MagnaCarta II is another in the long line of Xbox 360 exclusive role-playing games that have eminated from the Far East. This time, the development has been done by a Korean company, Softmax, and they're looking to set their game apart as the one that fans of the genre must have in their collection. Does this game stand out from the crowd, or does it get lost in the sea of role-playing titles?
The story is centered around a young man named Juto who has completely lost his memory. He awoke one day on Highwind Island, and was looked after by the villagers. However, when the village is attacked by the Northern Forces, and Juto's mentor, Melissa, is seemingly killed, his world is enveloped by turmoil. He vows to join the Southern Forces so that he can avenge her death, and in doing so, joins the Counter Sentinel Unit, which is lead by the true heir to the Lanzheim throne, Princess Zephie.
It's a story with a few twists and turns, and the cast is varied enough to create a good dynamic. The banter between the different characters is definitely one of the high points, and helps to really convey the sense of 'team spirit'. However, there isn't anything necessarily ground-breaking with the story and for the most part, it's generally quite straight forward. It would have been nice to see more dialogue associated with the plot, than dialogue revolving around the main character having emotional moments. Many of the antagonists are barely even heard from throughout the game.
The gameplay focuses on an open world model, which has become fairly common with RPGs. This means that there are no random battles, and it's a system that works pretty well. When outside of towns, the playable character is accompanied by two AI controlled characters and once combat is intiated (by using the left trigger), the AI characters will follow set play-types. Every character can do normal attacks, perform special moves and use items. The array of commands is actually quite limiting and makes the game relatively simple. There is also no MP present, but there is an equivalent in Kan. By performing normal attacks, players build up Kan which can be used to perform special moves. However, it works differently for mages and melee types. When a mage attacks, the Kan for their element is actually visible in the world. So, if they move from that location, the Kan can no longer be used, whereas melee types can store it for later use.
It does make it sound like the combat is relatively bland, as there isn't really much variation. There are a few special moves to perform, and as players level up, they can perform more attacks in a row, but overall there isn't much there. The ability to create chains does help to aleviate this slightly though. Characters have stamina meters, and if they max this out, they go into an Overdrive state. In this mode, they do more damage, but they also get burned out and can't perform a move until their stamina bar is empty again. However, if the last move they performed was a special attack, it's then possible to change characters, and perform a chain. It makes the combat a lot more tactical, and things like chain breaks help to further this.There are some big problems with the combat though, aside from the lack of options. Perfoming chains is actually quite important, as if it goes wrong it can leave two characters completely helpless. Unfortunately, the game's design can make it impossible to perform chains correctly, as they have move cutscenes that interrupt play, and ruin the combo attack. This might be deemed acceptable by some, but what isn't acceptable is when this causes the Kan to be used, and no move is actually performed. Later on, when the battles become quite tough, these small problems get vastly amplified and it's a real shame.
The frailties of the AI also become apparent later on, as it often causes characters to do weird things. Some examples are, melee characters who run off in the wrong direction, weak characters constantly standing directly in the line of fire and healers letting characters die despite having the Kan available to heal. The AI also frequently gets stuck on scenery and while it is possible to switch between characters at any time, players shouldn't have to.
Graphically the game is quite average. The world looks pleasant, but there's nothing spectacular about the scenery. Loads times are really quick though, and there aren't too many issues with regards to frame rates or screen tearing. Sometimes the odd texture fails to load, but it's not exactly a major issue. The audio work is something of a mixed bag. There are some really excellent pieces of music present, but some of it is also rather uninspired. The same also applies to the voice acting. It's sometimes really good, and sometimes really bad.
Aside from the main story, which is a pretty decent length, the game also tries to involve players more in the world by providing numerous side-quests. These generally reward some experience and money, but they sometimes offer recipes as rewards too. They aren't crucial to the story, and it's possible to just skip them, but they can easily soak up quite a lot of time if all of them are completed.
MagnaCarta II tries to adopt elements that other RPGs have successfully implemented, but the execution isn't quite there. The combat is relatively simple, and can actually be quite restricting, and while the cast is good, the story is pretty average. It's by no means a bad game, but there are quite a few issues which stop it from really excelling. For those itching to get stuck into an RPG though, it's definitely worth a look.