Nearly two years ago, the original White Knight Chronicles (WKC) blended offline and online RPG play by giving you an avatar that could be used for both - he’d play a part in the offline storyline, and also be used for online combat. Unfortunately, the combat system was quite cumbersome because it tried to blend MMORPG-style controls with a console action RPG’s, and the results weren’t pretty. They were highly-flawed, but somewhat forgivable since it was a first attempt. Sadly, most of the issues haven’t been resolved from the first game, and some are worse.
The original’s “save the damsel in distress” storyline wasn’t new, and its characters weren’t particularly deep or interesting - especially your avatar, who amounted to little more than an extra while the more important characters did stuff. That trend continues here, but without the damsel in distress thing going on. The same deep character creation tool is used here, and beyond just a standard form, WKC II now allows you to customize a super-powerful knight form for your avatar. WKC II is set a year after the first game’s events. You’re out to prevent Grazel, the first game’s primary antagonist, from using his newly formed army with an unbelievably long name, to take over a land with a long, but slightly shorter name. The plot isn’t particularly interesting, especially given that hours pass between major plot points due to all the battling you’ll be doing.
The battle system is nearly identical to the original’s blend of real-time action RPG and MMORPG text entry, but the battles are slightly faster-paced. At the time, I found WKC’s battle system to be heavily flawed, but still a novel change from either the usual JRPG or action RPG setups. Now, though, I really can’t stand the battle system. Even sped up, battles seem to move at a glacial pace, which is only worsened since you aren’t given any HP totals for enemies - you just slash at them until they (hopefully) die. Plus, the major issues I had with the original’s battle system, namely attacks landing when they clearly shouldn’t have and the clunky control setup haven’t been fixed. It’s still far too easy to open up the chat menu mid-battle in offline play when you have no desire to do it and then take damage, and switching targets is a bit of a pain as well since you have to hold L1 to do it, and given the real-time nature of things, you’ll take some needless damage due to this, and far more due to bringing up the chat window when you don’t want to.
Now, the battle system is hard enough to re-learn if you’ve played the original before, but are a bit rusty. But if you’re a complete newcomer, you really need to play at least a decent amount through the first game (which is thankfully included here) because that’s the only one that eases you into the battle system. It’s still tough to learn, but doable. The second game just throws you in there, and aside from some in-game menus explaining the controls and some of the gameplay mechanics, there’s no documentation to help you. The manual included with the game just gives you a bare-bones control description across its mere seven pages and seems incomplete. It’s a real shame too, because the original game eased you into things nicely, and this one is heartless by comparison. The dungeons are more frustrating than fun because you face a slew of the same enemies time after time, and while you can avoid some battles, you’ll still wind up in more than you’d like to. The sequel’s decreased emphasis on the story really brings out how much of a grindfest the game is.
WKC II is hurt by feeling too similar to the original in entirely too many ways - most of the towns and environments are the same, but have been given a slight visual upgrade, and the town and battle music is also largely the same as before, leading to a never-ending feel of deja vu. I would say it’s a good thing that the voice work is new, but given how passionless it is and how generic the characters are, it really isn’t “good“. The online Geonet is also structurally the same as before - make a town, do quests with people, lather, rinse, repeat. It’s one of those features I enjoyed back when I first played WKC, but now, nearly two years later, I expect something more, and WKC II winds up feeling like an expansion pack more than a full-fledged sequel.
Visually, WKC II is nearly identical to the original, just with some slight visual flourishes to the character models and environments. There are more shadow effects in play here, making the worlds seem a bit more realistic, and lip-syncing is more accurate. It’s not entirely accurate, but still better than the Speed Racer-esque stuff in the original. The environments are usually big and awe-inspiring, which really draws you into each area instantly. Unfortunately, the character models aren’t as impressive as the environments. They’re a little better looking than the original’s, but tend to look either really generic or incredibly over the top and their animation is merely serviceable.
I liked a lot of the original game’s music, and while it’s nice to listen to now, it’s a shame that more original music wasn’t crafted just for this game. An overwhelming majority of it is the same because the towns are identical, and while the new stuff is fine, it seems a bit ridiculous that a sequel would outright recycle so much music. The voice work is new, but like the first game, isn’t particularly good, with a lot of over-acting adding to it being completely impossible to care about the storyline given the sometimes ridiculous characters and the actual plot seeming so minor since it doesn’t progress very often.
WKC didn’t light my world on fire, but I liked it because at the time, it tried something new. It wasn’t perfect, and needed improvements in some major areas…and yet here we are years later with no major improvements, and the idea of it being an alternative game is lost because it’s no longer something new. It’s a sequel to something tried before. One would imagine it would be better, and it simply isn’t. I like that the first game is included, and is aided by the faster-paced battles and improved lip-syncing. However, The WKC II part of things is hurt by being way too similar to the first, but with a worse plot, and an unbelievably tough learning curve as well. The original game was flawed, but still fun because it tried something new and did so well enough, but not perfectly. The sequel improves little, tries next to nothing new, and the formulaic gameplay is more frustrating than fun because of how hard the game is. As a result, I can only recommend this for people who absolutely loved the first game, and I mean REALLY loved it. If you played that for dozens of hours gleefully, this is definitely the game for you. If you’re curious about trying out a hybrid JRPG/MMORPG, then try the first one out even though it’s included here since it’ll cost you a lot less and has a far easier learning curve for newcomers.