Firstly, let me begin this review by saying that if you dislike JRPGs, or even had a mild passing hatred of them, or even merely sneered at one sitting on a shop shelf, then you can halve the final score here. White Knight Chronicles 2 is a JRPG through and through.
From its lengthy cut scenes to its initially confusing battle system WKC 2 oozes Westernified (yes, that’s my new made up word of the day) Japanese influence. This will undoubtedly spell the beginning and end of the review for most of you – however those that appreciate JRPGs should dip in and uncover hours and hours of playability, storyline and online fun.
What Sony have done here is taken on board a lot of the criticisms leveled at the first WKC game, made everything work a little better and repackaged it to go hand in hand with the sequel – an absolutely genius move – as not only are you getting two games for the price of one, but you are also allowing previous WKC virgins the opportunity to play through the entire first game and get up to speed for the second.
I have to say at this juncture that for an RPG of this nature WKC looks (in the main) lovely. From lovely forests and plains, through to harsh desert environments, the game really does look the business. The enemies you encounter are varied (and in some cases huge), and impressively animated, the NPC and player characters in the game are especially well thought out with a couple of true “laugh out loud” moments during cut scenes, all come together to provide a great setting with a “yeah, seen it all before but whatever” storyline. I wont spoil the story at this stage, suffice to say a princess is kidnapped who has the power to awaken huge warrior knights which bind to individuals and can be called on in battle to fight on their behalf. Unbeknownst to her, (but knownst to us!), the bad guys want to use her powers to bind the warrior knights to their bidding. So starts an epic, and I mean 20-30 hour per game, quest to search and rescue said princess. Personally the whole thing felt very “Lord of the Rings” to me, which in fairness did actually immerse me a little more in the storyline.
Battles take place in real time, with a cool down timer essentially stopping you button mashing the best moves. I did however find myself still button mashing in combat – waiting for the timer to cool down so I could strike again – you see each monster has weaknesses which means they are susceptible to specific moves/spells etc. more than others – once you find that weakness combat generally degenerates into hit “X” wait… hit “X” wait.. and repeat until monster is dead.
This isn’t WKC 2’s only fault. Its incredibly daunting initially to try and understand how the game works, and how best to set up your party – however once you get over this initial hurdle you will figure out that actually there are very basic mechanics at work here which look like they have been over complicated almost on purpose to add an extra layer of perceived depth to the game. The camera control in combat can also be a real pain in the arse – as you lock onto an opponent to attack but then try and use an area of effect spell to hit some of the other enemies around your target. More often than not I found myself fighting with the camera to try and get opponents to fall within the area of effect radius (displayed helpfully on screen). The targeting system is quite over complicated too – which meant on occasion targeting the entirely wrong enemy and even (on occasion) a team mate.
Another thing that bugs me about the quests in WKC2 is the “go here fetch those” quests that are spread, at times, across an entire map. Whilst this adds to longevity it infuriates me to the point of saving and having to come back later, there’s no need for this artificial lengthening in a game of this (already huge) nature.
At times, WKC2 can feel a little like a solo MMORPG – with quests being dished out left right and centre and you only really getting involved to level grind your character. This will really appeal to some people (myself included) who love MMORPG for the solo aspects….. Yeah, I strongly believe there are more than one of us out there!!
My final gripe about WKC2 is the character creation system. Now, don’t get me wrong, the system is very detailed and flexible, however the whole thing feels really pointless as once the game starts you soon realise that the whole story isn’t about your character – its about Leonard (the protagonist) and your created character doesn’t really get a look in (unless you do a lot of the online missions). Its a real disappointment to spend a good amount of time creating a character you really like, only to realise that you could in theory play the majority of the entire game without using them once!
WKC 2 also offers what appears to be a great online system whereby you can team up with mates/friends/random weirdos and complete very specific quests for “points” to earn you more quests (or loot). Whilst I didnt get chance to test this in the review – the idea is a good one, and at least its something different! There’s also the opportunity to create your own village which, again, friends/weirdos can wander around and explore.
To conclude, whilst it appears that this review is negative, my lasting impression of the game is positive as despite the niggles there really is a LOT of value for money here – one which could be extended into the hundreds of hours if you so choose. The story (whilst clichéd) is engaging enough that you want to see what happens, and the majority of the characters in the game are genuinely interesting and intriguing. If you have the time to invest here (you WILL need a lot) then you cant do much better – but the key is knowing what you are getting into. Expect anything different to a modern JRPG and you will be disappointed.