PS3 Review – White Knight Chronicles II

The second installment of the White Knight Chronicles series is finally here after a couple months of localization. JRPGs have been rare this generation, but Level-5 is here to prove that the genre is far from dead outside of Japan. However, the first installment failed to captivate the market, but thankfully a sequel is here to improve on what many feel is a series with plenty of potential. Is a second time the charm, or has this series let down Western RPG fans?

White Knight Chronicles II brings the events of the first game, and a ten thousand year battle, to a conclusion. For players who started the series with White Knight Chronicles, the game gets off to a bumpy beginning. You are thrown right into the game without much of a refresher course on what is going on. Not only are you tossed directly into the story, but there is no tutorial to speak of; this must be why Japanese players were forced to play through the first game before continuing on to WKC II. Things start to become more clear as the story advances, but unless you recently finished the first game you may have troubles getting your head around what is going on. Thankfully for players who may have not played the first game in awhile, or missed it entirely, the entire first game is included on the same Blu-ray disc. If you missed the first game, you get to enjoy the whole series and perhaps the transition between games will feel less dramatic.

Another issue that might confuse you is your character’s level in the new game. Regardless of whether you choose to import your White Knight Chronicles’ character or start from scratch with a new character, you start at level 35 with a standard number of skill points. You may have been maxed out at level 50 and gone through several re-births to give your White Knight Chronicles character extra skill points, but all of that work is for naught. You do get to keep any items, equipment and money that you had from the previous game, but your precious, precious skill points are gone for good. This may be a difficult pill for some players to swallow.

Level-5 has made many of the tweaks to the gameplay that fans of the original game have been asking for. Combat timing has been improved, so there is less waiting between attacks, and your action timer starts from the time that combo attacks begin rather than when they end. This makes combat feel much more natural, and less repetitive as a result. Going back to the original title after playing White Knight Chronicles II, which you’ll have the pleasure of being able to do, reveals a very distinguishable improvement to the fundamentals of this role playing game.

In addition to the continuation of the story, there are now some side quests that you can do to earn various rewards. “Errands” are mini quests you can start by finding NPCs in towns with big red exclamation points over their heads. By completing errands you can earn anything from small items to large amounts of Guild Points to help you unlock more powerful equipment and online quests. There are some amusing story arcs that will unfold during these errands, along with some shiny trophies for your collection. To help motivate you to explore the errands, there are a number of skills in each skill tree that can only be unlocked by completing certain errands, so if you want to complete that tree you need to track down the NPCs that offer those skills for their errands. Check back with us soon for a guide for completing the Resident Errands, and getting all of those tasty, tasty trophies.

Along the same lines as the Errands are the Bounty Hunts that are available at the Adventurer’s Guild. Your friendly Guild employee will give you a list of bounties to choose from. Only one bounty can be claimed at a time, so choose a bounty for the area that you are headed to next. When you are in that area, a big red symbol will show up on your map to mark the location where the bounty target can be found. The bounty targets can range from pretty wimpy enemies up to very beefy enemies that you will need some help from a friendly Knight to defeat. To reward you for your bravery, the guild offers money, experience points, guild points and items based on the difficulty of the mission. One of these bounties will even land your own character the ability to transform into your very own Knight, both in online quests and throughout the offline story. Some of the higher level bounties offer some very nice items, so be sure to keep up with the bounties as you progress through the story.

Perhaps one of the most touted features for this sequel is the addition of an Incorruptus that your own avatar can transform into. Unfortunately, some of the online quests forbid transformation to keep from making them too easy, but many of the higher Guild Rank quests allow you to transform. Just imagine six Knights tromping around bashing monsters. And yes, it’s as epic as it sounds. Your Incorruptus is also usable during the story mode from the point that you unlock the ability. It was not exactly obvious when the opportunity arises to do this since it is not a part of the main story. I won’t spoil how this happens, just be sure to keep an eye out for new bounties to appear.

Did I mention six player multiplayer? Sadly the six player limit doesn’t apply to quests that are carried over from the first game, but new quests allow for up to six players to run the quest together. It’s too bad that the old quests were not re-tooled or even just tweaked so the difficulty scaled based on the number of players. We’ll come back to all of that business later.

One disappointing quality of White Knight Chronicles II is that outside of combat improvements, its largely like its predecessor, which proves both good and bad. While there are some new areas to explore and the story is just as good as the first game, you are going to spend a lot of time traversing the same environments. The story will take you some areas you may not have explored as heavily in the first game, but it’s still more of the same old environments. I would have liked to see more variety to the locations. The old environments have seen some graphical enhancements, more vivid colors, some extra particle effects, etc. The new environments are great, which just served to highlight the small number of additional areas.

On the whole, the difficulty of the game is not too bad. If you’re looking for a sadistic soul-crushing game like Demon’s Souls, this game might bore you. There  are a few places that present unique challenges, but the biggest problem comes in the form of poor checkpoint location which forces you to retry the same series of events several times unless you’re talented in the game’s combat mechanics. One boss in particular makes this flaw really apparent, and chances are you’ll end up repeating the same section multiple times in frustration.

The real shining jewel of this series is the online co-op mode. Each player can customize their own town with parts purchased from a certain NPC in the story mode. The parts will determine the types of items that you will be able to collect in-between quests. The towns are used as virtual lobbies for creating parties and joining online co-op quests with other players. Successful quests earn party members money, guild points and items that can be used to buy new equipment, craft more powerful equipment and unlock new quests. The first game is known for providing hundreds of hours of entertainment, and this sequel is no different.

For fans of the first game, and fans of JRPGs structure, White Knight Chronicles II is an engrossing trek through a large, beautifully rendered world. It’s a game that provides a large foundation of content to explore, which is only prohibited by its average gameplay.  Those looking for a grand experience will be entertained for hours on end, with a few hiccups such as poor checkpoint location occasionally getting in the way of fun.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Hundreds of hours of gameplay, online and offline.

+ Two games for the price of one.

– Great potential, but only “good” execution.

– Lack of diversity from original game.

7 out of 10