Before we get neck-deep into this game, let me just warn you that White Knight Chronicles 2 (WKC2 from now on) will take up a huge amount of your time. This game is essentially an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game for the uninitiated) with a single player story sprinkled on top. Unfortunately, completing that single player story is required in order to fully enjoy the MMO experience. WKC2 comes with the original WKC so you can start at the very beginning of the story (with a level 1 party) or you can start WKC2 (with a level 35 party).
The story has a loosely fantasy-medieval setting, which is basically how the Japanese developers (Level 5) imagine medieval times to be with cat-eared and rabbit-eared people among the orcish ones and humans. The main character of the story is Leonard, who works for the local winery and one day becomes the chosen user of the huge mechanical knight called an Incorruptus that is kept hidden underneath the local castle. If that premise is not clichéd enough for you, there are also evil villains who want to steal the knight from him in their plot to rule the world. Of course, Leonard will have help from a slew of characters with their own unique (and mostly one dimensional) personalities. The characters will probably be remembered more for their mannerisms (like Eldore’s obsession with setting up camp in every new area you visit) than anything else. The story certainly will not win any awards for originality, but it does have moments in the plot where you might catch yourself saying, “What a twist?!”
The most important character, and the one you will be spending most of your MMO experience with, is your avatar. No matter which game your start with story wise, the first thing it has you do is create an avatar. The character creation is rather robust, with several dozen options for every aspect of your character’s face and body. The character from your favorite Anime or JRPG could easily be made using this character creator. As far as the story goes, the avatar is just along for the ride as Leonard’s silent sidekick. The avatar does not speak during any of the story, which is not a surprise if you have played any of Level 5’s other games like the Dragon Quest series. As far as gameplay goes, your avatar and the other characters are able to specialize in any of the eight skill trees available, which include: shortsword, lance, axe, staff, bow, longsword, elemental magic (black mage), and divine magic (white mage). Upon a level up, everyone gets skill points to use in the tree of his or her choice, and you can mix up trees if you so choose.
In order to use those newly acquired skills in battle, they will need to be equipped into command slots. The game gives you thirty slots for equipping skills, and you will fill them all up once you reach higher levels. But the game does allow for multiple sets of command slots to be created and you can switch between them during battle. The battles have an ATB gauge (Active Time Battle for those who have never played a Final Fantasy before) that fills up when you are able to select another skill to use, but you can freely move around the area while it is filling up. The player controls only one member of the party at a time but can freely switch between if necessary, which sometimes you have to because the AI (Artificial Intelligence) is dumb as a brick most of the time. For example, the AI does not understand elemental weaknesses, so you will see often the mage firing ice spells on an ice giant. It is very beneficial to control the mages to use the right elemental spells because they are usually quite powerful and can turn the tide in battle. Also, taking control of a range attack user lets you target different parts of the enemy’s body. The leg can be targeted to bring the giant monster to his knees and prevent him from moving for a bit, or you can target his head to get an extra material to drop. Getting extra material drops will be necessary if you hope to make better equipment for your party, or more than likely, just your avatar because he/she is the only one you can do online quests with.
The online community is where this game really shines. Even after completing the main story, you will be spending countless hours doing online quests in order to get rare materials for that awesome new armor set that you want to craft. There is a Guild Rank system that determines what quests are available and at the max character level it also determines what equipment you can wear. The bad thing about this system is that once you get the GR to the next level, the GR points reset and the points you need increases exponentially if your GR is high. For example, I’m currently GR level 23, which I got to by accruing about three million GR points starting from level 22. My points reset to zero and now I need four million points to get to GR level 24. This equates to having to complete the same quests, which give out the most points, repeatedly in order to level up the GR. The online community for the game is mostly great, meaning that you will be able to find people to help you complete these quests. This is especially so if you join one of the many guilds available.
The online component also includes the option of uploading the town you created in the single player campaign. The options for your town are limited in comparison to the character creation, but more can be purchased (with real-life money). Townspeople you meet in the story can be recruited to your town, improving its stats and allowing your town to produce rare materials. There are so many useful towns already created by others online so you can completely ignore this feature if you were never into those Simcity games.
Overall the game is great for fans of MMORPGs. The single player campaign is still good enough that you can just play it for that if you want, but the online component is where countless hours of your life will be spent. Like most games these days, it actually keeps track of how long you have playing. I wish that it did not because it is the most I have ever played one particular game before. Even though I do not care to be reminded how much of my life has vanished because of this game, I do not regret it at all. I do regret the GR system because it is very ridiculous in the amount of points you need between levels and because of this, it could be a factor that discourages some gamers from playing. It is enough to lower my rating to four stars instead of five, but this game is still excellent gameplay wise (and partially for the story) so it should not be missed.