White Knight Chronicles II - First look User Review
Now, originally I gave White knight chronicles a 9.2 - which I am sure many will consider far too high. That's fine, if you disagree with the score, go read my review and I'll be happy to discuss once you read why I scored as I did. However I mention that score because WKC2 surpasses the original in many ways. Despite the current trend to bash a game for being 'more of the same', I consider that a direct sequel *should* be more of the same. So don't go expecting there to be any points knocked off that original score here.
In my opinion, graphically this game is crisper than the original. The visuals have been given an overhaul that is apparent in motion, but may not be from screenshots and low resolution online video. Character rendering is much improved and the amount of visual detail in the game has been improved. There is more variety in costume than before, and the graphics appear smoother in motion and crisper. So for a player upgrading from WKC1, this is an improvement, and for a new player, the visals are nothing to be scared of. There are more effects during combat now, and a new system of visual indicators on large enemies to guide the player a little. It all works. The lighting model has been improved, and I still marvel at the game when you are traveling across the country-side and clouds pass overhead, causing the lighting around you to alter in a very realistic way as the cloud passes, you can even watch the shadow of the cloud move past you. Graphically the game is an improvement. Perhaps it's not the slick cinematic FFXIII presentation, but it's better than WKC1 by a considerable margin. The game still has some of the best water and landscape visuals I've seen in a game.
Sound wise, the game continues to be excellent. Although I honestly could have done without the vocals on the opening theme and the faster, slightly frenetic new battle music. Other than that the sound is as good, or better than the original. How many games have a memorable theme? WKC has one. That should tell you something.
Gameplay is improved, although at first it may seem to play too fast for fans of the original. The turn circle (or action circle as they call it) works very differently.
In the original, you target an enemy and enter combat, the turn circle would start to fill. If you were using a long sword it could take 2-3 seconds to fill, then you could attack, which would take perhaps a second or two to animate the attack, and then the turn circle would spin again. If you were hit while waiting to execute your attack, your attack might be delayed, lengthening the turn even further, heavier armor and weapons could make the turn circle fill more slowly, and executing particular attacks takes longer resulting in what could feel like a very slow combat system, you might attack once every 6-10 seconds depending on what was happening.
The new game though is very different. Once you target an enemy and start combat, you can initially attack immediately, no waiting for the turn circle to fill, then as soon as you select your attack and initiate it, the turn circle starts to refill - while you execute the attack. If you use a faster weapon and lighter armor, you can be attacking once every 2-3 seconds (perhaps faster). Still if you use a heavy two handed weapon and wear the heaviest armor, your turn will take much longer to build. Even so, you'll be attacking every 3-5 seconds, not every 6-10. This makes the combat much, much more fluid.
The new combat system places an emphasis on the different kinds of attack, with slash, strike and thrust working better against specific enemies. This is indicated on screen when damage is shown in yellow, you have used the right kind of attack. You can use an in-game item, or skill to reveal an enemies weakness. The end result is that played properly, the game is considerably faster and more fluid than before.
However, thanks to a much deeper skill system, and the different types of attack and elemental attacks, combat retains a heavy element of strategy. Select your party members well and be sure to update their skill trees and combat commands in line with your own.
The entire game appears to have been re-balanced. Changes to the skill system and bonuses on equipment and weapons have reduced the impact and benefit of passive skills that boosted character attributes in WKC1. This makes the choice of class less of a risk because each now has a benefit, and the new skill system encourages dual class characters. There is a lot of depth here, too much to delve into within this first look. But game play and the skill system are improved.
Controls maintain the original controls for the most part with a few alterations to put more options at your finger tips during combat. The controls feel smoother thanks to the better graphics engine, and the enhancements to combat also work well with the controls. Over all, controls are as good, or better than the original.
The replay value is phenomenal. Not only do you have both the original and second part of the story woven together now, but you have the quests, online quests, errands and bounties (errands and bounties are new). The ability to take the AI characters on quests is a major enhancement to this for players that enjoy the solo campaign mode. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it appears to me that the cut scenes for the original story are now more extensive. With things like a higher level cap, more guild ranks, more equipment and items, more item synthesis and the same online questing, this game features near infinite replay value.
Of course, the player also get's their own Knight to play with, but I have not yet reached that point, so no mention of that from me - yet. When the DLC arrives from Japan that brings new story elements for your avatar and your own knight, as well as the player guild system, that replay value will increase further still.
One final thing to mention – the transition from WKC1. This is a seamless process. You can keep your avatar as it, or change things up. Whatever you do, you keep all your money, items, equipment, binding rank, Georama items, Georama town and residents, adventurer's guild rank and so forth. Depending on how you chose to start the new game, you either start at level 1 or level 35. So the things you will lose moving from WKC1 are skill points past level 35 (if you choose to start at level 35), and any enhancements to your gear that you made.
If you decide to start the story over again and return to level 1, you still keep everything except your skill points. A word of warning for you, if you decide to do start the story over. Keep some of your better low level gear. Foolishly I did not, and so I am re-buying my low level stuff again. Of course if you have a decent nest egg to bring with you, money isn't a problem, so whether you bring that low level gear or not isn't a huge issue.
Overall, this is an improvement on a game that I already thought was excellent.
The good - all round improvement, especially the speed of combat and the increased depth of play with bounties, errands and of course more story.
The bad - that vocal version of the theme has to go...OK, not that bad, but I enjoyed the instrumental much more. I'm sure that there is still a heavy emphasis on level grinding later in the game, especially the online questing, but that will not impact the story mode.
The ugly - Belcitane - need I say more?
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.