A Close Look At 'Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom's Combat Gameplay

Opening in the same kingdom as the previous game, though hundreds of years later, some of Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom will feel very familiar to anyone who played Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, right down to the big-hearted little boy in the dashing cape (though this one has cat ears). But that all changes when Roland and King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum fight their first mouse guards. Combat is radically different in Ni No Kuni 2, which becomes even more obvious when players escape Ding Dong Dell and start levelling on the world map.

As in Ni No Kuni, combat in Revenant Kingdom begins when you run into enemies on the world map. But there are no Pokémon-like familiars to deploy this time. Nor are your attacks governed by timers and menus. This is live combat.

Attacks

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Even the most basic melee attack options have complexities like aerial strikes. Bandai Namco / Level-5

There are three basic attack types available for each character in your party. You can do fast or slow strikes, including aerial versions. Then there's Skills, which are up to four magic attacks (mapped to the controller and accessed with R2 in the PS4 version). Finally, you've got your Ranged attack, such as Roland's pistol. Both Ranged and Skill attacks drain your MP gauge, which can be replenished with normal attacks. So far, it sounds like a fairly typical action RPG, right? The tactical complexity comes from using the right attacks on the right enemies and managing MP.

But hold on, because Ni No Kuni 2 gets very complicated, very fast.

Zing Effect

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All three of Evan's swords have Zing at 100% and MP (the blue hexagons) is maxed out. Now would be a great time for a skill attack. Bandai Namco / Level-5

This is where Ni No Kuni 2's radically revamped combat system starts experimenting with complex new mechanics and tactics. In Revenant Kingdom, each character equips three weapons at once. Each has a Zing Gauge, which slowly increases up to 100 percent as you attack. The higher the Zing, the higher the attack power. Plus, a 100 percent Zing bulks up Skill attacks. If I have two swords at 100 percent, I could blast an enemy with an enhanced Skill attack and still have a weapon handy with maxed out Zing for optimal damage.

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Evan unleashes a devastating Skill attack. Zing falls to zero percent on one weapon, so he switches to a different sword with 100 percent Zing. Bandai Namco / Level-5

Multiply those mechanics by the three characters in a combat party and there's already a lot of tactical considerations. We haven't even gotten to the Higgledies.

Higgledies

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You can talk to Higgledies, but they don't have much to say. Hig...pig...piggle! Bandai Namco / Level-5

Higgledies replace familiars in Ni No Kuni 2. They're little elemental spirits that can be obtained from shrines, or, later in the game, brewed up in a cauldron. Each Higgledy has many friends, or copies of itself. You never really control a Higgledy, but big groups of them are always running around the battlefield, where they can help out with a handful of passive and active skills. Some Higgledies will restore small amounts of HP, buff, or attack foes. But they're most useful as a kind of environmental attack option. When a group of Higgledies offer up a circle, it's worth running over and activating it. This will unleash an attack or other effect, like my favorite: the Higgledy cannon. Or, you can spend Higgledies (they respawn automatically) to charge up Skill attacks.

Unlike the familiars from Ni No Kuni, Higgledies are most often passive battlefield compatriots, who sometimes offer up an unexpected new attack option on the fly.

Between the Higgledies, multiple party members, swarming enemies and tactical considerations like Zing, combat in Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom can often be chaotic. There are additional factors to take into consideration outside of battle as well, way beyond what weapons and armor you have equipped.

Enter the Tactic Tweaker. It looks like a sound mixing board and is almost as complex.

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The Tactics Tweaker lets you adjust a dizzying variety of combat options. Bandai Namco / Level-5

Instead of traditional leveling, like choosing what stats to upgrade, new levels open up new options on the ever-changing Tactics Tweaker. The Tweaker lets players adjust vulnerabilities to different status effects (like Sleep or Poison), boost specific attack types, buff players against certain classes of enemy or monster and even adjust the statistical likelihood of winning certain types of loot. If the Ni No Kuni 2 combat system sounds a little too action-oriented, then the granular abilities of the Tactics Tweaker might be more your speed. It's an insanely in-depth option with enough variability that players could fiddle with it before every battle or set it and forget it.

Does all that convey just how insanely weird and different Ni No Kuni 2 combat is from Wrath of the White Witch? It's far more than an overhaul. There are elements to Revenant Kingdom combat that are unlike anything seen in any RPG ever made. And the sheer accumulation of mechanics (we haven't even touched on the completely different army unit combat) means that players can pick and choose which parts of the combat system will define their play. If you prefer to play Ni No Kuni 2 like a Devil May Cry style beat-em-up, simply plow all your Tactic Tweaker settings toward melee. The breadth of possibility is really astounding.

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Roland performs a Ranged attack, Batu runs in for a melee attack, while Higgledies (in the back) offer an attack player-characters can activate. Bandai Namco / Level-5

We'll have more on Ni No Kuni 2, including a full review and more in-depth combat guides, closer to the March 23 release date.

A Close Look At 'Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom's Combat Gameplay | Gaming