White Knight Chronicles II PlayStation 3
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Level 5
Whilst the PlayStation 2 had arguably a larger amount of quality RPG's than any other console to date, the PlayStation 3 has been a bit of a letdown. There are some good RPG's on the system but there are far too few great ones. White Knight Chronicles definitely fell into the category of being a good RPG without ever threatening to become anything special. Problems aside however, it offered a fairly enjoyable and lengthy single-player experience as well as a decent online experience and it was clear to see that the game definitely had potential that hadn't fully been realised. Can White Knight Chronicles II build upon this potential and improve upon the original game?
White Knight Chronicles II picks up the storyline where the original game left off. If you haven't played the original game you needn't worry because White Knight Chronicles II comes bundled with a fully updated version of White Knight Chronicles. This is actually a very generous bonus for those who are new to the series. Whilst you can jump straight into the sequel with a new character (beginning at level 35 and a ton of skill points to dish out on skills of your choice), it's not advisable simply because you won't have access to the superior weapons and other equipment that you can acquire by playing the first game. It should also be pointed out that White Knight Chronicles II makes no effort to introduce you to the gameplay mechanics (you could argue that it shouldn't with this being a sequel), although you can access some text tutorials if you need to. In short you're going to feel lost rather quickly if you simply jump into White Knight Chronicles II with no prior knowledge of how the gameplay worked in White Knight Chronicles but Level 5 have done us the courtesy of including the original game to give everyone the chance to get up to speed at no extra cost.
If you have played and completed White Knight Chronicles however, you'll want to import your character over to play with them in the sequel. With a fully developed character from the first game you're better equipped to deal with the painful difficulty spikes that are present in White Knight Chronicles II which can cause newcomers to become rather frustrated. You'll also get to fully appreciate all of the storyline in the sequel as some plot threads have their roots in the original game and there are no real explanations of them here. You can't really class this as a problem however because it's fair to assume that most who play the game will have played the original White Knight Chronicles and those who haven't really owe it to themselves to play through the included original game first.
The battle system from the original game has pretty much stayed intact for White Knight Chronicles II albeit with a few improvements. New skills are available and some of the existing ones have been retuned for better balance. The range of some of the attacks has been tweaked to give you some hope of avoiding certain attacks this time around. During a battle you'll move around in real time but you have to wait for your action gauge to charge before performing another attack which gives the battles a turn-based feel. One change in the sequel is that your action gauge is pre-charged for your first attack which can certainly help. You'll select your chosen attack from the command bar at the bottom of the screen. As you level up you'll earn Skill Points and with these you can purchase new and enhanced skills. You'll load your preferred skills into slots on to one of the three available command bars and during battle you can alternate between command bars (with the up and down directional buttons) and choose your preferred attack/action. In short this makes the game feel very much like an MMORPG that you'd find on a PC. During a battle you'll earn Action Chips by attacking and defeating enemies.
When you've earned a sufficient amount of Action Chips you can transform into the White Knight. The Knight isn't as agile as you would hope for but his attacks are powerful and can certainly help against the tougher enemies in the game. As in the original game, you can only control one character at a time but you can give orders and pre-configure tactics for the AI-controlled characters. The AI mostly does a decent job of supporting you in a battle and it's rather pleasing to see that the AI characters will heal themselves as well as your controlled character during a battle. You do have full control over how the character in your party levels up and the skills that they acquire. You can also configure all of their command bars so that they will have the skills that you require at their disposal.
One of the irritating aspects of White Knight Chronicles II is the omission of a decent checkpoint system. In most games these days you'll either have a save point or a checkpoint prior to a boss fight to prevent too much backtracking should you make a mess of the fight. If you manage to come a cropper in a boss battle in White Knight Chronicles II you're placed right at the beginning of the area in which the boss battle took place. This can leave you having to cut your way through swathes of enemies before actually being able to attempt the boss battle again. What makes this a real niggle at times is that certain boss battles seem disproportionately difficult meaning you can be ill prepared for the battle.
For an RPG that feels very much like a PC MMORPG it's rather odd that you'll have to play through the lengthy single-player game to get your hands on the multiplayer experience. Up to six players can engage on quests together (quests you'll obtain in the single-player game) and in a welcome twist the experience you earn in online play also carries over back to the single-player game. Played with the right companions, White Knight Chronicles II can be a lot of fun and it makes you wish there had been more emphasis on the online portion of the game as well as the option to play it without having to first play through the single-player game. In the first game there was a Georama system that allowed you to create your own town and upload it to the game's servers so that others can then visit it and it makes a return here too, although it doesn't really do anything to build upon what was on offer in the first game. In essence, the online portions of the game are enjoyable but there's not really enough here to make it feel more than a minor addition to the lengthy single-player experience.
The visuals on display in White Knight Chronicles II are mostly impressive. The environments look great and are very atmospheric thanks to some rather subtle lighting effects. The character designs are a bit of a mixed bag however. The main characters in the game look quite good but you'll see far too many enemies who simply look like clones of each other during the course of the game. The various monsters you'll encounter range from the weird and wonderful to completely silly. There are a few frame rate issues here and there but for the most part the frame rate remains decent throughout. Rather more disturbing is the way you can see enemies pop into view which, given the graphical horsepower of the PlayStation 3, is rather disappointing.
White Knight Chronicles II does offer subtitles but not all of the dialogue in the game has been subtitled. For example, your party members will occasionally say a few words whilst you're exploring and none of these comments are subtitled. This is actually quite disappointing as there's a fair bit to be learned about the characters from what they say whilst you're exploring. Comments made during the course of a battle are also not subtitled. At least the cut scene dialogue is subtitled although there are no character names or portraits shown alongside the text to help make it clear who is speaking. Quest details are given in text and can be accessed at any time should you need to. The game makes good use of icons to convey information such as status effects and the screen will redden around the edges when your character's health is dangerously low. As with the original game, the online portion does support voice communications but there is support for text chat and there are preconfigured messages that you can send to enable quick communication.
White Knight Chronicles II isn't an RPG that all fans of the genre will appreciate but I believe it's one that every fan of the genre should experience. Some may find it too linear, some may find the nature of the battle system not to their liking and it's definitely true that both the storyline and the quality of the characters in general is a little wanting. In fact you could argue that Level 5 haven't really done a lot to rectify the problems of the original White Knight Chronicles essentially meaning if the first game didn't impress you, neither will this one. However, there's no denying that there's a lot of enjoyment to be had here and if you can get some value out of the online play you have a game that could potentially keep you busy for well over a year. Fans of the original game will appreciate what this sequel has to offer and those who are new to the series are getting two RPG's, both of which are capable of taking around 60 hours of your time in single-player mode alone, which is outstanding value for money. White Knight Chronicles II is by no means an impressive game but there's a lot to like about the game and it's easy to see why the series has something of a hardcore following.