Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC

After years of eager anticipation from gamers worldwide and a handful of delays, Bandai Namco and Level-5’s Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is finally here. It’s a stand-alone game and one that doesn’t demand that you’ve played the last one to enjoy (even if it’s got a few references here and there), so those completely new to the series can dive right in with no previous knowledge as far as the story is concerned.

Those returning to the series will find that it still manages to feel fresh outside of the narrative though, with plenty of new ideas and innovations as far as gameplay is concerned. Thankfully, the two most important aspects of the first game remain the same – not only is Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom a stunning game to look at, but it just so happens to be absolutely brilliant too.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom puts you in the shoes of Evan Tildrum, a young heir to the throne who’s due to become the King of Ding Dong Dell following the death of his father. Things go wrong when the monarchy is overthrown and he finds instead himself on the run, though thankfully he manages to escape thanks to the help of Roland – an acquaintance who comes from another world. Thus begins Evan’s quest to rebuild his Kingdom and bring peace to the world once more.

Of course, it becomes a lot more complicated than that, but that’s for the player to discover. Just know that you’re going to be part of a tale that’s beautifully written and has plenty of whimsical charm to go along with its more serious moments. It’s easy to find yourself absorbed in everything that’s going on, and whilst it might take a couple of hours to really get the ball rolling, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom’s story remains entertaining throughout.

On the gameplay side, one of the big changes made from the original game is the adoption of a more action-focused battle system, with the player no longer depending on sending out familiars and issuing commands to them but instead getting in on the action themselves. It’s all very fast-paced and full of flair, with the combat feeling more akin to the likes of Bandai Namco’s ‘Tales of’ series than anything else – especially with the whole ‘attack to refill mana’ approach.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

It’s fun though, with the player armed with a good variety of skills and able to swap characters on a whim. There’s also a focus on swapping weapons around (each character can have up to three at a time) with their proficiency with said weapons affecting their skillset, so you’ve got to keep a close eye on managing your equipment and ensuring that each character has the right tools to suit what they’re good with. It’s not an overly-complicated system, so you’ll never feel overwhelmed by battles – even if they might be absolutely chaotic to look at…

Those who miss the Familiar-commanding of the last game will be glad to know they can still get some assistance from magical little creatures, though this time around it comes in the shape of the Higgledies. These Higgledies provide support as opposed to having a starring role, be it by unleashing some attacks, healing the party, or offering buffs and de-buffs. If they gather around each other on the battlefield, they’ll even offer a unique and typically powerful ability that can really change the tide of the battle. Their presence is a neat one, and whilst they’re not a necessity to get through battles, finding them and discovering how best to use their abilities is always satisfying.

Whilst I never grew bored of battling nor did it ever stop being impressive on the eye, it could be argued that it could be a bit too easy. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll come across plenty of enemies who’ll push your skills to the limit, but the amount of ‘game overs’ I suffered can easily be counted on one hand. It might come down to the fact that I enjoyed combat so much that the excess of experience points I earned from it made me too powerful, though I think you shouldn’t expect the most testing of RPG experiences in Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom even if you don’t grind out battles. Still, at least you won’t ever grow bored of it at all because honesty, the combat itself is just so much fun.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

It’s a good job that the combat is so entertaining, because one of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom’s only flaws is that some of the dungeons you explore could be a little underwhelming. Whilst most areas of the game are imaginative in design and challenge the player in the right way, some start to feel repetitive in design and adopt so similar of an aesthetic and approach that they become hard to tell apart. It’s not a consistent issue across the board and some of the more boring dungeons are optional, but there’s a style of design to them that can start to feel a bit too familiar the more hours you pour into the game.

Outside of combat and exploration, you’ve also got to build you own Kingdom – Evan no longer has his own after all, so you’ve got to start from scratch. This means gathering resources, constructing buildings and facilities, and recruiting new citizens to inhabit the Kingdom. It comes together to make for one of the most addictive and satisfying features of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.

The freedom to build what is essentially your own headquarters is something I’ve absolutely loved in video games in the past, and it’s something that developers Level-5 themselves have delved into in the past with their Dark Cloud series. It actually brought on some vague memories of the Suikoden series too, with certain characters needing you to complete specific objectives or side quests in order for them to become a part of your Kingdom. As you progress and see your Kingdom begin to thrive though, you’ll find yourself absolutely absorbed in it all. In honesty, I could’ve finished Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom a lot sooner if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d spent a good chunk of my time working on my Kingdom. You know what though? It was worth it (and a hell of a lot of fun).

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

You can’t have a Kingdom without an army though, and you certainly can’t have an army without some battles to fight. Thankfully, Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has its Skirmishes – a wide selection of strategy-focused battles that see you leading out your army in tactical showdowns.

Don’t go expecting some overly intricate strategic experience in the Skirmishes though, because they’re a lot more simplified than your traditional tactical battle. You’ll manoeuvre your units across a battlefield and take part in encounters with a range of different enemies, but the encounters themselves follow a ‘rock-paper-scissors’ style approach that sees swords, spears, and hammers clashing to get the upper hand.

As you progress through the game and come across more difficult Skirmishes, a few more advanced units come into play that’ll demand a different approach from the player. Still though, it never becomes overwhelming and even someone with no experience in tactical battling should be able to make their way through them all with minimal fuss. It’s probably the area of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom where I found myself the least invested, though that’s not to say there’s no fun to be had – different strokes for different folks, you know.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Whilst there’s a whole lot to do in the game, you can actually approach it all at your own pace – you’re never necessarily forced into taking care of your Kingdom or fighting these tactical battles unless they’re one of the few instances where they’re part of a story sequence. You’ll never be overwhelmed by everything, but can instead dive into it all whenever you fancy doing something a little different.

That’s the beauty of Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, though – there’s simply so much on offer for the player. You could rush through the main story if you like and see Evan’s tale through to its conclusion, or you could instead spend hours building up your Kingdom and recruiting a myriad of citizens to make it their home. Alternatively, you could spend hours on end simply taking part in skirmishes and showing that you’ve got an eye for the perfect battle-strategy, or you could just explore the world and uncover its many secrets. Did you know there are optional randomly-generated dungeons behind ‘Dream Doors’ for you to explore that are full of high quality loot and super powerful enemies? It’s all there to be discovered.

Despite most aspects of the game not being compulsory and it being easy to rush through Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, you’d be a fool not to spend a few hours invested in everything it has to offer. Every feature of the game is so finely crafted that they’re an absolute pleasure to spend some time with. It’s a game that can be played in a way that complements what you like in an RPG, though honestly, you’ll want to see it all to get the best experience that Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has to offer.

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

I didn’t really want to run with the cliché that’s been so commonly associated with both titles, but wow – you will literally think you’re in a Studio Ghilbi animation when playing Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. It’s praise of the highest calibre, but it’s deserving given that the game is simply astounding to look at. There’s no other way to put it: Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom is one of the most stunning video games I’ve ever gazed my eyes upon.

It’s a world full of colour, imagination, and vivid imagery, and you’ll never know what spectacle you’re going to see next. Whether it’s a bustling city, a quiet town, or just a quaint spot where you can grab a moment’s solace, you just know it’s going to be full of wondrous detail. Everything in the game is seen in a smooth 60fps too, and whilst there could be the occasional moment of a drop in frames during particularly busy sequences, it never hinders the gameplay in any shape or form.