White Knight Chronicles II Review (PS3)

The original White Knight Chronicles was an interesting but flawed Playstation 3 exclusive released early last year. It was Level-5’s attempt at bringing an online RPG to the console masses taking numerous cues from PC MMORPGs.

From a technical standpoint the graphics remain sharp although generic anime art doesn't really help the aesthetic
In many ways it was highly ambitious though this alone was not enough carry the experience. The single player side was largely responsible for the game’s lukewarm critical reception due to its generic anime story and laborious pacing. But there was definitely potential there for something much greater, something that could perhaps be realised in a sequel.

It’s a shame, then, that White Knight Chronicles II is more of an expansion pack than a true sequel, taking the same engine and game play, and just adding a bunch of new content. As such it doesn’t address any of the original’s problems, adding only a few incremental changes here and there.

The most prominent new aspect is the story which continues the plot from the last game. After successfully saving the Princess Cisna but letting the big bad get away, WKC II sees your band of heroes travelling around the world attempting to unite the different kingdoms against the evil Yshrenian Empire.

But despite this continuation of the White Knight Chronicles plot its business as usual for the single player side of things. The story never rises above the simple warring nations aspect and the bland protagonists remain completely forgettable.

To make matters worse the campaign often quite literally retreads old ground; expect to find yourself travelling through old locations from the first game, this time populated by familiar yet higher level monsters. It was already a chore to traverse the long, maze-like areas of the game but with this recycled content it feels even more like a slog.

Despite a few incremental tweaks this is the same White Knight Chronicles experience as before
Once again, the multiplayer side of the experience is the reason to be interested in White Knight Chronicles. The slow paced MMORPG-inspired combat makes a lot more sense when playing online with other people instead of the faintly incompetent A.I. companions. The allure of levelling up and finding better loot for your character in is strong here, as is the returning ability to create and maintain your own town called a Georama.

Ironically, this is also where the game feels especially like an expansion pack, building on the existing multiplayer content by raising guild and level caps, adding new loot, a handful of new areas and a host of new high level quests.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to delve much into said content because I didn’t play the first game, a factor that WKC II does a terrible job at accounting for. If you’re in the same boat as I was, the game starts you off at the level you probably would’ve been by the end of the first game. Besides that and a decent set of warrior equipment you basically have nothing else to your name. Most crucially your guild rank will be set to level one meaning that, despite being a relatively high level character, you’ll be stuck wadding through all the lowly beginner quests (which are holdovers from the last game, by the way) for a long while.

A worse problem facing series newcomers in White Knight Chronicles II, however, is that there is no tutorial of any kind for it. If you’re not familiar with this particular type of RPG and haven’t played the original you really get thrown in at the deep end with zero explanation of even the basics of game play. The story mode of the original White Knight Chronicles with tutorials intact does come on the disc but it just seems like lazy design to not include a decent introductory sequence in this second chapter.

Outside of the additional game content there have been a few tweaks here and there, especially in combat. Further consideration is now required when kitting out your characters since the different armour weights now define each person’s speed in battle (the length of the cooldown between actions, more specifically). When fighting the game’s bigger enemies, crosshairs will occasionally appear over one or more of their limbs. Hit these in time and you’ll knock your foe off-balance, stunning it and leaving it open for an all-out assault.

While these are pretty minor differences in the grand scheme of things they help add a little more depth to the experience. A more significant sounding change is the raising of the maximum party limit in online play from four to six players, though in practice this is only available on a certain number of the new quests.

There’s not much more I can say about WKC II without just echoing the criticism of the original. I would be easier to close out by saying “if you liked the original, you’ll like this one” but I’m finding it hard to imagine anyone coming away satisfied with it.
If you played the original you'll be highly familar with this giant troll and many other aspects of WKCII

Die-hard players will enjoy the new multiplayer content but will probably feel ripped off that it comes on a full-priced retail disc rather than a downloadable content pack for the first game. New players will either be completely lost or have to slog their way through the entirety of the first game to receive the optimal experience. As such, it’s hard to make a strong case of recommendation to anyone.

Top Game Moment: Transforming into your giant mecha knight in battle is great, though in long term the multiplayer is the game’s best aspect.