When the original White Knight Chronicles finally came out in North America back in February 2010, I was pretty excited and remained that way through the course of the game. The game wasn’t great, but it was decent and I didn’t think people gave it enough credit, especially at a time when JRPGs were just starting to blossom again on the PlayStation 3.
Now here we are, 20 months later, and the sequel is out, fully localized for us by D3 Publisher (as opposed to Sony Computer Entertainment of America, which localized the first title). There are some subtle improvements, but is it really enough to take the game to the next level and get people to really see the potential I saw two years ago when the first title was released? I guess you’ll have to read on to find out.
White Knight Chronicles II takes place about a year after the end of the original game. This sounds pretty standard, right? It’s all well and good until you realize how awkward the game makes it to get up to speed. However, you do have options. First off, through the magic of BluRay, the entirety of the first game is on the disc. So, if you haven’t played White Knight Chronicles, you can do so. This is, frankly, the best option. The original game has been re-mastered with slightly higher resolution textures, a battle system revamp to match the second game and the like. Your second option is to import your original WKC save file and gain your party’s levels and gold. This is a good option if you’ve played the original game recently. Your party remains the same at the beginning of the second game as it was at the end of the first one.
The last option – which is the one I was forced to partake in for various reasons (lost WKC clear file, not enough time to play through both games, etc.) – is to basically “start from scratch” with a level 35 party. You know what that means? You have 35 levels of skill points to use. No, that’s not a good thing.
Okay, allow me to be blunt here. Starting the second game without having a clear file from the first is quite annoying. Some people may like fiddling around with skill points and character progression – and I’m one of them. However, to dump all that on a player right from the beginning without explaining the slightest bit of how everything works (you know, the tutorials in the first game) is just downright cruel. I’m confused as to how the developers expect to bring new players into the fold with this huge brick wall in front of them.
That, my friends, is only the beginning.
I quite enjoyed the story of the first game, and it makes sense to make these two titles flow together – from a story and character perspective. The game does do a great job of getting you up to speed with the basics from the first title in a movie sequence near the beginning of WKCII. It would still, however, be beneficial if you had played the first game in the past, otherwise you know nothing about these characters and at the beginning of WKCII you’re immediately thrust into the game with no connection whatsoever to the original cast.
Initially, you’re introduced to a couple new characters, and because that’s their introduction, I felt more drawn to them than I did any of the characters from the original cast. Note here that I played the first game, but it was two years ago, and that connection has been lost. Unfortunately, building some back story is a necessity in these types of games, regardless if it’s a sequel or not. There was some throughout the course of the game, don’t get me wrong, but I felt dragged around and unsure exactly how to relate to most of these characters the entire game – and that’s a big issue for me, being the heavy story and character person that I am.
What this all comes down to is that I wish they had started WKCII as a brand new game, instead of seemingly forcing it to continue right from the previous title. You even start WKCII in Act 7, instead of Act 1. No, Act 1 was in the first game. I don’t mean the story can’t pick up at that point or contain the same characters, by any means. What I mean is that it feels like the two games should be linked into one title (which they sort of do on this disc), but it isn’t treated as one, and it’s confusing and a bit off-putting to jump into the second game with it feeling like you’re in the middle of something epic instead of at the beginning of it.
But, moving on, there have been some improvements overall, especially in the battle system. Things flow a bit more smoothly this time around, although they still have that unpleasant “chaotic” feel that sometimes showed up in the first title. I think some of this comes from the sharp difficulty curve at the beginning of WKCII, because things do smooth out later on. At points during the first several hours I was wondering if Level 5 had consorted with Dark Souls developer From Software to test the patience of gamers. The first game had a much better difficulty curve. That curve in WKCII is so horribly out of shape that I actually wouldn’t be surprised if many people are turned off by it.