by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
A world in turmoil
The world of Ding Dong Dell has been turned upside down. The untimely death of the king and the subsequent military takeover by the king's former advisor, Mausinger, has left the young prince, and rightful ruler, Evan without a kingdom. With Mausinger in power, the various factions have become just that…separated factions, with the cat-like Grimalkin and the Mouse-like Mousekin races particularly at odds. Meanwhile, a mysterious explosion has occurred in the vicinity of the youthful president of the United States (no, not Donald Trump) and when he awakes, Roland finds himself in Evan's former kingdom and decides to help bring the rightful heir back to Ding Dong Dell and to reunite the factions of the world.
Although Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom begins as a simple RPG, as you progress through the game, different genres of game are incorporated into the overall game. Elements such as real-time strategy and puzzle solving areas are woven perfectly into the game, enabling a wonderful sense of variation and adding extra layers to the game. Throughout Evan and Roland’s travels, they will explore Ding Dong Dell and its outskirts and meet with its citizens. Each will have a story to tell or a quest to complete, furthering the need for our heroes and their compatriots to explore the land. Meeting with the people and helping them out is of great benefit to Evan, as the more people he helps out, the more flock to him. And, in essence, the game becomes a kingdom builder, even to the point where Evan must construct various buildings and assign citizens to produce resources and provide research within the buildings.
Although the main quest line is somewhat linear, there are enough interesting side quests to make exploring beneficial. Whilst exploring the lands around Ding Dong Dell, Evan will meet a wide array of strange characters and visit some lovely locations. Although some of the side quests are simple fetch quests, many are invaluable in gaining citizens to your cause. Those citizens who do join your cause and move to Evermore, can be recruited to the various buildings within the city and will enable production (or increased production) within those buildings. Along with resources that can be used to make and improve weapons, equipment and spells, your kingdom gains currency that can be used to expand your kingdom and gain bonuses in the real-time strategy combat portion of the game.
Fighting for peace
Of course, not everyone in the land is happy to see Evan. Indeed, Mausinger has sent out forces to capture or kill Evan and his party, and Evan and his compatriots will often need to fight their way out of situations. The RPG style action combat is rather simplified, although it can become quite customised later on, as your party increases in size. Later on, you’ll have the option of deciding which party members (and which of your higgledies – characters similar to Pikmin) to bring into the combat area. Payable characters can be equipped with weapons and armour that suit their abilities prior to entering battle. Once in battle, gamers will control one character, and be able to use the various skills and abilities of that character. Party members have the option to use both melee and ranged weapons of various strengths. Generally, skirmishes are over rather quickly, but larger enemies, those imbued with (insert purple cloud name) and boss battles provide for a much tougher challenge.
Much like the RPG combat sequences, the RTS combat is also somewhat basic, but works quite well. Units that you control, take on one of three variations - melee, ranged and pikemen. Battles play out in a rock, paper, scissors format with each unit type being advantaged over one of the other variations, but weaker against the other. It is a simple format, but works well. Winning skirmishes within the battle will often garner battle points which can then be spent to perform various special attacks. Using these special attacks at the right time can certainly decide the outcome of a battle. The battle points can also be used to replenish fallen soldiers, allowing you to call upon available reinforcements.
The sights and sounds
Ni No Kuni has a wonderfully charming visual style. Characters have a cel-shaded look, whilst the landscapes are more detailed, realistic looking. Each of the lands that Evan, Roland and their party visit, have a distinctive look. From the rocky outcrops inhabited by the Sky Pirates, to the green forest area known as the Forests of Niall, to the Chinatown city that is Goldpaw, to the watery Atlantis-like city of Hydropolis, each location has been lovingly created, with vibrant colours and a wealth of inhabitants that make them look like living, breathing towns.
To complement the visuals, the audio is generally a high quality. Background music is dramatic when it needs to be and lively at other times. The game has some voice-acting included in the dialogue, but the issue I have is that it isn’t all the time. At times the voice acting will be word-for-word matching the written dialogue, but then at other times, the speech is a gibberish speak that doesn’t match the dialogue. It’s at these times that the game feels a little incomplete.
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is a game that fits the saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. In themselves, each genre within the game is only somewhat basic version of the genre, but together they form a wonderfully complete game. Although each area of the game is quite basic, it is this simplicity that enables the story and gameplay to flow nicely from start to finish. And although the main quest line is fairly linear, the variation of the side quests and the pay-off for completing them, makes exploration worthwhile. With a delightful storyline and some charming visuals, Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is a complete package.
A range of game genres meld together perfectly
Voice-acting feels incomplete.