I’ve always been fond of the humble JRPG and I equally enjoy ambitious games. Whilst White Knight Chronicles 2 fulfils both of these criteria, something about the whole experience just doesn’t sit well. WKC2 offers some enjoyable moments in a bold frame that attempts to merge single and multiplayer modes into a cohesive whole. By focusing on both however, the game is made weaker as an overall package and excels at neither component. JRPG fans will get some enjoyment from the game, but others will likely find the experience a little too grating.
Much like its predecessor, White Knight Chronicles 2 follows the story of Leonard, a young man who makes a pact with the ancient Incorruptus weapons to rescue a kidnapped princess. The plot follows on from the original game directly, and players can transfer levels and items over from their old White Knight Chronicles save file should they wish. I’m sure there would be many who would be lost by the plot of WKC2 had they not played the first one, so it’s exceptionally praise worthy that Level-5 have included a remastered version of White Knight Chronicles 1 in its entirety on the disc. This represents great value for money, and the improved hit detection and graphics of WKC2 are also retrospectively applied to the original game.
Whilst the inclusion of WKC1 is a definitely impressive feature of the package, it does somewhat highlight the shortcomings of the sequel. Whilst the original often maintained a steady and engaging pace, the speed of WKC2 is comparatively weaker. With longer dungeons that often outstay their welcome, the sequel is plagued by a generally slow moving story. It’s made almost unbearable if you decide to jump into the game without a save from the original, as you’ll be lumped into the game with all your characters set to LV. 35. Whilst this is necessary to keep players competing against the higher level enemies in WKC2, it means you need to invest 35 levels worth of skill points in one go. The combat system involves investing skill points into new abilities from one of eight skill trees but, whilst there are a lot of different skills, most of them are fairly similar. Regardless of this, the sheer wealth of them is rather daunting for newer players.
Once you’ve got your skills set you can assign them to any of your 21 available move slots for combat. Physical confrontations occur in real time, with players selecting what moves they want to use from the slots at the bottom of the screen with the directional buttons. It plays out in a quick enough manner to stay entertaining in the short term, but there are one too many holes in the woodwork for the combat to stay satisfying. The main problem is that you spend more time navigating through your ability buttons at the bottom of the screen than you do actually looking at the battle. The other main problem is the lack of strategy present. Whilst enemies respond to the different damage types (pierce, strike, slash, fire, water, wind and earth) in different ways, it doesn’t take much time at all to work out an enemies weakness.
There are a few things that keep the experience fresh in spite of the occasional hiccup. Rather than just retaining the standard health and magic points of other RPGs, WKC also adds in action chips that are required for certain abilities. Players can create combos out of any of the moves in a character’s arsenal that can act as a super move if they have enough action chips. Likewise the ancient White Knight arc that Leonard possesses allows him and his companions to transform into the legendary Incorruptus if they have enough MP and AC. This adds a new dimension to the battles as the knights are absolutely huge in comparison to the normal characters in the game. It feels refreshing to begin with when you see these intimidating and gigantic enemies on the map and know you can counter them but, like the rest of the game, it becomes a little repetitive once the novelty wears off.
The story that comprises the single player portion of the game follows on from the original, with Leonard and co. continuing to try and prevent the powerful Incorruptus from falling into the wrong hands. It’s a damn good thing they included the first game on the disc as, aside from a painfully short “story so far” clip, WKC2 really throws you in at the deep end. I found the story wasn’t quite as satisfying as in the first game, even though it retains the pretty cool transformation elements provided by the Incorruptus. Without the solid pacing that the original had, the clichés and plot stereotypes, in conjunction with the awkward dialogue, makes the story elements of White Knight Chronicles 2 a bit hard to swallow. It’s embarrassing, annoying and not quite enough to make you push through the monotonous mission structures.
Adding to the package is a multiplayer element consisting of merry questing for up to six players. The problem comes in that most of the quests are the standard “kill a certain creature” missions, and just aren’t that engaging. It’s like they literally just left all the boring grinding style quests in the multiplayer side of the game. Alongside the questing is the Georama feature, where you can build a town for you and your fellow adventurers to gather before you set off. Considering that the Georama elements of Level-5’s previous Dark Cloud games were such entertaining and integral elements to the gameplay, the town building in WKC feels like a real afterthought. You can see where they were going with it, but it is essentially a glorified match lobby.
Despite the often unsatisfying multiplayer elements, Level-5 have tried to seamlessly blend them with the single player experience. Sadly, it just winds up leaving White Knight Chronicles 2 with very little direction. You create an avatar at the start of the game who you play as online, but he also tags along with Leonard and the gang throughout the story. It works in theory with some impressive and varied customisation options, but the practice just felt wrong. The story entirely focuses on Leonard and his abilities, while your character you have created stands at the sides like a melon and says nothing for the whole game. I found myself confused as to what to think by the end of it all. This confusion works the other way as well. Emotes and auto text cues set WKC2 up to be an MMO style RPG experience, but the game lacks the loot and ability variety to remain addicting in this capacity. Level ups occur at a regular enough rate to keep you pushing through but, despite a wealth of equipment upgrade options, bolstering your inventory just felt like a waste of time.
White Knight Chronicles 2 is a game that is more about style than substance and, whilst this means the content can be lacking, it means that the presentation is impressive. Graphically the game is fantastic, with a lot of subtle wind and movement effects bringing the game’s lush and varied environments to life. The character models too are detailed, even if the hair and fur does look a bit odd to begin with. The game’s soundtrack is also pleasant, with some vivid melodies that are well timed to fit the mood. The voice acting is a bit more hit and miss, though it’s corny nature is very much exacerbated by the poor dialogue. I’m sure there weren’t such crappy lines as “we’re the good guys,” the voice acting would sound highly polished.
White Knight Chronicles 2 offers excellent value when you consider that the remastered original is included in the package. If you’re an RPG fan and you haven’t played the original, then this is the place to do it. The great graphics and classically paced story will likely make the price of entry worthwhile. If you’re just getting the game for the sequel, then the weaker narrative and lack of obvious improvements will disappoint all but the most loyal of fans. If you don’t often play RPGs but fancy a go, I’d recommend looking elsewhere. WKC2 has too many loose elements, and is neither accessible or deep enough to be a wholly satisfying example of the genre. A shame really, as there is certainly untapped potential left in the franchise.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Fantastic environments, Decent character customisation, Unique blend of solo and multiplayer, Fast-paced combat, Cool transformation sequences, Lots of Content, Contains a re-mastered version of the original game
Extremely cheesy story, Embarrassing dialogue, Repetitive combat, Not enough loot, Disjointed single and multiplayer modes, Lifeless multiplayer component, Hit and miss pacing
An attempt to further merge the online and solo RPG, White Knight Chronicles is a beautiful and ambitious game that just doesn't quite have the execution to match its bold ideas