Jumping from the Playstation 2, MagnaCarta 2 hits up Xbox 360 owners with a traditional styled role-playing game. Featuring a war-torn kingdom, a fighting princesses and a head-strong savior who doesn't remember anything. MagnaCarta 2 has been done before, but it has never looked so good. We're entering the kingdom to find out what makes MangaCarta 2 stand out from the pack.
MagnaCarta 2 is the third instalment in the series following a Playstation 2 title (Phantom of Avalanche-2004) and a PC edition (Crimson Stigmata- 2001). In MagnaCarta 2 you play as Juto, another young amnesiac hero who has immense power locked deep in his psyche. Of course Juto doesn’t remember anything from his past, that includes all the 5 Ws. "What" he is doing, "why" here is where he is, "who" he is, "where" he from or going, and "how" did I get here. You have seen this before and to further push the stereotype his attitude is that of a lazy beach-bum who is also irrational and head strong. As the game develops Juto’s personality starts to unfold into a real hero with a lot of self reflection and the obvious turn of him remembering his past. It takes a while, but eventually—and thankfully, Juto grows into someone you can get into.
Twisting the plot more towards convention Juto meets princess Zephie who is caught up in a war between two kingdoms. This leads Juto to join her party who has to right the wrongs of the world and save her kingdom. As you might expect the key to this problem is Juto and through the normal channels of summer-time romance, heading into expected danger, and working for the good of mankind, you will partake in hours and hours of classic RPG storytelling. If you’re worrying about the rest of the characterization falling away from the fray—don’t. All the other bit players are also vanilla with the evil wizard, the strong brother-like guardian, the annoying arrogant allies, and the evil overlord looking to take over the thrown. That’s only touching the surface. Honestly, if you enjoy J-styled RPGs the plot won’t be a problem. It’s those who are looking for something a little deeper will likely be disappointed.
The strongest element of a role-playing game usually comes from its ability to tell a great story and as you can tell it is not MagnaCarta 2's strong point. This doesn't mean the game is bad, actually it is pretty good and MagnaCarta 2 does an acceptable job on its delivery, it's the subject matter that is the problem. It's not even that it is bad, or poorly written, it's just the same old adventure we have played 100 times before. Almost every RPG has followed this exact plotline of an amnesic hero in a betrayed kingdom so much that it has become one of the biggest scapegoats in the industry. What are going to do really? Its the simple way to get the story rolling, and even though you might not be interested in its tale, the execution is done quite well.
Powered by Unreal
Keeping your mind off the wordy drama are the stunning graphics. For a “standard” RPG MagnaCarta 2 looks great with enough variety to keep things moving. Powered by the Unreal Engine 3, Softmax could really dig into some detail with lots of colour's in use. Along with interesting character designs—aside from the gender neutral look, MagnaCarta 2 has its own style which is very sharp. The animation work outside of the static(ish) dialog cut-outs flows naturally and looks great during combat sequences. This can be a sore spot in a lot of role-playing games of this nature, however it’s not for MC2. Another sore spot is the use of backgrounds in environments which usually become repetitive and boring, well for the most part MC2 is lushly developed keeping your eyes moving at all times. Compared to other similar titles that have hit the Xbox 360, MagnaCarta 2 visually stands out.
Heading into Battle
The next plus side aspect is how the action unfolds. Typically you would expect a title like MC2 to be a variation on a turn-based system however that is not the case. It was refreshing to see that the battles take place in real time with a strong point system underlying the action. It kind of feels like a mix between Final Fantasy XII and World of Warcraft. At any time during your adventures all you have to do is hold down the left trigger and you will switch into a combat mode. This will highlight the enemies you can face along with a number of face button selections for actions. The actions are restricted to three commands. A magic/alt. attack, attack, and counter. The magic/alt. Attack button can also be switched out in the fly to accommodate all your skills you earn. Uniquely you can even switch to a different member of your part which is bound by three at a time. This way you don’t have to stick with Juto and his sword attacks as you can dabble in the other characters—who are can be even more powerful than Juto.
The number of attacks you use in any of their variations will cause you to spend battle points which regenerate over time. This stops you from abusing your skills and adds a layer of strategy to the combat. MC2 also puts in an overcharge system that will stop the player dead in their tracks for a brief period of time, if they go over the point allowance. The reason for this is to let the player decide if they want to chance a few extra attacks to put the final hit on the enemy, however when you are exhausted you will be left helpless for a few seconds. This becomes a choice that you will often replay in your head before you hit the button... sometimes it will work out, and others it flat out won’t. At any rate it is a fun combat system that puts a little thought behind each swing.
Oh No! Not another Side-Quest
Navigating through the plot is mainly a linear experience aside from a fair amount of side-quests that will have you doing other peoples dirty work for small rewards. The side-quests are nothing monumental and usually require you to run between point A-B and defeat a monster and then return. Collecting your reward can only be competed when you return to the person who gave you quest, simply completing it is not enough. At first you will likely try and hit most of the side-quests until you realise their is no real benefit to doing them. The rewards are pettily and not worth the effort, although there are a few achievements attached to the side-quests which means G-Point fanatics will be in it for the long hall.
Oh Yes! A Mini-Map
Helping you through the game is a nice mini-map that always has a red arrow pointing in the direction of the next cue point. Your team is also highlighted along with enemies, save points, and merchants. It’s nice not to get lost and even though having a mini-map is a minor part of the game, RPGs without one can be needlessly confusing. Strangely enough the mini-map does highlight active side-quests which are a bit of a pain. There is a journal that keeps track of your quests, so when you forget what you’re doing, or why, you can crack this open to refresh your memory.
Lastly, I felt like the range of power wasn't rightfully displayed in the game. Giant monsters looked the part, but had little impact. Each boss battle felt like it was going to be more epic then it actually was. I wanted a little more bang out of the characters good and bad and unfortunately they don't deliver more than a few sparkling powers and a few fancy hits. The weapons are also very basic and the selection is limited compared to some RPGs. The good point to not having a lot of weapons and armour is that you won’t have to spend a lot of time in the menus, however when your not getting rewarded with new loot, the motivation for continuing falls over to the storyline. MagnaCarta 2 has all the tools to make an epic adventure, so why does it feel so... insignificant?
It’s great to see more traditional styled RPGs find their way to the Xbox 360 console, and even though MagnaCarta 2 is a fairly standard affair, it has its enjoyable moments. The combat system is refreshing and the graphics are a step above our expectations, but in no way does it over exert itself. MagnaCarta 2 has its own “doomseed” and it’s the use of the typical princess, amnesic hero script that every role-playing game has been using in the last 20 years. The flavour that is sprinkled into these characters doesn’t save their tale from being mediocre and unfortunately it will turn away most RPG enthusiasts. Even with the hardcore RPG gamers out the equation, the casual role-playing fan will likely find some comfort in its familiarity and real-time combat mechanics. In these JRPG starved times MagnaCarta 2 is defiantly worth a look.
Gameplay:7.0, Graphics:8.6, Sound:7.0, Innovation:7.0, Mojo:7.4 Final: 7.4 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 11.15.09
- Fun real-time/strategy combat system
- Excellent graphics-- in quality and design
- Lots of dialog with full voice-over support
- If you don’t play a lot of JRPGs, the story will suffice
- 2 Discs, lots of game to explore
- Generic storyline and characters
- Characters can be a whiny
- Too much walking around
- Side quests start to feel pointless
- Epic quest feels insignificant
- Nothing you haven’t played before
- Not enough looting