It’s not often that a game leaves me open mouthed in awe at its beauty — games like Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher III have elicited a smaller, less impressive inhale, but Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom absolutely took my breath away. The anime style of the game is simply phenomenal, and travelling through the casino-based world of Goldpaw was a brilliant experience.
The demo that I was privy to took place in chapter three of the game, dropping me right into the action and introducing the world of the game. Having little experience with the franchise, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the spectacularly sharp visuals and loveable characters immediately took me in.
Taking place in the town of Goldpaw and the forest of Niall, the demo gave a glimpse into the beautifully rendered world of Ni No Kuni II, and introduced our long-time travelling companions Batu, Roland, Tani and Lofty. Travelling between locations is an interesting experience, because the overworld of the game is so different to the anime-style of the main world locations. Instead, the overworld is rendered in a delightful chibi style, which reminded me a lot of World of Final Fantasy‘s lilikins. The two styles appear to clash somewhat, but it makes for wonderfully different visuals and a great variety of styles.
Representing a significant change from the original title, combat in Ni No Kuni II is in real time, with players able to control any party member and pull off stylish combinations of basic and special attacks. Combat is smooth and free flowing, and easy to master. Switching between characters gives you access to a range of different power moves, and utilising a combination of short and long-range weaponry allows for a well-balanced team battle.
Usually, battles take place randomly across the overworld and its many locations. These can be avoided with a frantic run in the opposite direction, but many enemies move too fast to be avoided. Entering a battle will place you in a locked arena, requiring you to defeat all enemies to move on – this can be occasionally frustrating, but enemies are varied enough to make every battle feel unique, fun and fast-paced.
In addition to random enemy battles, Ni No Kuni II also has a variety of boss battles, each with their own unique quirks. Fighting the kingmaker Longfang, who took the form of an ancient dragon, was a genuinely exciting, frantic experience, and one that required a great deal of strategy to overcome.
The story of chapter three is deeply engaging, even without any context or prior knowledge of Ni No Kuni‘s wonderful cast. It does a masterful job of drawing you into the story, revealing the depths of each character as the drama plays out. As our squad of friends enters the gorgeously rendered town of Goldpaw, they immediately realise that something is very wrong with the town. Each year, the town relies on the roll of a mystical dice to determine their taxes for the year. For the last two years, the dice has rolled a six – meaning that the town’s taxes increased sixfold. After rolling a third straight six, our heroes soon suspect that the dice is being rigged by Master Pugnacius, the Grand High Roller.
On a quest to save the town, and to return the forest of Niall to its rightful owner, our heroes ended up fighting through swathes of enemies, investigating the happenings of Goldpaw’s dice factory, and uncovering a devastating conspiracy.
After encountering a mysterious new enemy and thwarting his ambitions to destroy Goldpaw, our next chapter opened on protagonist King Evan sitting on a throne with ambitions to rebuild his lost kingdom. This kicks off a neat little feature where players are able to build up the town of Evermore, earning money and investing in research for better weapons, stronger abilities and more. The town building aspect played out rather like classic Age of Empires or Majesty, and was just as rewarding. It added an entirely new layer to the gameplay, and one that’s sure to have consequences for the wider story.
My time with Ni No Kuni II featured a hefty dose of gameplay, showing off the stunning visuals, neat combat and intriguing storytelling of the game. What I played made me incredibly excited for the full release, which is shaping up to be quite spectacular indeed.
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is releasing on 23rd March 2018. For more information about the game, please visit Bandai Namco’s Ni No Kuni II hub.
Thank you to the stellar folks at Bandai Namco Entertainment for inviting us along to their preview event.