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Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom Review

William Schwartz on

One of the most beloved role playing games of the last-generation, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch captivated fans with an all-out assault on the presentation front.  A partnership with renown Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli, left an unmistakable stamp on the game and the gameplay elements were equally appealing to JRPG fans.  Wrath of the White Witch was undoubtedly an ambitious game, though one that laid a solid framework for what was ultimately to come.  Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom takes that solid foundation and builds upon it, offering revamped combat, a new kingdom building system, and deeper story while retaining that incredible presentation from the prior game.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is a sequel to Wrath of the White Witch, set in the same universe at a different time.  Players are thrust into the world of Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, the young king of Ding Dong Dell who is being ousted from his throne in a coup d état.  In the midst of the coup, Evan meets a visitor from another dimension that helps him escape his home and the two set out on an adventure that puts the young king on a path to build a new kingdom and unite the world in peace.  There’s a ton we could say about the narrative, and the twists and turns of this 40+ hour adventure, but for those readying to dive into this game it’s truly not worth spoiling.   Evan’s journey will take him to every corner of this diverse world — meeting, helping, and ultimately recruiting new characters to his cause.

Ni No Kuni 2 Video Review

On this quest he’ll be fighting plenty of monsters and the battle system of Ni No Kuni 2 has been completely revamped.  Gone are the Familiars from the prior game, and in their place are a new companion called Higgledies.  Combat plays out in real time, whether instigated through overworld exploration or when in the game’s many dungeon areas.  Overworld exploration feels familiar to the first game.  Players control Chibi style avatars that can explore the overworld which is populated with monsters of varying strengths, treasures, dungeons, and other kingdoms.

There’s plenty of depth to the combat of Ni No Kuni 2 as players control multiple abilities for each of their three characters in battle. This includes melee attacks, projectile weapons, magic attacks, rolling and blocking.  Parties consist of three characters, any of which can be switched into or out of while in battle.  Alongside the party members are creatures called Higgledies.  These characters support the party with different types of offensive, defensive, and healing properties.  During the combat, players must activate Higgledie abilities as they become available by moving to their location and pressing a button to activate them.  As the game progresses, combat in Ni No Kuni 2 plays out like an action-RPG where players must utilize dodging and blocking to avoid enemy attacks, while looking for their own opportunities and windows to strike.

While the combat has changed to be something more ARPG-oriented there’s still plenty of strategy here, but the number of unique enemy types in the game leaves something to be desired.  Level-5 relies a little too heavily on enemy variants, rather than creating brand new ones over the course of the game.  The enemies that are found in Ni No Kuni 2 do have numerous strengths and weaknesses though.  Which means that using the right weapons, magic spells, and Higgledies is still very important and helpful in winning any specific battle.  Players can change between different weapons and equipment that make them more suitable for fighting specific enemies, but can also change party abilities as a whole by using the “Tactics Tweaker” within the menu of the game that allows you to adjust different aspects of your party, from offensive and defensive properties against certain types of enemies, to the propensity for certain types of items to be dropped after a battle.

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While Ni No Kuni 2 starts as a game that simply sees Evan fighting to stay alive, it evolves into something  much more than your standard linear RPG.  The story sees the young king building a new Kingdom called Evermore, and the player plays a large role in this process through the Kingdom building tools that have been incorporated into the game.  Evermore is Evan’s base of operations to unite the world, it also serves as a central hub where players can expand on their in-game abilities by learning new magic spells, forging new equipment, harvesting materials, and concocting new recipes.

While this could’ve been a half-step feature from Level-5, it’s really not.  The kingdom building aspect of Ni No Kuni 2 plays a central role in the progression of both characters and the story of the game.  In fact, if players aren’t tending to this aspect of the game in lockstep with progressing the story there will be hurdles found on their way to unifying the world.  There are some odd inclusions to this aspect of Ni No Kuni 2.  The kingdom of Evermore feels somewhat like a builder game that you would find in a free-to-play game.  It functions on a series of timers which need to be managed carefully and tended to often.  Players need to manage things like income, the kingdom’s ability to hold money and resources, as well as using this money to expand on the kingdom and gain influence.  Boosting the kingdom’s influence allows players to recruit more citizens to the land, and having more citizens allows Evan to build a bigger kingdom.

If anything, I think that Level-5 could’ve done a better job of explaining just how important it is for players to tend to this aspect of the game.  They do use a gating system that prohibits you from moving forward in the story if you’ve not spent enough time building your kingdom.  It can lead to players needing to do hours of side questing and kingdom building at the end of the game if they haven’t been doing it throughout the course of the story.

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Everything that Evan and his party do in the game funnels back into expanding his kingdom.  The majority of this progress will be made via the real time combat aspects of the game.  These instances usually culminate in a battle with a massive boss, or kingmaker trial.  While these are some of the game’s toughest challenges there’s plenty more to uncover off of the main path.  Brutally difficult “tainted” enemies are strewn across the massive world.  A series of challenge dungeons can also be tackled by the truly adventurous.

In these “Dreamer’s Mazes” players must race against the clock to get to the end of a multi-level dungeon.  The caveat that separates these mazes from other dungeons is that the difficulty of the maze increases with each step that the player takes.  Players must collect orbs in the maze, which can be offered to shrines which decrease the difficulty level in the dungeon.  In these dungeons players will have to choose between using orbs to open special chests which contain unique weapons, armor, or items or lowering the difficulty of the dungeon.  At the end of the dungeon players are awarded a dream fragment.  After completing nine of these mazes, players will be rewarded with a high level citizen for their kingdom and an Advanced Dreamer’s Door Key which opens new mazes.  For those that are enjoying the combat aspects of Ni No Kuni 2’s dungeons, these certainly play to those strengths, while offering a unique way to earn powerful items.

Revenant Kingdom also features a real time strategy component to the game as well.  Here Evan controls an army of soldiers on the battlefield.  It uses the same visual style as the overworld exploration.  These RTS battles will be encountered numerous times across the course of the campaign.  With some popping up in main path story missions, side missions, and optional content that the player can seek out on their own.  The systems in place here don’t rival games dedicated to real time strategy, Level-5 takes a rather simplistic approach to this mechanic.  Players control an orbiting group of soldiers and must place them in the most advantageous position for a fight in real time.  Each fighting unit has a unique ability and players must pit the right forces against the enemy to prevail.  Of all the different aspects that have been added to Ni No Kuni 2 from the prior game this one is the most odd.  While it does have its place in the story, it only pops up occasionally in the main path of the game leaving it feel like something that was haphazardly included.

Revenant Kingdom does give players a lot of freedom though.  From the dungeons, mazes, and real time strategy elements of the game to the Kingdom building and main path story missions, there’s a lot of different content to explore.  For the most part, Level-5 allows players to experience all of this content in the way that they want.  Ni No Kuni 2 let’s you go where you want and do what you want.  Whether that’s exploring the overworld to seek out these different gameplay aspects or trudging down the main path of the story, you’re free to play the game as you choose… to a point.  As we noted above, the Kingdom Building aspects really are an important part to the game in terms of leveling your characters and progressing the story.

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If you haven’t noticed yet, all of these different gameplay ideas come together under the umbrella of a breathtaking presentation on the visual and audio front.  While Studio Ghibli isn’t working directly with Level-5 for this follow-up, their influences are surely seen throughout.  With the return of leaders from Wrath of the White Witch for character design and audio, Revenant Kingdom feels like the generational leap that it should be in terms of audio and visual stylings.  The PlayStation 4 version that we tested felt rock-steady at 60FPS, which made the combat feel incredibly smooth and fluid.  We really can’t say enough about the incredible visual presentation here.  Each different kingdom in the realm has its own unique style and characters, urging you to continue exploring for hours on end.  If there’s one bad thing we can say about the presentation as a whole is that the voiced audio doesn’t quite live up to the stunning visuals.

A sort of disjointed presentation aspect of the game.  Ni No Kuni 2 does not feature a fully voiced narrative.  It toggles back and forth, with some cutscenes and conversation sequences warranting a full voice-over, while others not.  While this massive game does have a ton of written dialogue, it would’ve been nice to see Level-5 hit more of the high points in the story with fully-voiced content.  As it stands, it leaves a lot up to the player’s imagination.  That said, it’s the one glaring, yet forgivable weak spot in another brilliant RPG from Level-5.

The Verdict

A great cast of characters and a wonderful story, it’s tough not to fall in love with Ni No Kuni 2.  If you’re looking for a world to get lost in this is a game that will provide you with many hours of enjoyment, amazing you at every turn with a barrage of beautiful imagery, incredible music, and gameplay to match.

"loved"
loved

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

  • Available On: PlayStation 4, PC
  • Published By: Bandai Namco
  • Developed By: Level-5
  • Genre: RPG
  • US Release Date: March 23rd, 2018
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
  • Quote: "A great cast of characters and a wonderful story, it's tough not to fall in love with Ni No Kuni 2.  If you're looking for a world to get lost in this is a game that will provide you with many hours of enjoyment, amazing you at every turn with a barrage of beautiful imagery, incredible music, and gameplay to match."
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