Home > Reviews, Video Games > Review: Magna Carta 2 (Xbox 360)

Review: Magna Carta 2 (Xbox 360)

Magna Carta 2 is pretty. Very pretty. If you doubt its inherent prettiness, then you should look at the back of the box, where one of the bullet points encouraging you to buy the game is devoted entirely to how pretty it is. The character designs range from the awe-inspiring to the utterly-ridiculous, and androgyny rules throughout. Main character Juno wears a form-fitting armour tanktop and a sword that folds away for easy storage in most overhead lockers. Zephie, the female lead, shows off a classy dress whose fabrics look far too expensive to withstand any kind of frontline combat, betraying the fact that she is (in fact) royalty. It’s really quite par for the course when it comes to eastern RPGs, which sums up Magna Carta 2 on a whole quite nicely.

The story begins with a war between two factions for the throne of a country called Lanzheim. At the heart of the conflict are the Sentinels, mysterious living weapons deployed by the bad guys that are completely out-gunning the good guys. Between the usual assortment of dungeons and overworld travelling are staged battles between the two armies where you lead your party in concentrated tactical skirmishes to break through the enemy defences and reclaim lost territory, inching your way closer and closer to the capital of Lanzheim. While this kinda-realistic presentation of warfare never reaches the peaks of the Suikoden series or Final Fantasy Tactics, it’s still a step above the ridiculous abstractions you see in most RPGs. If you’re looking for some originality in your story and characters though, you’re in the wrong place. In fact, if you’re playing Magna Carta 2 for story, then I highly suggest you play Final Fantasy X instead, which has many of the same themes and plot twists but executed in a far superior way. The fact that main character Juno has amnesia (and a mysterious power he can’t control or explain) should be your first hint that this game doesn’t strive to break new ground. There are a couple of plot twists that are genuinely interesting, but the game quickly falls back to familiar ground. Even more damningly, a large portion of the game’s plot is driven by stupidity: the characters making entirely the wrong choices or believing the wrong things at the wrong time, for the simple fact that if they got it right then there would be no story.

The gameplay uses a real-time battle system and plays very much like an MMO. A simple combo system encourages you to switch characters on the fly to increase your power, though eventually you fall into a pattern when you realise there aren’t many other tactical options. Breaking from convention, each character has two weapon styles available, allowing you to turn your archetypical healer character into an offensive powerhouse, or your close-quarters fighter into a ranged attack specialist. Though this idea has good intentions, you’ll often find that it’s simply easier to keep your healer character- armed with the best healing spells in your party- in her niche. Magical power is generated through elemental spells and then spent just as swiftly on special attacks, allowing you to play a dangerous game with enemies by letting them build up the power then stealing it away for your own strikes. The environment is also important: areas saturated with water-elemental power are a keen match for your water-magic specialist, who essentially gains a free reservoir of power. The game encourages you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your entire party and deploy them accordingly, a wonderful deviation from games that let you pick a favoured few and care nothing for the characters relegated to the bench. Powered by the Unreal Engine, the game plays competently but occasionally falls to bugs and even crashes. Without the presence of an auto-save system (instead, anarchic static save points are used), this can lead to moments of incredible frustration.

No review of Magna Carta 2 could be complete without bringing attention to the awful DLC. The Xbox Marketplace just offers one piece of DLC: a package including three bonus skits and ultimate weapons for each character. The weapons completely destroy the difficulty curve of the game, as you gain access to them almost immediately and they are the most powerful weapons in the game. The skits feature a wealth of interesting character development that only draws attention to the lack of depth displayed by the cast in the main story. However, the worst part of this DLC is that you are essentially paying real money for achievement points: simply viewing the three skits (accessible at any point through the start menu) earns you 60 points, and the bonus weapons are required for the “Collect every weapon” achievements (worth a total of 180 points). It’s the worst implementation of DLC I’ve ever seen to date, and a brilliant example of the arguments against such content.

Magna Carta 2 doesn’t really do anything wrong. It just doesn’t excel or strive to do anything new. It sits comfortably in its prettiness, much like a piece of fast food which might look attractive on the advert but is lacking in actual content and ultimately leaves you feeling a bit empty. If you’re looking for an RPG to satisfy your hunger, you can do a lot worse than this 25-30hr game.  My grade is Not Recommended, not because this is a bad game but because it is painfully average: you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’ve seen all these ideas before.

It’s pretty, though.

[With thanks to RPGamer for screenshots.]

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