Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is a moving entry that mimics the trappings and aesthetics of Studio Ghibli just like other Level 5 developed titles. A beautiful animated intro immediately sets the tone and provides a brief introduction to the story elements that will drive the game. With some metatextual comments, Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is candid about its identity as an MMORPG. Its players traverse a fantastic online world. The game shows incredible promise. As NieR Re[in]eyelet Where Genshin Impact, this shows exactly what this particular market is capable of. However, it is held back by aggressive monetization and monotonous mechanics.
Players can choose from a handful of different classes, each with their own unique specialization. I chose the Swordsman class, which is supposed to have an even distribution of attack and defense stats. But it usually seems insignificant due to the “autoplay” feature. This includes things like auto-dash to objectives and auto-combat. You can turn it off, of course. But that ultimately doesn’t change much at the start of the gameplay. Whereas Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds has an instantly recognizable visual design, little really sets it apart from other mobile games of its ilk. I found myself feeling the same kind of exhaustion I had while playing Lineage Revolution IIanother “MMORPG” style mobile game from Netmarble.
While not completely identical, gamers can actually put their phone down and let the game do the work. Which isn’t a bad thing for those who want to grind to acquire materials and levels while taking care of more important tasks. It just feels completely uninterested, with its Studio Ghibli and Joe Hisashi-composed score-inspired visuals making it standout in that regard. And honestly, those two things absolutely carry Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds.
The game is particularly impressive on a PC. The expansive environments really get a chance to shine, with vast fields of wheat against beautiful mountain ranges encapsulating that fantasy feeling. Areas feel densely populated, even without a plethora of player characters going from objective to objective. And it feels like Netmarble has really reached that level of feeling that you, as a character, exist in a mostly organic online world.
However, low-end mobile devices may struggle to function Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds. I encountered several crashes on Android and iOS. On my Android device, I couldn’t get past the initial area of the scripted tutorial without constant crashes. Although the PC version of the game is still in beta, I found it to be the most functional and enjoyable to watch. Although it is clear that the game was entirely intended to be played on mobile devices, as the user interface is primarily designed to accommodate mobile gaming. This can make dodging and rolling in combat a bit of a chore. Most of these issues are mitigated with the AutoPlay feature I mentioned earlier.
The character designer in Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is quite limited, with players only being able to change their hairstyle, eye color, hair color, and skin color. All options are sorely lacking, especially when it comes to darker skin tones. Only two options are available, with the darker skin tone looking desaturated. There are also no black hairstyles in the character creator. Additionally, the way players can express themselves in-game through costumes is quite limited, with some costumes only obtainable through gacha or crafting. And Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds has a lot of gacha elements.
There is a familiar gacha, which players can use to acquire creatures to accompany them in battle. Each of these pets has their unique skills and abilities, which can help players progress through story quests or battle field bosses. I was lucky enough to get several three-star pets, which got me through much of the nearly two-hour intro segment. There’s also the mentioned costume gacha, which is purely cosmetic, and a weapon and armor gacha.
The functionality of these features is essentially the same as other games, with elemental attributes being assigned to pets and weapons. Players will need to alternate between different elements to target weaknesses in the enemies and bosses they attack. Change is also relatively hard to come by, with a draw of ten costing around $25. And Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds has several shop pages and dedicated “special offers” tabs for upgrade packs and paid currency.
Perhaps one of the most glaring problems with Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is the inclusion of cryptocurrency and the implementation of NFTs within the year. The game operates on a “play to win” model, with players earning cryptocurrency earned through normal activities and PvP. It’s a huge deterrent to me. Even though Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds was a more involved and enjoyable game, that alone would make me put it down. There are other games on the market that mechanically do exactly what they do, but without the cryptocurrency and promise of NFTs looming in the future.
It’s a pity, because Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is a beautiful game. It’s just engaging in it that seems to be the problem. The game is flooded with alerts to spend money on paid currencies and other packs. The implementation of cryptocurrency and NFTs also leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Ultimately, it’s a game that shows a lot of promise, but is marred by the constant attempts at monetization and the lack of a truly engaging system.
Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is available for PCs, Android devices and iOS devices.