The feeling of falling into a great RPG is one of the most remarkable sensations that our beloved medium can provide. Recent time-sponges include Final Fantasy XIII, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2: All absorbing adventures that had people booking weeks off work on launch day. White Knight Chronicles 2 is a game that could so very nearly be included in that list but has too many fundamental problems to be considered anything more than competent.
There are many things in the game that are done brilliantly. Everything you encounter in the game has been intricately designed. Characters, environments and enemies are all breathtaking to behold. Races of creatures are full of little quirks that make them look slightly other than human but not too alien that they are noticeable; they waver at the level of the uncanny valley where they aren't attempting to be realistic or cartoonish, maintaining an aesthetic style that walks the fine line between fantasy and whimsy.
The music is an absolute joy to listen to, played by a full orchestra which really captures the atmosphere of the grandiose plot that is full of political motives and epic quests. The characters themselves are a little flat but that is quite often the case in an RPG that is anything less than superb (who genuinely thinks the characterisation in FFXIII was good?) but the voice acting is marvellously performed by a cast who are clearly enjoying the ride.
The terrains are vast non-linear maps full of environmental variety, giant creatures and trees that tower over you. Secrets are actually pretty difficult to find as they don't appear on your mini-map so searching for them should be riveting. But it isn't. Items that you find and go out of your way to sniff out are generally useless and only tend to clog up your inventory. And unfortunately, this is only the beginning of the problems of White Knight Chronicles 2.
One of the biggest problems that the game is dimly oblivious to is the fact that it will clearly scare off players who aren't used to RPGs. You are immediately greeted with a customary (if unnecessarily in depth) character creation tool. After spending approximately 20 minutes creating a perfect recreation of yourself (or Rambo or Michael Jackson or whomever you place in your RPGs), you are casually informed that this character will be a bog standard grunt in your party as opposed to the central character of the narrative. Following this bombshell, you are greeted with pages upon pages of menus where even the most seasoned player will get lost. What makes this maze of customisation all the more labyrinthine is that there are hardly any tutorials and when they are present, the tutorials are out of context, only taking up one quick flashcard prior to a battle when you are struggling to suss out what everything does.
Once you do figure out how to battle efficiently, you are greeted with some interesting gameplay elements. The White Knight of the title is a giant suit of armour that your main protagonist will control upon collecting enough points which are awarded from battles. Upon transforming into the White Knight, you can vanquish the oversized enemies which are sporadically distributed amongst the regular enemies and of course, the White Knight comes in extremely handy in boss battles which are generally as large as you are in your magic suit.
Battles are fought in a very similar way to the MMO influenced Monster Hunter games and Final Fantasy XII with you running around your enemies until your attack bar indicates that you can attack again. Annoyingly you will then need to get within range of your target even though they can hit you regardless of their distance from you. This may bug those who aren't used to fantasy RPGs however this game has already shown that it is pretty unforgiving. The difficulty curve is quite akin to driving into quicksand and many will lose patience at particularly frustrating battles as going into a big fight with even a slightly incomplete set up can result in disaster; plus save points are infrequent at crucial points of the game which can result in a lot of lost gameplay.
White Knight Chronicles 2 could have been a cracking game but the flaws present are really hard to ignore and it is such a shame because it isn't hard to see how much love has gone into its development. People have worked really hard on this game; it is by no means a quick cash in (the fact that it includes the original game in its entirety as an extra is evidence of this) it is tragic to see all of this hard work spoiled by such easily avoidable mistakes.
6.5 out of 10