Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom (Steam Deck Backlog Review)

Howdy hidey ho!  Who can resist a good sale?  Well, I usually can, but after reviewing Ni no Kuni, and seeing Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom on a Steam sale for $10, who was I to say “no”?  Of course, what’s more important is if this sequel actually delivers considering its 7-year gap from the first game.  Does Ni no Kuni II properly expand from the first game?  Let’s find out, shall we?


GAMEPLAY

“I wish there was a game that combined Crisis Core and Pikmin!”

No One Ever

You said to yourself, “I wish there was a game that combined Crisis Core and Pikmin”.  Okay, just kidding, you never said that, but here it is.  First and foremost, it’s an action RPG, and in that lies a bit of a problem: it makes it too easy.  No matter how far I got, it really never got hard, and I went toe-to-toe with enemies far above my level.  Add in the Pikmin-lite concept where activating them adds buffs to combat, and the reality is that you have to SEEK a challenge in fighting bounties.  Otherwise, they’ve overcorrected from the first game: combat is just a constant breeze.  The good news, and there is some, is that they keep the breeze varied by adding things like semi-strategy skirmishes to building a whole kingdom.  The bad news is that this somehow came at the cost of puzzles, and the game is severely lacking in brain games.  This permeates into the overworld and dungeon exploration: it’s all a bit dated and simplistically linear.  Not that it’s broken or bad, but your indicator that this game follows dated tropes is its “objective of three”, not to mention its clunky JRPG inventory management.  And there is the summation: varied but far too easy and formulaic to a fault.  In fact, the only real challenge that I managed to almost avoid entirely is that there’s a late game grind if you purposely ignore skirmishes and kingdom-building.  So do yourself a favor: do the many things the game presents to you or you’ll end up having to do it all at once!  Thank me later.  Speaking of the many things…


CONTENT

…the game’s variety means there’s plenty of things to do.

The credits came sooner than I expected: I took my time and still clocked under 30 hours.  As I said in the Ni no Kuni review: this is still a healthy length as a game, but a bit short in terms of JRPG expectations.  The thing is, it’s not because of a lack of content: the game’s variety means there’s plenty of things to do.  Sure, the tasks can be a bit administratively annoying to turn in, but if you wanted to stay in this game’s world, there IS plenty to explore and optional fights to have on the way to the end.  Yet, despite how easy the game already is, you can get overpowered if you go this route since kingdom management benefits you on the whole.  The ease could potentially bore you…


PRESENTATION

…another ideal game to play on the Steam Deck.

The default “standard” Steam Deck settings are close to ideal, but not quite.  I made small key changes to better effect: change the resolution to 900p and decrease motion blur to “low”.  This is ideal for both TV and handheld play, and overall enhances the image enough that I can say this is another ideal game to play on the Steam Deck.  Sure, increasing to 900p means more framerate dips from 60, but it stays mostly solid and smooth where it counts, and you’ll find the dips are far outweighed by the increased clarity of the game’s world, combat effects, and art style.  This is quite simply another outstanding looking game on the Steam Deck (despite an edge screen space reflection bug I hope they fix).  However, this seems to be at odds with itself: the dialogue animations are shockingly stiff and feel dated, though I’m not going to knock the game for this because it clearly appears to be more due to budget than capabilities.  Shifting into the story is also perhaps another overcorrection from the first game: the main story’s also very simple, but they do a far better job of keeping the ancillary stories more fleshed out to fill in between major plot developments.  Unfortunately, they somehow leave plot holes and lack of explanation particularly in respect to Roland and his own universe.  I can’t help but feel this game is limited by budget, and the more they tried to do, the more they had to cut or under-develop, and I think the broadening of gameplay variety came at a cost to story and character development.  Oh, and one more thing: the sometimes-atonal music may not be to everyone’s liking; though that’s more of a warning than a ding.


CONCLUSION

…it really does more and does less at the same time.

This is yet another example of “two steps forward, two steps back”.  I know that’s not the actual saying, but it’s what’s happening here: they did, indeed, expand from the first game in a number of areas, and then slipped up in overcorrecting from it.  Where you have more gameplay variety, you have little in the way of challenge.  Where you have more to do, you have less reason to do it.  Where you have more story to listen to, you have story holes where it counts.  Where you have a good-looking game, you have budget animations for most dialogues.  And this all summarizes everything in quite a neat way: this is still a good game just like its predecessor, but it really just does more and does less at the same time.  This causes it to simply be “good”, but just barely.  Just barely.

I give Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

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