Review by Heatmiser

Reviewed: 10/20/09

Corny Cliche Cornucopia

If cliches were raindrops, the veritable class-5 monsoon within the confines of Magnacarta 2 would constitute enough to fill several Olympic sized swimming pools, with some left over to brew a nice pot of tea for 10,000 or so of your closest friends. While the game itself isn't offensively, dreadfully awful, there is absolutely nothing in it that hasn't been done before, done better before, and done myriad times before, in literally scores of different video games I can think of just off the top of my head.

Let's begin with the good parts of the game and work our way down. The graphics and sound, while not revolutionary in either category, do a more than serviceable job, and will immerse the gamer well enough in the environments provided. Lord, I know it sounds like I'm writing copy for a pamphlet on how to properly cosign for a loan, but there isn't a lot in MC2 that will inspire one to lofty literary heights, I can assure you that much. I'm still looking for that next-gen JRPG (or in this case KRPG, as the game's creators are almost all Korean, as is their company, Softmax) to blow me away with truly "next generation" style graphics, and I guess we'll have to wait for the next Final Fantasy game to do it for us, like we've had to for the past couple generations of consoles. Particularly dismaying were some barely-palette-swapped NPCs obliviously talking to each other, which was downright embarrassing. Eventually it just looked so cheap it became absolutely hilarious, watching random sets of identical twins who just happen to be wearing red and green versions of each others' hats just standing and chatting away like it was no big deal to be wandering around a village full of fashion forward doppelgangers. Anyways, to recap: above average graphics, and slightly better than that when it comes to the tunes.

The storyline of the game isn't necessarily bad, it's just made up of components that we've seen and experienced before, time and time and time again. Sort of like Sharon Stone's body, but it doesn't require one of those solar eclipse viewing boxes to safely look at it. Our hero is a sleepyhead (cliche: check!) with amnesia (check!) from a small island about to be swept up in war (check!) who will later team up with a spunky princess (check!) intent on fighting for her rightful place on the throne (check!) along with a band of equally spikey-haired teammates (check!), equally bent on beating down the evil but charismatic bad guy (check!) --who is, by the by, established as the bad guy in the first few seconds of the game, not to mention the instruction manual. Don't worry about any spoilers in that sentence; the free art "book" (more like a paperback mini comic book) says all that and then some on the first few pages. And what little storyline the game does have is presented almost exclusively- and entirely infuriatingly- via static text (we're talking about 90% of all the story scenes in this video game), with a couple of barely-animated characters hovering over his or her text box to let you know who's saying what. This is a disturbing trend in RPGs as of late- the trend of not giving us action packed cutscenes, instead giving us expository yakity yak non-scenes without any action whatsoever- and MC2 really lays it on thick. It's cheap, it's low class, and it's utterly avoidable with a little extra elbow grease from the producers in charge. By now I think I've established my point: nothing in the storyline of Magnacarta 2 will surprise you in any way or shape or form, other than perhaps how predictable, disappointing, and poorly executed it all is.

The jewel in the crown of MC2, such as it is, was supposed to be the battle system... such as it is. Think of it as a sorta hybridized World of Warcraft (ew) and Final Fantasy 12 (ew) combination, where all battles take place right on the overworld field in real time, without screens switching or turn based systems loading up, with the combatants choosing from a few super skills with the X button after building up MP with regular attacks using the A button . Certainly not your usual JRPG/KRPG fare, but not wholly unique either... and not wholly fun. The crux of the battle system is the Chain system, where you attack and attack and attack until you run out of stamina points, then go into Overdrive mode, and eventually Overheat mode. At this point you switch to another character and they "chain" your Overheat/drive power, letting them blast away at the enemy before you miraculously gain back the lost stamina of both combatants involved in the initial chain. Still with me? Well I hope so, because the Chain system is all there is during battles. Attack, overheat, switch, attack, repeat. Again and again. Constantly. Nothing else. And your magic users will have to struggle so much to get enough MP to cast anything worthwhile that you won't even be able to Chain effectively without tons of waiting through innumerable regular attack animations.

And speaking of struggling, nothing made me quite as angry in MC2 as the following scenario, which happened quite a lot: rev up a potential Chain by attacking and attacking, finally go into Overheat mode... and get stuck staying overheated (which itself requires about 20 seconds of just standing there waiting for it to recharge again, leaving you major league defenseless) via an enemy's ill-timed battle animation cut scene which ruins EVERY ounce of timing you might have summoned up to that point. Once again, all this is courtesy of the game's bad timing, bad luck, and BAD production. Thanks, Softmax! The controller-shaped marks on my wall thank you, too, as do my neighbors who are wondering why I'm so angry- at the "Magna Carta" of all things- no doubt leading them to think I'm viciously opposed to the rule of King John of England. Anyway, if we were to add this up as if it were some sort of funky math class test question, we'd get the following: seemingly endless regular attacks + occasional spell effects + constant frustrating battle interruptions + immeasurable repetition regarding all of the above and then some = Magnacarta 2's battle system. Me personally? I don't much like that result. Then again, math never was my forte; the fact that I knew where to find the plus sign key on a keyboard for that last sentence was nothing short of a miracle.

Perhaps the most shocking part of MC2? It's not completely terrible. My assumption is that the makers of the game thought if they cannibalized enough good ideas from enough good video games from the past and then lumped them all together, they'd create a good new video game themselves. Instead, they took the gaming equivalent of a garbage bag full of expired body parts and constructed a sort of video gaming Frankenstein out of them all. Creepy and smelly on the surface, but sorta kinda sweet- if poorly intentioned- on the inside. I mean, hey, SOME of the cliches they stole were pretty good ones to begin with! (I, for one, enjoy the sleepyheaded lunk main character construct, or the hoary old "angrily bickering teammates who really, deep down, love each other" nugget.) Not to mention that, as usual, Hyung-tae Kim designed some killer artwork, not the least of were the bewitchingly rendered player characters. So one must ask oneself when considering a purchase of Magnacarta 2: do I desire originality, or a cozy boringness? Spontaneity, or the comfort one finds within the familiarly banal? While there can be a touching sort of warmth to be experienced within that which we already know so well, I couldn't help but feel that Softmax is a company that can do more than just brainlessly ape the actions of more well-established industry giants. My advice? Next time, guys, try mining and selling your own precious gem instead of trying to pass off a highly polished piece of cubic zirconia on the gaming public. Trust me, we know better.

Rating: 5

Product Release: Magna Carta 2 (US, 10/13/09)

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