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White Knight Chronicles II review

Decent
AT A GLANCE
  • Giant mecha-knights
  • Massive amount of content
  • Deep online play
  • Tedious grinding
  • Boring story
  • Steep learning curve

Japanese roleplaying games aren’t often noted for their excessive handholding, and White Knight Chronicles II is certainly no exception. This is a sequel that fully expects you to have played the original, dropping you directly into the action without so much as a controller map. Luckily for newbs, Level-5 has included the complete original game on the disc, polished up with some of the sequel’s improvements to gameplay and combat. While getting a free game is a great bonus, new players eager to dive directly into the sequel are inevitably going to be frustrated and disoriented. 

Though game mechanics aren’t covered at all, the intro sequence does feature a handy “previously on” section explaining the events of the first game in quick, broad strokes. Sadly, it’s the precursor to the sequel’s truly underwhelming story, both clichéd and forgettable. Turns out there’s an evil empire bent on world domination. You should probably stop them. Shrug.

Why the protagonist characters (several of whom are kids) have been chosen to battle this tremendous evil and wield unfathomable power is never clear, and rarely does the game convey a sense of epic struggle. One of the oddest and most grating narrative missteps is how the player’s character is handled. At the beginning you create a custom avatar or import your avatar from the original game. However, your character is not the focus of the narrative; in fact, in a number of critical cutscenes, you’re not even visible. While being able to customize a character in a JRPG is fairly novel, playing as an extra is a disappointing experience. 

Where combat is concerned, WKC II straddles an interesting line between turn-based and real-time. When you encounter enemies you switch to combat mode and can continue to maneuver around the environment, but can only attack when your action gauge is full. While maneuvering in real-time gives the combat a kinetic feeling absent from traditional turn-based RPGs, a lot of the potential of positioning or dodging is wasted. Enemies hit you regardless of whether you’re standing next to them or around a corner. Try to flee and you’ll see queued up enemy attacks hitting your characters even when the enemies themselves are no longer visible.

Though some changes have been made to the first game’s combat, like distance affecting damage, it’s still frustrating to get smacked by a melee weapon that’s half-way across the screen. The combat also relies heavily on a rock-paper-scissors system that leads to spamming the same attack over and over once you’ve identified an enemy’s weakness. That said, transforming into the eponymous White Knight or any of the other giant “Incorruptus” mechas is a lot of fun. When battling huge demons you get the option to target specific body parts, which adds a layer of strategy, and hacking up normal-sized enemies as a giant robot is about as fun as it sounds.

The game is a grinder’s dream, rewarding players who dig into the optional Adventurer’s Guild side-quests and bounties with the ability to unlock missions online. Playing online with a group of people is fun and adds a huge amount of content for the dedicated. It’s a refreshing alternative to the less-engaging single-player experience, and includes the ability to build out a Georama, a hometown where players can craft items, shop, and even farm and harvest resources. Be warned, though, that Sony has decided to chase some of that EA Online Pass money; each new copy of the game comes with a single redemption code for a “Geonet license.” Each license is tied to an individual PSN account, so if you want to get online with a different account or if you buy the game used, you’ll have to purchase a license. 

If White Knight Chronicles II weren’t so massive, it would feel like an expansion pack for the original. The changes are minor enough that a lot of them won’t be apparent until tens of hours into the game, if ever. The lack of tutorials, tedium of grinding, and huge investment of time required will likely scare off a lot of new players not interested in playing through the entire original game first. But for a certain breed of obsessive RPG fan there’s a lot here to enjoy, and giant quantities of it.

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: D3Publisher of America
Developed by: Level-5
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

12 comments

  • InFeRnOg - September 22, 2011 10:17 a.m.

    We need Rogue Galaxy 2!
  • MyCoolWhiteLies - September 22, 2011 8:50 a.m.

    Man, remember when the first trailer for WKC1 came out, and people were truly amazed? What happened? On a side note, I almost want to play this because one of my friends did voice acting for it. He's one of the voice options you can choose for your character. Not sure which one though. Also, apparently it's only Zelda-like grunts and yells.
  • OhUltra - September 22, 2011 8:04 a.m.

    I, too, wanted to love this game due to my love of Dark Cloud. Sadly I just ended up wanted to murder myself. Whereas Dark Cloud was all magical, White Knight Chronicles wasn't having any of that "atmosphere" sh*t.
  • mattdark - September 22, 2011 12:38 a.m.

    TBH, im surprised they even released the sequal outside of japan, considering how poor the review/sales were. I imagine that someone really wanted them push push this out, along with the psp prequal... Problem being, offering more of the same that the majority didnt enjoy, not going to get you a huge boost in sales
  • Letter11 - September 21, 2011 8:40 p.m.

    I wasn't a fan of the first White Knight Chronicles and I was really surprised that a sequel was being made. Naturally I assumed the sequel would improve upon a number of shortcomings but it really just does sound like an expansion pack. I hope Level-5 can make a game this generation as good as what they used to put out. I'd play Dark Cloud and Rouge Galaxy again on PS2 before I even think about picking this up.
  • Vordhosbn - September 22, 2011 1:07 a.m.

    I actually started playing Dark Cloud on and off again recently, and I wholeheartedly agree that it would be a much better series to be working on than WKC. I can't help but wonder if the reason good titles like that are left on the backburner are because devs can't imagine a good way of giving them "online capabilities", which would be a damn shame because games don't need to be online to be fun. WKC was a big disappointment, it's not impossible to make a fun game that involves a bit of grinding, but WKC failed at that.
  • shawksta - September 21, 2011 7:15 p.m.

    Touche, the given standards for liking this game or not is queit tricky.
  • GAYMER - September 21, 2011 6:57 p.m.

    oh wow I completely forgot this was coming out.
  • vza004 - September 21, 2011 5:31 p.m.

    I agree with this review. Players who are not MMORPG players will not love WKC battle system. While the battle system is not that bad, the story is very chinky and the line are totally stinky... As a first time player, while playing WKC 1, I can only see a late PS2 game. Saying that, Final Fantasy XII won by a mile or two. The most annoying things in WKC: -Action Bar Why do I need to see that? It's not like I'm required to time-press it for extra damage. -No Auto repeat actions I hate, really, really hate pressing the damn button just for repeating the same action. Why aren't there a auto-attack? -Cliche story line Really? I can see the end before I complete the game! -Custom character doesn't have an important role. What's the point of creating a character then?! I would at least like to go out with a girl or two in the game!
  • PimplesInYourAsstista - September 21, 2011 5:23 p.m.

    Wow, a crappy, cookie cutter JRPG. What a precedent /sarcasm
  • bigwill1221 - September 21, 2011 5:15 p.m.

    So this reminds me of monster hunter how it was "updated"
  • waffman11 - September 21, 2011 5 p.m.

    The original was extremely disappointing for me, especially since it was developed by Level 5, my all-time favorite RPG developer. Seeing as the cavalcade of problems and irritations I experienced in the original seem to still be there, I will have to pass. I really expected a better and more polished game from Level 5, and WKC remains the only game that I have traded in because of severe displeasure with the final product.

Showing 1-12 of 12 comments

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