Minor Spoiler Warning: Below are screenshots that contain very minor spoilers regarding characters you recruit in the game, locations you will visit and, game systems/menus.
Author Note: The Imgur links below the images are because I have yet to figure out why WordPress doesn’t offer a native zoom function on images in posts. I’d probably be better served using the HTML formatting for these articles but that’ll have to come down the line. For now if you want an up close look at the images click the imgur.com link, it’s a safe image hosting service used by millions, I promise. It also works decently well on mobile. Apologies for the inconvenience, I’ll try to figure out a better way.
I’ve been doing my best to put some time into the newest offering from Level 5 Studios and if I’m honest it’s pretty hard to put down once I’ve started playing. As I said on Twitter the game gets off to a fast start where the first entry had a slightly more meandering beginning where you got a chance to familiarize yourself with the setting. Both approaches definitely have their advantages and the first I think definitely benefited as most people were excited to get an interactive Studio Ghibli world. Level 5 even without Studio Ghibli have maintained a similar level of animation quality and style which is very admirable, unfortunately the story itself is largely uninteresting and wouldn’t be out of place in a childrens Golden Book. Again I can’t really say that this is strictly a negative as most RPGs are built on the same painfully similar scaffolding, at the end of the day what sets them apart are their moving parts and window dressing. In those aspects Revenant Kingdom soars above many of its contemporaries with a fabulously whimsical art style, unapologetically cheesy setting complete with mouse-stache twirling villains. The genuinely fun aesthetics aside what I really wanted to talk about here are the surprisingly robust set of game systems you have to learn in just the first handful of hours.
Lets get started!
Early on you’ll be introduced to the basics like movement and camera control before being thrust directly into combat for the first time. The active combat in the game is fairly easy to get the hang of much like the first you have a restricted area you are allowed to move around in however instead of selecting an action you are free to hack away with your chosen weapon and unleash special moves via quick keys. Overall it’s a much more fluid and frantic battle system with little or no downtime that I’ve experienced thus far. More on that later.
One of the first comparisons I began to draw after a few hours in was to the nearly interminable tutorial that was Final Fantasy 13 which was famous for not taking the training wheels off until around hour 30. Revenant Kingdom hasn’t, at least not yet, even come close to that but six or more hours in I’m still being introduced to new menus and aspects of the game that I need to actively manage as I go. I won’t go so far as to say that any of them so far seem overall bad or poorly thought out but I do question how much they will evolve over the totality of the game without it being completely overwhelming. I’ll be the first to say that complexity isn’t a bad thing but that doesn’t mean burdensome systems won’t drag down an otherwise great experience.
Menus, Menus and More Menus
First here is a screenshot of the keybind list, almost this entire page is just keys to access the various menus for the game.
Am I crazy or does eleven seem like a lot? Looking back for some comparisons to even some of the more complicated RPGs like FF7 that party menu topped out at eight and you really only ever used three or four of them regularly. So what are all of these menus and do you actually use them all that often? Full disclosure there is a general menu you can access that looks like this so the hotkeys aren’t the only option otherwise playing this with a controller would be interesting to say the least.
One of the earliest screens you’re introduced to is the Equipment & Skills page which is where you can change out your characters weapons, armor and special combat skills.
You’ll be visiting this fairly regularly as new gear is always dropping in combat and with each character able to wield up to three of the weapons they are proficient in at a given time there is a lot of juggling that happens. They can only wield a single ranged weapon which simplifies that a little bit. This is pretty standard equipment juggling that comes with these types of games so if you’re familiar with the genre this will be second nature.
Another early menu will be the Library which is your codex of sorts which will keep track of monsters you’ve encountered, gameplay statistics, help files and a few other things.
I can’t say that so far this particular menu page has been one I’ve visited often or at all really but it’s mentioned several times in the games tutorial as a place to go if you need a refresher on how some system works. If there happens to be a day or two in between my play sessions I can see myself skimming the help files for a few reminders.
Your item page will be mixed in here as a place you’ll need to go to browse through the nine tabs of different types of pickups in the game.
Inventory management should be no surprise to any fan of RPGs but never before have I given vocal thanks to whatever designer decided to not impose any sort of inventory limit on players. Not that I’ve found yet, anyway. One of the things that surprised me early on is the sheer amount of chaff that you accumulate in your first several hours of the game. They do eventually serve a purpose but there is stuff littered literally everywhere that you feel compelled to pick up. You have no idea why you need this stuff and by the time it becomes relevant you will have pages and pages of unusable items that you’re hauling around. I was approaching hour six of my game when I started to get worried about what the crafting system would look like based on the sheer amount of hoarding I’d done thus far. Items that appear on the ground also reappear almost instantly if you move even a small distance away so if you’re the least bit neurotic about cleaning out an area as you go don’t expect to leave an empty map behind you. The other part about the tidal wave of debris you pick up after each fight is that none of it seems especially important or indigenous to a particular area. After my first six hours I couldn’t honestly tell you where I would go back to in order to find more of a particular item. For context after six hours I have 80 distinct crafting materials in my inventory and not really any idea where any of them came from. I can only imagine that list is going to continue to grow as I keep exploring or at least I hope it does as the world map seems fairly large and picking up just them items for the rest of the game would make all the detail put into this system seem more like pointless fluff. Ultimately I don’t think all of this will effect my enjoyment but I always hate to see hard work like this get wasted as filler.
Next up an old standby with the Quests page, a handy place to keep track of everything you have going on currently as well as what you’ve already completed.
For games like this your maps for navigation are important so you know where you haven’t been yet and naturally whatever fast travel options you have open to you.
This area map shows you your immediate location with some fog of war to indicate where you have yet to explore.
The world map shows you a very nicely designed map of the entire world with markers indicating “Trip Door” locations that serve as your fast travel options. Each pin on the map can be clicked on and you can see a selection of more specific locations in that area that you can travel to if you’ve unlocked them.
Unsurprisingly this game also includes a party window which we’re introduced to as soon as you encounter your first Higgledy which are… sort of hard to explain. Imagine this but slightly less creepy, more magically powerful and your allies in combat!
Each Higgledy has different stats, effects and personality which you have to balance against the other Higgledy’s you bring with you. I’ve only accumulated five of them so far so I haven’t had much chance to try out different combinations but at their base level they are cool to use in combat and offer some additional variety.
Sometime around here we’re also introduced to Leafbook which on top of everything else you have to keep up on is Revenant Kingdom’s take on a fantasy social media platform. You’ll find pictures added to Leafbook complete with comments from unknown and known people. I’m still not entirely sure what “liking” a picture on Leafbook does but it seems that some of the pictures posted there are hints to treasures and optional quests if you need a diversion from the main story.
The game will regularly let you know about new posts that are available to be looked at on Leafbook, if you didn’t already hate the unwanted messages you get from Facebook in real life just wait until you also get them in-game! It’s not actually that annoying to deal with but I can’t help but feel that maybe there was a slightly more clever way to do this that wasn’t, “Here’s a tablet! Use it to check your fantasy social media! Bye!”. At some point in the design phase for a game you have to make cuts for systems that aren’t important enough to dedicate the time to fully integrate. This probably should have been left in the idea pile for next time.
One of the original nuggets of information we were given about Revenant Kingdom prior to it’s release was that you would spend your time with a robust nation building system which had certainly piqued my curiosity. As a long time RTS fan any game that promises me the ability to play a pseudo-RTS inside of one of my other favorite genres I am on board. You may notice that we have yet to talk about that and it’s because after five hours I still haven’t seen or heard anything about it besides the odd reference in story dialogue. Believe it or not we still have two more game systems to talk about before we even get to that part.
Whats building a kingdom without a little large scale warfare? That’s right we have warfare mini-game reminiscent of a super slimmed down Total War featuring chibi versions of your army. I won’t lie it’s disgustingly adorable and one of the first generals you get is named Chingis which while being a bit on the nose is kind of awesome. Warfare deviates from the normal RPG game-loop and gives you an additional activity to take advantage of on the world map as you travel around. I’m not sure if these battles you fight will play a larger role in expanding your kingdom but I’m definitely curious to see where it goes.
This menu is where you go to manage the four companies that you take into a given battle with you, so far I only have two but so far this is one of the things I’m really looking forward playing with as I gather more allies and resources. The couple battles I have fought so far were entertaining as a mini-game so I hope they have some tricks up their sleeves otherwise it may wear thin pretty quick especially if it becomes a more core system later on.
Finally before we get to the kingdom builder we arrive at the somewhat bizarrely named Tactic Tweaker which to me sounds like an adviser with a noticeable drug habit. So, Bubbles, I guess?
I haven’t done anything with this system yet but basically you invest points into different sections of this table to boost different aspects of your overall parties proficiency in battle. This is completely separate and doesn’t affect the units that you use in the Warfare system we discussed above. This is specifically about the group of three you travel and fight with during the rest of the game.
Finally that brings us to the Kingdom Builder for Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. Once you’ve progressed far enough in the story which for me was roughly six hours with what I thought was minimal off the path exploration you get access to the first stages of establishing your new nation.
Here you’ll start to deploy some of the resources you’ve gathered to place some basic buildings like an Armorer, Weaponsmith and, Spellworks. From there you’ll assign your citizens who have appropriate skills to these businesses and you can have them begin researching new things they can make and sell.
You’ll have to occasionally stop back in order to keep things moving and growing in your fledgling kingdom as well as collect the money deposited in your coffers by your hardworking citizenry. While you’re out in the world you’ll find quests to acquire new citizens with vital skills that you need to run businesses in your town. So far for me the quests have largely been of the go-and-fetch variety but I’m hoping for some more variety as I progress. Within the kingdom builder system so far there are a wide variety of things to do just outside of building structures, assigning work and seeing what your merchants have to sell. There is also an extensive system of research for what seems like each and every business you set up as well as a gear upgrade and crafting system which takes advantage of all the materials you gather out in the world. You can also purchase buildings whose purpose is specifically centered around gathering various materials from out in the world. It remains to be seen how much actual hands on time you’ll need to dedicate to the running of your nation that will take you away from going out and adventuring across the world. The fast travel system seems to be designed much like it was in the first game with the purpose of cutting down significantly on the need to make your way by foot or vehicle to the various locations you may need to visit.
Overall my time spent with Revenant Kingdom so far has been exceedingly fun and I think I’ve now hit a point where I’ll be free to hop off the railroad to make my own path through the world, at least I hope. While there is a lot to keep track of and do at a given moment I don’t think that it has quite crossed the line into becoming incoherent or unfocused. Everything you are given to do serves the core purpose of the game and assuming the various systems continue to be woven cleanly and tightly together with the overall narrative it makes me hopeful for what the entire tapestry will look like when completed.
I definitely look forward to playing more and if you were a fan of the first or regret not playing it then I recommend you give this one some consideration, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with what Level 5 has accomplished!