15th January 2010 - Magna Carta 2 is developed by Korean developer Softmax and distributed by Banpresto/Bandai Namco for the XBOX 360. It is a sequel to the 2005 Playstation 2 game Magna Carta: Tears of Blood though it does not continue story wise, similar to how each Final Fantasy game is independent from each other. With not many titles in the JRPG genre (or KRPG in this case) for current generation consoles, is Magna Carta 2 worth the purchase?
In brief, Magna Carta 2 is set in the continent of Lanzheim, a world protected by the battleship La Strada floating above dispensing [Kan] to the ground enabling wondrous miracles such as wizardry, instant blooming crops and transport vehicles powered by Kan. Kan is Magna Carta 2’s concept of magic energy. The game throws you into the midst of a civil war, in which Prime Minister Schuenzeit has usurped the Lanzheim throne, forming the Northern Lanzheim Army and battling Princess Rzephillda’s Southern Lanzheim Forces, with an ally called Count Alex in tow. Your main character Juto goes on a journey of self discovery and the hidden truths of the Lanzheim civil war, how it affects the future of the world and the hidden skeletons of the past are revealed as you progress through the story. Along the way you form a team of six, each with some sort of goal to bring down the Northern Lanzheim Army with character backgrounds that is told in game in with about two paragraphs of text.
Magna Carta 2’s main storyline can be described as traditional JRPG fare. There is some brief attention paid on each major character and their background story but the focus is mostly upon the main character Juto and Princess Rzephillda (Zephie). The strength of the story is a bit lacking and is definitely middle of the road when compared the current generation of JRPGs or even western RPGs such as Dragon Age: Origins. Most of the plot is delivered through static cut scenes with character models standing there talking, occasionally flailing their arms to convey human like gestures. At times CGI movies are interspersed throughout the story and other times Juto will reflect on events that just occurred, giving the impression he is recollecting his journey.
The side quests are organized similar to MMORPGs where you enter new regions and are greeted to new quests all clumped together. Side quests often fall into typical MMORPG categories such as kill quests, escorts or farming type quests, with rewards involving money, XP and items. Quest givers are indicated in game with green exclamation marks on top of their heads and red tick marks are on the mini map for quest hand in NPCs.
The side quests are integrated very well with the main storyline and there are helpful warnings which indicate if progressing on with the main story will prevent completion of side quests. For the majority of the quests, the main story will take you to areas that you need for side quests as well. The game does track how many side quests you have done and there are some secret quests for those that have to complete everything to hunt out.
The jewel of Magna Carta 2’s crown is its real time battle system. Up to three characters can be active in battle at any one time with six total playable characters, it is a fairly easy process to bring up the menu and switch in reserve characters in and out mid battle. Instead of the typical mana points (MP) system of most RPGs, Magna Carta 2 uses the Kan system, pockets of elemental energy that are generated by magic users when they do their normal attack combos. For physical attack characters, their normal attacks generate internal “Kan”. Kan is expended when a character performs special attacks or casts spells. The system works pretty well as magic users can also suck up generated Kan into an item which you can unleash later. Depending on your environment as well you may have latent Kan floating around so spell casters can go crazy on skills depending on their stamina pool.
Each character has a signature move which can reduce an enemy’s physical defense, break their weapons, suck Kan from monsters and create shields to protect themselves. These signature moves are only able to be used when the player is currently controlling that character so thankfully switching which player you are controlling is very quick and easy to do using the D pad in battle mode. Each character has a stamina rating which limits how much attacking you can do at any one time which adds a layer of strategy. You can push them over their stamina limit to go into overdrive mode, increasing their damage dealt but causes them to be briefly stunned and will need to wait for their stamina to recover for a longer period of time. When one character is in overdrive you will be able to “chain” your attack with another player, simply performing a special attack whilst in overdrive mode then switching to another character (that has stamina) increases their damage and if they finish it off with a special move and end up in overdrive mode it will “chain break” and cause both players to instantly recover their stamina. This simple combat technique whilst introduced early on is easy to master and is often vital in boss fights.
Computer AI is passable with three possible AI settings to choose from. Generally they are only capable of basic attack and healing patterns. There is no complex AI customization such as gambits in FFXII or tactic slots in Dragon Age however but thankfully, the enemy AI also isn’t too bright either. Pathing issues do pop up with the computer AI, often getting stuck on the environment or monsters getting in a jam because too many are trying to reach you through a small passageway but for your player characters it’s easy to switch to them and move them.
Each character has two weapon styles, each with their own skill paths and skill point requirements. The later tier of skills use up a lot of Kan but often have 3-4 minute un-skippable cut scenes. Towards the end, co-operative attacks are unlocked which allow two characters with enough Kan to combine and perform a super move. There is quite a lot of weapon swapping mid-battle which is quite inconvenient since you need to exit combat mode to switch weapons. The crafting system involves harvesting Kan from monsters using Zephie’s signature move in battle and finding recipes to craft into accessories. Whilst potentially useful it didn’t seem fully utilized in the game since recipes seemed so rare throughout the game. Players can also use harvested Kan to slot into their weapons, similar to the gem system from WoW or Diablo to customize their statistics.
Out of combat each character has a signature move to perform; opening up possibilities of puzzle solving elements but that is left undeveloped. The game teaches you to use field items out of battle mode but it too is left abandoned about a quarter of the way into the game. I never did figure out when I could use Zephie’s float ability in non-combat mode.
Powered by the Unreal engine, Lanzheim is rendered with sweeping landscapes as your party explores valleys, marshes and caverns. The landscape is rendered well with good detail and monster design has enough variety, especially the Sentinel boss encounters.
Monsters have set spawn points throughout the map so travelling from one point to another at times felt like running through a barren landscape. Towards the end of the game the map does finally open up, allowing you to quickly travel between set save points to do the remaining side quests but there is a still a large amount of running around.
The amount of loading screens is quite an issue, travelling between regions produces a short loading clip describing the region then another loading screen to load up that region’s map. Moving between sections of that region also triggers a loading screen which can really break up the gameplay.
Overall, Magna Carta 2’s graphics doesn’t push any boundaries; it looks fairly similar to Square Enix’s The Last Remnant, which is not surprising since they share the same unreal graphics engine. The character models felt stiffly animated during dialogue scenes.
Most of the plot dialogue is voiced and the pre-requisite high pitched and cutesy female character is accounted for here. Whilst the voice actors attempt to provide some sort of drama in their lines, it isn’t very convincing and with slight pauses between dialogues, normal conversation felt unnatural.
The background music is unobtrusive and helps establish the mood of the scenes. In battle mode characters chirp out a few comments and it appears each character has one voice sample for each event in battle, such as getting attacked, evading an attack or noticing someone entering overdrive mode. After a while you will probably wish there was an option to turn off these combat voices because it can get repetitive with the same quips being repeated over and over again.
While a few JRPGs have just been released on the XBOX 360, Magna Carta 2 is a decent buy for anyone with a continued interest in the genre. The main story offers roughly 30-40 hours of content with some hidden quests to be found. There isn’t a new game+ mode unlike other games or an end game dungeon unlike recent JRPGs such as Tales of Vesperia and Star Ocean 4: The Last Hope so replay value is limited to completing achievements. Completion of the game unlocks a movie theatre allowing you to watch all the CGI cut scenes and the paid DLC content provides very good weapons for each character and some ‘live drama skits’.
Ultimately, Magna Carta 2 does not push any boundaries within the JRPG genre. Overall it is quite an average game, of decent length but the plot is fairly generic and its biggest strength lies in the real time battle system although games such as Infinite Undiscovery already provide similar gameplay. This is recommended for those dying from the lack of JRPGs on current generation consoles and need a stop gap before Final Fantasy 13.
AAG SCORE: 7/10
+ Real time battle system and the Chain combo system makes battles more engaging
+ Side quests are integrated with the main storyline very well
+ Solid 30-40 hours of gameplay
- Crafting subsystem under developed
- Fairly linear gameplay and side quests are no more than bonus XP rewards.
- Plot is average with not much character development done besides the main two characters.
Reviewed & Written By Danny Yee
"Read other reviews at TestFreaks. Overall media score 7.7/10"