White Knight Chronicles II PS3 Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Level 5 – Genre – Action RPG – Players – 1-6 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Level 5 is the developer behind such greats as Dark Chronicle and Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King, they’re a company that had a somewhat consistent track record, well that is until White Knight Chronicles came along and spoilt everything.

Whilst far from being a bad game, for Level 5 standards White Knight Chronicles was underwhelming. Much like Square Enix did with Final Fantasy XII, Level 5 looked to MMO’s for inspiration, though at the same time also implemented an online component for the game, which could have easily offered the best of both worlds, but ultimately didn’t.

If you missed the first game, you needn’t track it down, as it sits snugly alongside the sequel on one Blu-ray disc. Data from the original game can also be transported to White Knight Chronicles II, allowing you to take all equipment and skills obtained into the game, which really gives you the sense that you’re continuing the journey from exactly where you left off.

Your online avatar will once again play a part in the single player side of things and what's more on the cut scenes, he/she will stand in the background looking amusingly stupid.

White Knight Chronicles II picks up a year after the events that transpired in the original game. The ancient Yshrenia Empire has been rebuilt and, like any evil empire worth its salt, is seeking nothing less than world domination. The same cast of characters return, and all of them are still a bit too bland and clichéd to really get behind, whilst once again the story doesn’t really take off until the latter stages.

Something you could never have criticized White Knight Chronicles for was lack of exploration and the same can be said for its sequel. Areas are largely once again sprawling, offering you a real sense of a vast journey, with plenty of scope for exploring, though at the same time they can also be confusing too. This is alleviated somewhat by referring to your map, though areas are so sizable that it can nonetheless be tricky remembering where you’ve been.

What’s even worse is that locations from the original game are liberally reused throughout, taking away from the enjoyment of exploring new areas and just making things needlessly predictable, boring and not to forget utterly lazy. Primary heroine Yulie’s constant and irritating moaning of “haven’t we been this way before?” back from the first game begins to take on a whole new meaning here. Thankfully new areas begin to show up much later on in the game, though a lot of people that grinded through the first entry in the series will likely give up long before they reach this point.

Inhabiting much of the space of each area are enemies, which once again turns the game into a bit of an MMO like grind. The combat system is merely adequate and for the volume of fighting that the game throws your way, it doesn’t always feel as if it’s interesting enough.

There’s still a command circle of which you must wait to fill before you’re able to unleash your attack, and the combat system’s overall simplicity and accompanying text based commentary once again brings to mind an MMO.

Custom combos can once again be constructed and this time around there is more possibilities. Combos expend action chips (gained through attacking and being attacked) and employing them will see you having to time your button presses to land them, which makes things a bit more interesting than just sitting there and waiting for a circle to fill all the time.

The visuals are fairly impressive, though lacking in the personality of Level 5's earlier output.

Action Chips are also used to call on the power of the eponymous White Knight, an ancient weapon also known as an Incorruptous. The Knights are powerful towering suits of armour, which are best saved for the tougher enemies, in this instance that usually means the bigger baddies that presumably ate lots of vegetables when they were growing up.

Beyond mixing things up a little, there’s almost hardly any need for strategic play and for some it will just be so mind numbingly easy, that they’ll give up long before the end, though on the other hand the constant lure of level increases, skill points to spend and loot to be found will be more than enough to keep some interested for the whole duration.

Levelling up will earn you skill points, of which can be spent on new abilities. There are loads of abilities on offer and, in turn, plenty of scope for personalizing your party, allowing you to choose the weapon classes they specialize in and the role that they play in combat.

The online option, allows for a team of up to six players to work together and any EXP won online also benefits the single player portion of the game, which is a welcome touch, allowing you to jump between both aspects of the game. Quests are fairly generic, though for many that won’t matter as it’s the level building, loot collecting and social aspect that are of the most importance.

The town building Georama feature that Level 5 first introduced in Dark Cloud has returned. It’s a powerful tool, allowing you to choose where to place buildings and such. You’re also able to show your town off, by uploading it.

White Knight Chronicles II is highly reminiscent of the original game, both in its mechanics and much of its locations. This leaves it feeling as nothing more than a lazy rehash and certainly in no way deserving of the II in its title, nor is it worthy of the Level 5 name. It’s nonetheless worth a play for its new features and by those that are eager to see the conclusion to the narrative, but it will take a rare person to be able to forgive its considerable flaws.