Chips. Whenever you take damage or successfully perform an ability, your AC gage will begin to fill, allowing you to perform customisable combo attacks or even summon the White Knight himself. Sure, bringing an Incorruptus to the field of play looks impressive, though in terms of gameplay its sluggish and lacks diversity, making the White Knight nothing more than a safety net during tough battles.

The user interface is neatly streamlined, but only at the expense of accessibility. Scrolling through dozens of abilities, both vertically and horizontally, can be an absolute nightmare, especially in times of desperation. Accidentally selecting the wrong spell/attack is a common occurrence, and only made more frustrating by the game’s unwilling targetting system. This is exactly the point at which trying to an emulate an MMO becomes a problem; with no hotkeys or a quick method to perform actions, it becomes an unnecessary added level of difficulty.

On the subject of difficulty, there are numerous chokepoints littered throughout the game, usually embodied in the numerous boss encounters, both large and small. In one small area you will be mopping the floor with dozens of opponents to only get wiped out by a boss creature in a few hits. Though you have the option to flee, doing so usually doesn’t get you very far as more and more creatures will latch onto your trail. Upon defeat, you can either return to a given checkpoint or exit to the main menu, which in some cases works out better.

Checkpoints are so few and far between that it won’t take much longer to simply re-load your save file; that way you also manage to avoid the XP penalty, which also doesn’t make much sense. If you are continually whipped around by a boss and then having to walk ten minutes to get back to them, the last thing you would want is having your hard-earned experience points sapped away. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

The same applies to some of the area layouts; usually objective routes are marked out and easy to follow, but in some cases you will be forced to wander around for ages trying to find an alternate path, not helped at all by constant enemy respawns. If Level-5 focused on transferring its Profressor Layton similarities into the narrative instead of design, the game probably wouldn’t take such a critical beating.

White Knight Chronicles II looks pretty much identical to the original; littered with stiff NPC animations and blurred textures, though it isn’t all bad news. Instead of relying solely on engine power, the game focuses on huge detailed monsters and environments which come to life with a vibrant palette of colours. In terms of the technical performance, White Knight Chronicles II also impresses; no matter how many characters there are on screen the frame-rate always manages to keep up with the action.

Pros

  • Unique gameplay style, striking a balance between MMO and JRPG.
  • Insane amount of replay value for those who search for it.
  • Plenty of customisation options which carry into online play.
  • Graphics are dated, though the art style is fantastic.
  • White Knight Chronicles II also includes a copy of the first game.
  • Soundtrack resembles the JRPG genre in its prime.

Cons

  • Interface can feel a little tangled at times.
  • Difficulty spikes and sparse checkpoints are infuriating.
  • A weak narrative core, dampened by tedious main characters.
  • Some customization options have to be paid for. Boo!
  • Lack of tutorials where needed.
  • Playing as the White Knight lacks a certain degree of pizazz.

It’s a shame really. Considering the mixed reception the first White Knight Chronicles received, we were expecting Level-5 to take this opportunity to refine all of the core elements of the game, making the sequel a much more well-rounded and accessible package. However, the end product is close to being the complete opposite; hair-tugging difficulty spikes and a harsh entry barrier for newcomers are enough to drag White Knight Chronicles II from being a good game into the pool of mediocrity.

These are silly, niggling issues that unlike the narrative of the game, could have easily been remedied, which makes it all the more frustrating. If you loved the first WKC, there’s no doubt you get along just fine with the sequel, however if you’re a little rusty with JRPGs, unless you have a lot a patience, it’s probably best to give this one a miss.

Score: 5/10

TheSixthAxis was not provided with an online pass to access the multiplayer component in White Knight Chronicles II, hence why we have refrained from discussing online play in our written review.

24 Comments
  1. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    What a pity. I was tempted by this.

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:09.
    • Jim H [Teabags]
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      If you have the time to play through the entirety of the first game, you will likely enjoy, but it isn’t a friendly sequel for newcomers.

      Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:11.
      • Dan Lee
        Common like the rest of us.
        Since: Jun 2010

        Ah yes, time is another issue ;oD

        Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:15.
  2. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    i loved the first one, i’ll definitely be looking to pick up a preowned copy of this one at some point.

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:11.
    • Jim H [Teabags]
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Be warned. You will have to buy an online pass for WKC2.

      Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:26.
  3. Amphlett
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I thought that the bulk of this game was on-line, so it seems quite odd that you weren’t provided with an on-line pass.
    What’s the on-line model? Is it pay monthly or a one-off payment for a pass?

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:17.
    • Jim H [Teabags]
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      The online is the part which appealed to me the most. I think it’s just a one-off pass to play the online. Unfortunately, as we didn’t play the online, it would be unfair to comment on what it contributes to the rest of the game.

      Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:27.
  4. DJ-Katy
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    You know what Jim, I completed WKC1 and reviewed it on TSA last year, gave it 8 and said it was underrated. But, my God, I picked up this on release day and after not being able to decide whether to import or start scratch with level 35 characters, and then not having a damn clue what all the items in my inventory or abilities do or remembering how to control my characters at all, I got so frustrated with it I turned it off and haven’t put it back in the machine since.

    REALLY frustrating experience. However for people who haven’t played the original, it does have the same tutorials as the WKC1 release and so that makes the disk extremely good value.

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:17.
    • Jim H [Teabags]
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Precisely :)

      After playing a couple of hours of the original (from the WKC2 disc) I can see how it scored reasonably well as it doesn’t feel as intimidating as the sequel.

      Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:25.
    • hazelam
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      i think with the original japenese version you have to play the first game before you can play the sequel.

      so it was designed for people who had played the first game.

      they changed that requirement for the eu version though, but i guess they couldn’t change the design of the game.

      so it might seem daunting to new players, but the way it was designed, you wouldn’t be a new player by the time you were able to play the sequel portion of the game.

      so you could say there were mitigating circumstances around that aspect.

      Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:39.
    • Delriach
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      People that are just now playing through the first game through White Knight Chronicles 2 are lucky since it has improved gameplay mechanics to match WKC2′s changes.

      I’m tempted to replay the entire first game myself, but I don’t want to lose my 200 hour save file from the original. Doesn’t seem worth it when I think about it.

      -_- damn game doesn’t come out in the US until September.

      Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:45.
      • DJ-Katy
        Member
        Since: Apr 2009

        I was tempted to start from scratch as well Delriach so I could run through the tutorials again and remember how to play, the campaign only clocks in at 25-30 hours, especially since as you mentioned they improved the combat mechanics. But like you, I have a massive save game from before, and do I really want to sink 30 hours in again as a prelude to the game I just bought? :/

        Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:53.
    • Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Its still a 8 though….

      *flees

      Comment posted on 09/07/2011 at 07:43.
    • OneShotWook
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      Guys you can import your Wk1 save into a brand new game also,allowing you to recustomise your avatars looks whilst keeping all your cash,gear resources and Georama.I do believe you’ll be back at lvl1 though,not sure about about Gr.
      Good to see you Katy btw:).

      Comment posted on 09/07/2011 at 17:41.
  5. SpikeyMikey23
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    I always liked the look of these games when I was wanting to fulfill my RPG needs prior to FF13 but never actually got around to playing them. Shame time is an issue for me aswell because I would probably enjoy these games

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:37.
  6. sesameseed
    Member
    Since: Mar 2009

    A little harsh I felt. Rather than a true sequel, WKC2 feels more like a “part 2″ of the original game. This was obviously intentional by Level-5 hence the inclusion of the first game, and for those who haven’t played the first it is fairly essential, both in terms of plot, and understanding the gameplay mechanics.
    Regarding the online play, the two games work in tandem so a newcomer to the first game can interact with a seasoned veteran with no trouble.
    I believe the developers have made some very brave and ambitious decisions in the way they’ve dove-tailed these two games together, and although it may not be to everyone’s taste, I applaud them for their innovation. Also, with the sparsity of decent JRPGs available for the PS3, I’m keen to embrace anything that will allow me to wade through menus for hours on end!
    Come and visit my town :)

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:45.
    • Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      Yep I agree, its really a part two. Still fun game

      Comment posted on 09/07/2011 at 07:44.
    • OneShotWook
      Member
      Since: Jun 2010

      I have to agree Ses,it is better viewed as one big game now.Wk2 can be brutally hard compared to the prequel and not playing through the remastered original just compounds that.
      Playing this game for it’s story also is quite possibly a waste of time as it never reaches much beyond a cliche,it does have it moments but few and far between.
      The game does do a great job of handing the world over to you and your character more as a kind of sandbox for you to do what you please with and is alot more solo friendly now allowing you to take your single player team into multiplayer quests.

      Comment posted on 09/07/2011 at 17:55.
  7. KeRaSh
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    Noooo!!! What a shame. Will pick this up when the price drops. I was very tempted by the first one. Getting both games is a nice deal even if the experience is not top notch.

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 09:46.
  8. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I’m wading through the PSP White Knight atm,

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 10:31.
  9. BrainDiver
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    I’ve been meaning to play the first WKC game for ages now, I guess I’ll just pick up the second and play them as one. Hopefully that will alleviate the issues with the beginning of the game.

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 15:31.
  10. Foxhound
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Shame, real shame.

    Comment posted on 08/07/2011 at 21:31.
    • Sympozium
      Member
      Since: Aug 2009

      It depends on experience… I think some, maybe the hardcore RPG fans would go for this regardless of scores although there is time.

      Comment posted on 09/07/2011 at 07:45.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Latest Comments