As with any popular genre, the cry will occasionally rise: is the JRPG dead? In the presence of White Knight Chronicles II, it’s easy to see why. This is the kind of game that feels stillborn.
The opening is witless: after several long cutscenes that explain nothing, you’re plonked into what looks like a standard character creation menu. But hold, varlet! To access certain hairstyles and accoutrements for your character, you must spend money – real money, that is, not in-game gold. This is your first interaction in a full-price console RPG.
And it’s far from the last microtransaction you’ll come across. This is because WKC2 overhauls the ?first game’s limited multiplayer in favour of an on-the-go quest system, distinct from the singleplayer campaign, for up to six participants, styling itself as something of an ongoing commitment for players. ?Thus WKC2 is two games in one: a singleplayer RPG and a gigantic, quest-based multiplayer offering running in parallel. Given Level-5’s previous success combining single- and multiplayer modes in Dragon Quest IX, not to mention the original’s flawed but promising online offering, you’d be forgiven for expecting a better result.
The problem is that the experiences run in parallel rather than intertwining – neither is meaningful for the other. Your character is consistent, keeping XP and loot across sessions, but other than that and the half-hearted ‘Georama’ feature, which lets you create a home to show off, these games might as well exist separately.
Worse, WKC2 has the kind of combat system ?that feels absolutely compromised by the need to accommodate online play. It’s the same active time-based system familiar from the original game, though thankfully it now moves around twice as fast as WKC’s deathly slow pace. Its MMOG-type roles are still built around weapon classes, but the distinctions here are much clearer and the game leans towards making you dual-specialise characters, lending a little dynamism.
Though you can issue party commands, micromanaging your party is a nightmare, requiring multiple menu trips to transfer control for every switch. Being able to set general parameters is the consolation, and works well enough but feels like a blunt tool. Whatever else Final Fantasy XIII got wrong, it managed a battle system on similar principles which absolutely demolishes Level-5’s effort. Where FFXIII’s combat ?was fluid, intense and subtle, WKC2’s is plodding, repetitive and clunky. There’s just no punch here.