"It shows quite a bit of promise, and seems poised to overcome the biggest problems of its predecessor."
Last year, Sony released the Level-5 RPG White Knight Chronicles in the US. WKC is a turn-based RPG, but with some MMO-esque elements. Players can engage and move around enemies in real time while waiting for a meter to fill up, then start an action. The player must also create an avatar, which is used for single player and an online mode. Single player is a basic story mode that puts the avatar in a supporting role. Online mode allows players to embark on quests with up to three others players, and complete an objective to get all sorts of nice awards. The game had number of good ideas going for it, but unfortunately the execution was rather lackluster. Nevertheless, the sequel, White Knight Chronicles II, was recently announced for US release by D3 Publishers. They had a demo available in E3, and we at RPGFan were able to get some hands on time with it.
WKCII takes place a year after the events after the first game where (spoiler alert!), Leonord and his team managed to keep Grazel and the Magi organization from taking over the knights. But in the intervening year, the Magi have regained much of their power, and created an empire that is ready to strike back. Leonord and his crew return with a new group of allies to take down the Magi once and for all. The only other information revealed about the plot is that the party must travel back in time in order to gain information on how to stop the Magi. WKCII promises a proper conclusion to the White Knight Chronicles story, tying up all the loose ends from both games. How will it all end? The players must find out for themselves.
The core gameplay remains the same as the original WKC, with a few little additions. Instead of installing new gameplay elements, greater emphasis was placed on fixing what was already established and improving the overall experience. Wait times between each attack are heavily reduced, making combat faster-paced. Previously, players had to spend a turn to defend, and had to wait for the option to become available. Now, defending can be done instantly, enabling players to switch between attack and defense on the fly with only two buttons. Areas are still very large, but a quick traveling system has been provided to remove excessive backtracking. And in the story mode, enemies are scaled to the avatar's level to provide a greater challenge - but the enemies have a level cap at a certain point for each area.
Emphasis is also placed on player positioning when engaged in combat. Attacks gets stronger and more accurate the closer the player is towards an enemy, and vice-versa, with the exception of a few attacks. Two new types of attacks are also added: dash and charge attacks. Dash attacks allow players to quickly close in on an enemy, and charge attacks initiate a quick button-tapping sequence to power up an attack before striking.
The biggest addition to the gameplay is that now the avatar has his or her own Ark Knight. This feature was initially exclusive to a few story characters, where they could use a special power to temporarily take form of a giant knight and o much greater damage. Now the avatar characters can do the same thing, now with full customization of their Ark Knight. Players can choose what types of skills their knight posesses, their equipment of choice, and even what color the Ark Knight is as well.
Of course, a few small additions have been added to the online portion. There are new weapons and armor for players and the party limit has increased from four to six. Quests remain the same, but bounty quests are now added. These quests require players to defeat a specified monster, and gain some unique rewards for their trouble.
Another notable improvement in WKCII lies with the visuals. The original game was passable in terms of graphics, but was nowhere near the current-generation standard, even at the time of its US release. WKCII has greatly improved upon that aspect with higher quality graphics, better animations, and a much smoother framerate. The visual style is still familiar, but the whole game feels quite different because of these tweaks. The player will have all-new areas to explore, and even the old areas will be expanded and improved upon.
Best of all, each copy of WKCII will also include a remastered version of the original White Knight Chronicles. This remastered version includes all the improvements made for the sequel, including the enhanced visuals and gameplay fixes. Players can also transfer their completed save data into the second game - but this doesn't have to be a file from the remastered version of WKC, players can use a file from the original version of the game. And for those who aren't interested in the first WKC game, a pre-made file is available for those who want to jump straight into WKCII.
With all of these new improvements and additions, as well as the inclusion of the original White Knight Chronicles, my initial impressions of White Knight Chronicles II are quite positive. It shows quite a bit of promise, and seems poised to overcome the biggest problems of its predecessor. According to the D3 representatives, expect this title to be released in the west during the summer.