By Spencer . October 10, 2011 . 1:30pm
Thanks to D3 Publisher, White Knight Chronicles returns to North America with White Knight Chronicles II. As with the original, the sequel is a game best enjoyed online with other players. The single player mode can be rather dry and feels more like a supplemental feature for when you can’t get online or want to work to the point where you earn your avatar’s own knight.
White Knight Chronicles II continues the rather typical "save the kingdom" story that began with the original White Knight Chronicles. It picks up shortly after first game left off. In case you don’t feel like playing through first game, which is included on the WKC II disc, here’s a brief refresher. In the original game, the kingdoms of Balandor and Faria were going to sign a peace treaty. Before that happened, Balandor was attacked and Faria’s and Balandor’s leaders were killed by Magi. Balandor’s princess, Cisna, was saved by a young man named Leonard and his friends. Below Balandor’s castle, Leonard found a gigantic White Knight which he was able to make a pact with, allowing him to transform into it. Cisna gets kidnapped by Magi because of her unique connection to the ancient Queen Mureas. It turns out Grazel, the Magi’s leader, wants to reunite the knights, get the Sun King’s power, restart the Dogma Wars and eventually resurrect the Yshrenian Empire with himself as king. Leonard, with the help of the player character, Yulie, Eldore, Kara and Caesar, end up saving Cisna and temporarily stalling Grazel’s plans. The game gives players an option to skip through WKC and go straight to WKC II.
White Knight Chronicles II begins with Grazel rebuilding Yshrenia and is acting as its king. His goal is to take over the entire world. To start, he goes after Faria, having his agent there cause civil unrest and attempt to kidnap Miu, the deceased Archduke’s granddaughter. Scardigne, a loyal Farian general, manages to escape with her and, just when it seems like the Magi will capture both of them, Leonard, Yulie, the player’s avatar and Eldore show up. Cisna had sent Leonard and his forces to Faria to speak to Father Yggdra about what could be done to stop Grazel, and they’re just in time to begin facing off against Grazel’s forces and stop his invasion of Faria. This kicks off a follow up adventure to foil Grazel and his Magi again.
Yes, I know that sounds complicated. To simplify, there’s a bad guy who wants to use an ancient power to take over the world. Around 10,000 years ago, Incorruptus knights were made by Yshrenia and bound to people to allow them to control super-strong machines. The Athwani sealed the knights. These knights still lie sealed, buried away, but can be reawakened and tied to people again. Now it’s pretty much a fight for the good guys, Leonard and company, to get access to these knights and stop Grazel’s plot.
WKC II is visually stunning, just like the original WKC. Level-5 and Sony’s Japan Studio made an absolutely beautiful game with gorgeous environments and peppered with little details in each area. It’s also nice that there’s a Crystal Camera screen-shot feature, where you can take pictures of what you see in the game, because the game is pretty. It’s just a shame you can’t use that camera in battle, because it’d be nice to get a better look at the monsters when they’re not trying to wipe out your party.
Even the player characters look awesome. Pretty much every avatar’s physical features can be adjusted to get him or her looking exactly the way you want. Players are also able to build their characters, and later in WKC II their characters knights, however they’d like. You can choose which weapons and magic he or she masters, enabling you to create a spear-wielding healer, straightforward mage, magic knight or perhaps even a character who just relies on swords. When you level up, you earn skill points that can be spent however you like. Customizing your avatar’s Knight is similar to customizing the avatar. You can decide on the color schemes and equipment for it, which of course change its appearance when the Incorruptus gauge in battle is filled enough for it to be summoned. Certain weapons will allow different attacks to be accessed when it is summoned in battle. Unfortunately, you need to put in quite a bit of effort to actually earn your avatar’s knight. You not only have to reach a certain point in the game, you also have to level up your avatar to level 55 and complete the Knight Moves guild quest.
Aside from finally getting your very own knight, WKC II also features a slightly enhanced battle system. Combat was rather slow in the original WKC, since you had to wait for each command to trigger and take effect after selecting it. You still have to wait in WKC II, just not as long. The basic controls are still the same, where you assign skills to a grid that appears on the bottom of the screen in battle, use the D-pad to select your action and press X to perform it. Now characters’ actions take effect more quickly. Physical attacks immediately trigger, for example. The only time it doesn’t seem speedy is if you rely on magic spells, as I found some still feel like they take more time than expected to cast. The best new addition is the turn break, which allows you to occasionally halt an enemy’s attack while they’re preparing it. Sadly, it didn’t seem to come up as often as an option for my mage/healer avatar.
Unfortunately, the AI for other party members in the single player mode of WKC II is still occasionally inept as it was in WKC. It’s usually adequate when it comes to battles you want to participate in, with healers like Yulie sticking to that role and warriors like Leonard getting right in monsters’ faces. Sometimes they’ll randomly do their own thing, but for the most part I could depend on them. This is essential since WKC II is noticeably more difficult than WKC. It’s when you don’t want to fight that things go terribly wrong.
When roaming a forest or dungeon area, there are often large packs of monsters of all sizes. Sometimes, you just get sick of having to fight them all. I mean, enough is enough, just let me run from point A to point B undisturbed so I can complete this fetch quest. It doesn’t happen, and the party is typically assaulted the second they’re near enemies. Running away from opponents isn’t an option, as your party members may decide to engage them even if you direct them to fall back. The next thing you know, you’re in a clearing surrounded by monsters while your party’s all dying around a single gigantic enemy you were trying to avoid. It’s frustrating, and tedious since it means you have to fight every single enemy to avoid situations like that.
Of course, this only highlights how much better it is to play online. Once you find a Logic Stone (save point), of which there are a decent number scattered throughout each areas, you can access the GeoNet. There, you can go online to find others players’ Hometowns. Visiting them lets you shop from their stalls, usually filled with a nice assortment of weapons or items and, most importantly, band together with other players to take on assorted quests. Once you find a party, you’re able to communicate with voice chat, regular text or preset phrases and set out to accomplish a certain goal together. It’s a fun, MMO-style experience that encourages further outings with rather nice rewards and a party experience that doesn’t leave you relying on an occasionally incompetent AI.
The GeoRama feature also returns, allowing you to create your own Hometown, filled with citizens recruited throughout the single player mode and different decorative accents, like minerals to mine, shops, homes, trees, statues, plants and other items acquired through in-game cash and certain items or PlayStation Store purchases. It’s a fun way to customize your game experience and show off to other random players who might decide to stop by while playing WKC or WKC II.
There is something to be aware of though, when first connecting WKC II to the otherwise glorious GeoNet. With the original WKC, you could just immediately start using GeoNet. In WKC II, you need to enter a code to go online. I entered my code, went through the registration process and went to submit everything. That’s when an error popped up, saying the registration didn’t go through and I should try again in a short while.
So I played for a half hour until I found another save point. I tried to log into the GeoNet again. It once again asked for a license code, even though I had entered mine earlier. It then said my code was invalid and wouldn’t work. Since a new code would be $10, I figured it’d be best to contact D3′s support and Google the issue. I never heard back from D3, but Google came to the rescue. I learned my predicament was quite common. The solution most users came to was to turn off the game and system completely. I tried it, it worked and the next thing I knew I was back in my old Hometown from when I toyed with the original WKC a year ago. It’s just a shame that this inconvenience happens enough that it’s commonplace among WKC II users.
White Knight Chronicles II as a whole feels more like White Knight Chronicles 1.5 than an sequel. The White Knight Chronicles series have always been for PlayStation 3 players who want the experience of an MMORPG, without the constant fees and other less desirable side effects. If you are grabbing it with the intent to focus on the online multiplayer, enjoying missions and battling experiences with other players, then you’ll be as happy with White Knight Chronicles II as you were with the original. If you’re looking for a solid, single player RPG with a memorable story, then this shouldn’t be your first choice.
Food for Thought