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October 2021

Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire

Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: The Gentlebros
Release Date: Sept. 24, 2019


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PC Review - 'Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 13, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Cat Quest II is a rapid-fire, open-world, action-RPG as you fight to bring peace to your kingdoms.

Two years ago, Cat Quest came to the PC and was a surprise hit. The story was engaging and breezy, so long as you were completely fine with the constant puns. The combat was easy to pick up, and the spell library was extensive without being overwhelming. There was a bit of a grind to deal with, but the game never felt like it was dragging, and with an excellent presentation, it won fans over rather quickly. Two years later, we have a sequel aptly titled Cat Quest II, and it accomplishes the main goals for any sequel: keep what works, add in new things, and make sure it all blends in well.

The story is more epic than in the first game. Long ago, the Kingsblade, a weapon with immense power, was broken in two by the monarchs of the cat and dog kingdoms who wanted peace. The power was so great, however, that they were placed in a deep slumber while the peace they worked for was achieved. Years have passed, and the war between cats and dogs has begun anew, with the tyrants of each kingdom fighting for control of both lands. The two long-sleeping monarchs have awoken, and they're rebuilding the Kingsblade to use it against the evil force that initiated the war.

As expected from the title, this story may have a serious setup, but it remains laced with humor and charm. Whether you're partaking in a main story quest or a side-quest, you'll find some humorous scenarios with endearing characters. What you'll encounter most of all are puns — lots and lots of puns. The cat capital has been changed slightly in this incarnation, but some of the same "punny" names remain, and almost every line has either an obvious or subtle cat pun. New to the game are dog puns, so you'll be subjected to both canine and feline jokes. Even if you hate puns, you'll begrudgingly admit that some puns are pretty clever. If you love puns, you'll be in heaven.

For the most part, the core mechanics haven't changed much from the first title. This is an action RPG with real-time combat and individual buttons for up to four different customizable magic spells. Dead enemies give you XP for stat leveling and coins that can be used for upgrades to your gear or spells. All of those things are found via chests strewn about the world, and while you can't sell things, you're not encumbered by their weight. Stats are distilled down to attack power, defense, health, mana attack power, and mana power. Mana regeneration coming from melee attacks, giving you a nice loop that forces you to switch between using both attack types to handle the enemies in the dungeons and overworld.

There are several changes to the main formula, and all of them are beneficial. For starters, CQII has added magic wands to the arsenal. That may not seem like much until you realize that the first game only had melee weapons. Having wands makes you trade those melee attacks for projectile attacks, giving you the advantage of distance. You'll appreciate that advantage, since your health is pretty much halved with a wand in hand, forcing you to really go defensive more often than not.

Another major change has to do with the campaign itself. One of the few things that people could complain about with the first game is that you were often hit with level gates, forcing you to complete quite a number of enjoyable side-quests before you were deemed strong enough to reach a major boss fight and advance the story. Here, despite having two kingdoms to trek through, those level gates aren't present at all. You could, from beginning to end, go through all 21 of the major quests and finish the campaign without touching any of the 60+ side-quests. Of course, taking the time to go through some of the side-quests will net you better benefits in spells and equipment, along with more XP, but not being forced to do those things is liberating and adds to the sense that the developers aren't hand-holding you through the journey.

The biggest and most significant change is a permanent co-op mode. If you're playing solo, that means that you have an AI companion with you at all times. That AI is pretty competent, as it does a good job of attacking smartly depending on the available equipment, and they aren't as prone to getting killed for making dumb decisions. You can always switch between the characters any time you think something is going wrong. If you're playing with another person locally, character switching isn't available, but you'll be able to coordinate with your partner about what to do and, like most other games, the quests are more fun with a real partner tagging along.

Whether you choose a real person or an AI, the move to co-op allows for some extra strategy. Combined with the presence of magic wands, you can now have a more traditional adventure party, as one person can be a mage and the other a knight if you want. The inability for both players to have the same spells or use the same equipment means that you'll divide up the roles in terms of who needs to heal or who needs to have whirlwind spell to inflict more damage due to their slower attacks. The game retains the series' simple pick-up-and-play nature, and touch of strategy adds some much-appreciated depth to the experience.

The presentation hasn't changed at all from the first title. The original epic score returns with a few new tunes that greatly enhance the overall soundtrack. The animations are just as simple and well done as before, and the color schemes are vibrant. The character illustrations are just as adorable as ever; all of the characters are appealing, from the villagers to the heroes and everyone in between. The monsters fit in well with the game style. The addition of a few more on-screen characters hasn't dinged performance at all, even with all of the magic spells triggering at once, so this title is perfect for low-end systems.

Cat Quest II is just as good as the original. The core mechanics remain appealing, while the addition of magic rods and projectile attacks are enough to change things up for those who were afraid of another melee-fest. The elimination of some required grinding makes the game feel more streamlined for those who were anxious to see where the main storyline goes, but the inclusion of local co-op increases the game's fun factor tenfold. This is another job well done and another quality title to add to one's gaming library.

Score: 9.0/10

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