Ni No Kuni 2 gameplay – hands-on with the RPG
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom has made more than a few changes to Ni No Kuni’s critically acclaimed style. Level-5 has moved away from the classic turn-based JRPG combat: Familiars are no more, and Studio Ghibli is no longer directly involved in its development. While these changes are not insignificant, Ni No Kuni II still overflows with heart, as we step into un-Familiar territory (see what I did there? OK, Sorry).
What’s the story?
No more Oliver and Drippy this time around, but a few hundred years later it’s over to Evan Pettiwhisker of house Tildrum and another exuberant Welsh companion Lofty. Evan, boy king of Ding Dong Dell’s cat-folk, has been forced into exile. Usurped from his throne, Evan sets out to reclaim his kingdom and prove his worthiness to rule with the help of Roland, a visitor from another world, and Tani of the air pirates.
Getting hands-on with two instances: King’s Cradle – Trial of Courage and Longfang, Lord of Flame, we put the completely reworked combat system to the test. Starting out with the Trial of Courage, in which you go up against Thogg in a gladiatorial arena. With Evan at a wee level 5, it is safe to assume this is your first major battle in-game. It became apparent rather quickly that dodge is your best friend in Ni No Kuni II’s free flowing, fast-paced combat system. Of course, rolling around the arena in front of the boss isn’t going to do much damage and you can’t just leave it all up to dear old Tani and Roland. The base layer is a pretty standard attack system, with light and heavy sword attacks and a chargeable ranged wand. Beyond that you have Special Skills – two melee attack frenzies (one heavy, one light), a water spell (in this demo), and a heal.
What’s that adorable little squeaking sound? Higgledies! Instead of the turn-based combat featuring familiars, these little Baby Groot, Pikmin-esque creatures bound around in small colour specific groups – each offering a different boon during combat. In the Trial of Courage you learn to listen out for uproarious squeaking from each Higgledie crowd, so you know that they are ready to do their thing, be it healing, defense, or unleash a tiny unit of enraged attackers. Time to dash over and activate them!
Longfang, Lord of Flame is a level 15 encounter, so you are a slightly more seasoned warrior at this point – at least, you hope so, as a bloody great dragon descends on you. Those Higgledie piggledy Higgledies reveal their worth during this battle with sassy group ‘Leaders’, identified by their stylish leaf-sized capes or studded chokers, to show they mean business. These adorable blobs of joy are an attempt to cushion the blow from the loss of Familiars, filling that ‘Familiar’ hole as upgradeable units. During the battle your flame Higgledies provide timely defense against Longfang’s brutal attacks by encasing you in a forcefield, the green Higgledies create an area of healing, and the white warrior Higgledies have a stronger offensive power than before. Higgledies can also boost your Special Skills to devastating effect, by charging them with ‘Higgledie Power’ – a kind of minion mana.
All in all, Ni No Kuni II provides an accessible yet layered combat system that you can jump straight into. It may take a while to mourn the loss of your favoured Familiar and Ni No Kuni 2 may not appeal from the outset for this reason – however don’t give up just yet. Ni No Kuni II looks to be just as charming and whimsical as its predecessors, with an abundance to offer in visual beauty and fun game mechanics.