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White Knight Chronicles II hands-on preview – does this series deserve a second chance?

I'll come right out and say that I thought the first White Knight Chronicles was garbage. Its two main selling points – the crazy knight powers and the MMO-style multiplayer – were both complete disappointments. Not only were the knight powers sadly underwhelming, but the story campaign was also marred by the distractingly clumsy, half-assed shoehorning in of the customizable avatar character. Then, the entire pseudo-MMO multiplayer component was completely stripped of the option to use knight powers, which left behind a crushingly generic, bland experience. It's sounds harsh, but it's really going to take a heavy dose of brutal honesty if Level 5 wants to get White Knight Chronicles II back on track.


Above: Battles occur in real-time, but you can only attack each time the circular gauge fills 

Luckily, it looks like the developer has taken some of the player feedback to heart and is trying to implement improvements to address complaints from the first WKC. For starters, unlike the Japanese release, players won't be required to complete the first game to play the sequel, although you can import your character from a completed save of WKC if you would like. You won't be penalized for skipping right in to WKCII either, even though an enhanced edition of the first game is bundled in for free with White Knight Chronicles II. We're told that the story campaign will be quite a bit longer this time too – around 35 hours compared to WKC's less than 25-hour campaign.

At first glance, WKCII looks nearly identical to its predecessor in interface and design (although the graphics overall are slightly nicer), which makes sense given that it takes place only a year after the events in the first game. We're told that all the base mechanics and features have been left intact, but lots of tweaks and improvements have been added to make combat more interesting. One of our biggest problems with the combat in WKC was that despite the huge lists of attacks that each character could learn, they all felt more or less the same.


Above: Your other party members are AI-controlled, but you can choose which character you want to control in the party config menu, as well as set party tactics

Level 5 is attempting to rectify this by making your physical position actually have an effect in the real-time MMO-style battles, so that instead of doing the same amount of damage wherever your character is in relation to the enemy, your proximity and the range of the attack you use actually matter. You can stay back to avoid enemy melee attacks and try to pick them off with ranged attacks, or use an attack that quickly darts around to the enemy's rear and strikes from behind. Battles have also been sped up quite a bit, and your action gauge always starts at full whenever you enter combat, instead of taking time to power up. Elemental attacks actually serve a purpose this time too – there's now a "break chance" system where you can see the type of attack an enemy is getting ready to use and neutralize it by attacking with the same type of attack.

The biggest improvement that Level 5 promises (although we didn't get to see even a glimpse of it in our demo), is that the player's avatar character will have his or her own incorruptus knight this time, and that character will also actually have a purpose in the story this time too. That means that you'll be able to use knight powers in the multiplayer, and since the avatar's knight will be customizable, there won't be a bunch of people all using the same knight powers. Multiplayer has also been expanded from four player co-op to up to six, but we weren't able to try it for ourselves because of the PSN outage at the time of our hands-on appointment.


Above: When your AC gauge fills, you can transform into an incorruptus knight for a limited time 

Although skepticism is still prudent at this juncture, it's encouraging to hear that Level 5 has been working on some highly needed improvements to the sequel, and it will be interesting to see if the story itself will also take off and become more interesting. And even though I won't hide my dislike of the first game, it's also a huge plus that the improvements implemented in WKCII will be retroactively applied to the enhanced version of the WKC that's being packaged in with the sequel, so if you do want to go back and play the first game, it will probably be a bit more enjoyable than the original version. Look for our full review when White Knight Chronicles II ships late this summer.

May 2, 2011

19 comments

  • presc1ence - May 3, 2011 10:40 a.m.

    Incorruptus Knight? PLease don't make me go read the old reviews to work out what the hell that is. :-(
  • shinyscizor93 - May 3, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    I was genuinely interested in WKC, until I heard about how bad it was. However, to hear that Level 5 is addressing issues players had with the first game to improve the sequel gives me hope for WKC2. ReCaptcha: tilinge sup; Not much, you?
  • 510BrotherPanda - May 3, 2011 12:22 a.m.

    I don't know if it's just me, but that Fire Dragon's face and neck look a little like a Scolipede's, but with a bigger jaw and more spikes.
  • waffman11 - May 2, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    Sounds...like an improvement. I guess. I spent about three hours on the original and took it back because the combat system was infuriating. Not only did enemies reappear the moment you step out of view, but the combat was so tedious because of the one-size-fits-all action bar. If I wait and use a powerful attack to deal massive damage, the bar takes five seconds to fill back up. If I use a speedy light attack, the bar fills in five seconds. The time was not only too long to wait to attack again, but it made no sense to use anything but an uber strike.
  • Beartoe - May 2, 2011 9:58 p.m.

    i had high hopes for this wkc when i first heard about it. but with the way that the final product turned out to be, i'm really gonna have to see the game in action before i can get behind wkcII.
  • RebornKusabi - May 2, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    The first White Knight Chronicles game was catastrophically bad and if it was published by EA or Activision, it would have killed the company, Bizarre Creations-style. With that said, WKC was THE first game in almost decades that I have ever quited out of pure, unadulterated boredom. I don't have hope that the sequel will change that lol
  • Fiirestorm21 - May 2, 2011 9:04 p.m.

    You guys are already writing off Level 5 after just one bad game? I know it was supposed to have sucked, but if you did really enjoy their previous efforts, that would make me want to give them a second chance even more. If it were a complete unknown to me and the first impression I get of them was a bad game, that's one thing. But to just dump a developer you had a positive view of before just one game... Seems a bit silly to me.
  • Batman - May 2, 2011 8:16 p.m.

    I hated how short the first one was.Most likely since they wasted their time implementing a crappy online component to the game that wasn't needed.
  • edub1026 - May 2, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    Is this WKC2 or a continuation of the first WKC. Upon finishing WKC I thought this was a continuing story. I felt WKC wasn't given a chance. The game was released and reviewed a year after it came out in Japan. For the people complaining how the game looks. I would rather have a mediocre looking game that's fun and runs smoothly than a pretty that's boring and has hick-ups. Lair looked
  • Ganonpork - May 2, 2011 7:18 p.m.

    XD im a fan of wkc, not the best but i have hope
  • Clovin64 - May 2, 2011 7:03 p.m.

    I loved other Level 5 RPGs like Dark Cloud 2 and Rogue Galaxy, but I stayed away from WKC due to bad reviews. I'll wait for a review before I consider the second game, but I doubt I'll be checking out the original in the meantime.
  • ricochetguro - May 2, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    I enjoyed the first and got more then my money's worth. Remember it came out back in 2008 originally(in Japan) I also love how people use any jrpg they don't happen to like as an insult against the entire genre. Ps:why are GR's captchas so hard to read? Do bots have eyes so you have to blur and reverse the letters? It's annoying.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - May 2, 2011 5:56 p.m.

    I second silvereye's assertion that Rogue Galaxy was fantastic.
  • silvereye - May 2, 2011 5:25 p.m.

    Still looks bad I say, I cant understand why they didnt make a sequel to the fantastic PS2 game Rogue Galaxy :/
  • city17fan - May 2, 2011 5:06 p.m.

    I agree with Peloum. This series does not deserve a second chance. They created a very sub-par RPG experience and Level-5 really lost ground as a developer for their contribution.
  • PimplesInYourAsstista - May 2, 2011 4:55 p.m.

    WKC is a metaphor for whats wrong with JRPGs these days. Not getting a second chance from me.
  • Peloun - May 2, 2011 4:41 p.m.

    Nope. This game won't get a second chance from me. It was my biggest dissapointment last year. It doesn't deserve anything. WKC1 made me hate level-5. I thought it was that bad
  • jimmdogg - May 2, 2011 4:39 p.m.

    Not optimistic. Good write up though.
  • DrLovez69 - May 2, 2011 4:13 p.m.

    nah

Showing 1-19 of 19 comments

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