White Knight Chronicles Review

By Figboy

Genre: RPG

Platform: Playstation 3

Developer: Level 5

Price: $59.99 (USD)

I’ve been a big fan of Level 5’s games since playing the original Dark Cloud on the Playstation 2 many moons ago. Their games are generally quirky, with solid stories and visuals, but highly enjoyable game play. After their last outting on the Playstation consoles, Rogue Galaxy, I was pumped to dive into their first Playstation 3 title, White Knight Chronicles. Does it continue the legacy of Level 5’s solid JRPG formula, or fall flat? Read on to find out.

The first thing that struck me about WKC is it’s robust character creation engine. You can easily spend a good hour or more tweaking the various features of your character’s face, from eye spacing, nose shape and size, chin, jaw, etc. This isn’t new to games with charater creation, but what is staggering is simply how much you can tweak those settings. There are slider bars that often go from 0 to 100, and the level of variety you can get is amazing, even with the highly stylized, anime graphics.

The story of White Knight Chronicles is probably it’s weakest part, but having played nearly every Level 5 RPG since they hit the scene, I have to say it’s no better or worse than previous outtings. The story follows a young man named Leonard, who finds himself in possession of a powerful “Ark” that allows him to transform into a towering White Knight. Using the knight, Leonard and his companions (including your custom created avatar, who works with Leonard at the winery) embark on a quest to find Princess Cisna, who has ties to Leonard’s childhood, as well as a mysterious connection to an ancient and powerful race.

The story is by no means fresh or original, and the characters don’t have the depth or complexity of some more recent RPGs, but any fan of anime should be suitably entertained. What should also be noted about the story is that it’s very tongue in cheek. This isn’t a Final Fantasy epic, in which everything is somber and serious, with brooding characters wracked by their own personal demons. It’s Saturday morning cartoon fare, and it works within the style and context of the game. Don’t expect anything brimming with deep, thought-provoking commentary, and you should be fine. On a related note, the voice acting in the game is solid enough, also in the same vein as some of the better voiced animes out there.

On the game play side of things, White Knight Chronicles is a rather slow affair initially, with new game play elements being revealed as the player progresses through the single player campaign. If you want some sort of game/reference to compare it to, I harken it to a mix between Level 5’s Dark Cloud and Rogue Galaxy series, and Final Fantasy XII. The game often feels like a single player MMORPG, minus the Massively Multiplayer part. The controls are responsive, and never did I have to battle the camera, or have a character not do what I intended. The game’s auto-targeting of enemies is pretty good as well, with you rarely targeting something you didn’t intend to. It will often target the most dangerous threat first, which is nice.

As for the various game play elements, this is WKC’s best feature. I’ll begin with the combat system. The player is able to level up skills in 8 distinct classes during the course of the adventure. Your avatar isn’t tied down to any one class, and can place skill points in any of the 8 types of combat (Swords, Longswords, Elemental Magic, Spears, Bows, Axes, Divine Magic, and Staffs). Not only do each of these 8 classes contain new moves/skills, but also ability ups, such as Strength, Hit Points, Dexterity, etc, that help improve your character’s performance. It is possible to max out more than one skill during the course of your adventure, but it will most likely take you a New Game +, and a few Reincarnations (more on that later), to max out more than that.

The combat system is also more than just unlocking new skills. There is a rather enjoyable Combo Creation system, that allows you to string together multiple skills in order to maximize damage to enemies. For example, my character, who’d I’d classify as an Arcane Warrior, has a combo that lets me hit the enemy, follow through with another attack that knocks them in the air, leap up into the air and slash them again, and upon landing, finish off with a magic attack. These combos are created by you, and will cost Action Chips to perform. The amount of action chips depends on how many, or how powerful each attack costs (some skills, like a basic slash, cost 0 action points, while stronger ones can cost between 1 and 4). The combat in White Knight Chronicles is often repetitive, but thanks to the option of always creating new combos, and mastering more than one skill class, makes it more enjoyable than your standard turn based battle system in other JRPGs.

It should also be noted that while in battle, you have a meter that fills up (very much like any Active Time Battle meter in a Final Fantasy game), and when the meter is full, you can execute your attack. For your combos, there is a bit of timing involved, as the circular meter will flash when the next combo is up, and you must press the X Button during that flash in order to pull of the next chain in the combo.

Most other RPGs call it a day after the character creation and battle system are complete, but White Knight Chronicles does not stop there. There are a few other major features that can extend game play significantly. The first is the crafting system. During the game, players will collect items from enemies, chests, and various natural locations like trees, rock, and grass, and use those items to craft everything from weapons, armor, accessories, items, to things like houses and job parts for the game’s Georama system (which I’ll also get into in just a bit). The amount of materials it often takes to craft these items is significant, so farming areas/enemies is one of the major elements to the game.

Now, moving on to the Georama system. At a certain point in the single player campaign, you will be able to access what is called Geonet. This is separate from the single player campaign, and encompasses the online portion of the title, in which up to 4 players can join up in your Georama Hometown, and complete quests for rare items and loot, as well as points that go towards your Guild Ranking.

Georama lets you create your own Hometown, and fill it with NPCs that you recruit during the single player campaign. These NPCs also have specialties, from farming, to cooking, to mining, to magic and more. It is possible to have your Georama specialize in only one area, and max out that specialty, which fills up your shops with more items based on that specialty. I’ve come across towns created by players that only specialize in one thing, and you can find some rather valuable (and therefore expensive) items that way. Georama can easily become a time sink, as you can use your money earned in single player or multi-player quests to upgrade your town, change it’s locations, and build bigger and better houses and job parts to increase the level and productivity of your town.

It is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, but I am wholly addicted to making my town kickass. During my visits to other player’s towns, I am simply stunned at the amount of work put into some of them. One player is even in the process of building a gigantic castle in his town. So far, it looks extremely impressive.

After creating your Hometown, up to 12 players can enter your room, and you can take 3 others with you into quests. The online portion is really where it’s at in White Knight Chronicles. It reminds me of MMOs like Guild Wars, in which a small party of characters venture off into the world and kill monsters, farm loot, and level up. The repetition factor is no different than in those MMOs, so enjoyment of those things wholly rests upon how much you like that aspect of an MMO. Despite me not being too big into MMOs myself, I had a great time playing with some buddies, chatting about this and that while we went about our quests. In a way, you could consider White Knight Chronicles the Playstation 3’s first MMO. It has the same depth and complexity as most of the best MMOs, but with an offline mode so if for some reason you can’t play online, you can still play the game and get your fix.

Even after maxing out at Level 50, players have the option to “Reincarnate” their character. This process will drop the character down to Level 35, but they will retain all of the skills they have achieved over the course of their game. This allows them to master many more skills that a traditional, single play through may not. I’ve already sunk over 45 hours into the game, and have yet to reach level 50 (level 32 here). You do take a minor hit to some of your stats when you reincarnate, but seeing as how you can reincarnate multiple times, growing stronger as you master more skills, this isn’t a deal breaker. It should also be noted that your avatar can cross over from single player to multi-player and vice versa, with all of the skills/items you have acquired in either mode.

Lastly, I have to touch upon the visuals in the game. The character models are it’s weakest part, with it’s highly stylized, anime art design, so they are decidedly not as detailed as other RPGs, but the environments are simply gorgeous. Each locale I’ve visited has impressed me with it’s scale and level of detail. The water effects in particular are truly stunning. The game is nearly 2 years old now (it was released in Japan in 2008), so of course it can’t compare to games releasing just now, but it most certainly holds it’s own against many other JRPGs released so far. Spell effects are rather weak, however, and the lip-syncing during cutscenes is off. To me, those are minor issues, as the rest of the package is so graphically solid. The world has a very unified, cohesive feel, and for Level 5’s first outting on the PS3, it’s good.

VERDICT: BUY – This is a tricky game to recommend, as some will love it’s MMO and anime stylings, while others will hate it for it. The game simply isn’t for everybody. In the end, however, I highly recommend this game to Level 5 fans that have enjoyed their previous work, and fans of RPGs like Final Fantasy XII. This is in the same league and quality as those outings in the game play department. I’d recommend it as a rental for those that don’t enjoy JRPGs and MMORPGs, as I doubt White Knight Chronicles would change your mind. I found the title fun, addicting, and the story campy and quirky, like most of Level 5’s previous titles. I simply loved it.

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3 Responses to “White Knight Chronicles Review”

  1. I’m really surprised at how much I’m enjoying the game. I do think it has a lot to do with the georama. I love that I can make my own town.

    I also really enjoyed the character creation engine. More games need to take notes on this. The more you can adjust and customize, the better. Mass Effect 2 is a good picture of what not to do. The choices are incredibly limited.

    I’m rambling but I think it’s hilarious how little the other characters interact with your character. I think Leonard asks you one question and tends to ignore you for the rest of the time. 😛 Same with Ceasar and Yulie. I imagine my character secretly hates them but is biding her time until she can take over.

  2. @namelessshe

    I think you’re making an apples-to-oranges comparison between Mass Effect and White Knight.

    I agree with the sentiment that Mass Effect is an example of what not to do *IF* you were designing a conventional MMO-style RPG. But Mass Effect was never designed to be an MMO/RPG in the conventional sense in the first place.

    Mass Effect’s design primarily facilitates storytelling with a significantly tighter focus on character drama and interaction. More notably, Mass Effect explores moral/ethical decisions and their consequences to a greater extent, such that it applies those consequences to the game’s continuity right into subsequent Mass Effect games.

    That kind of game design characteristic warrants (for practical reasons) that the developers put the player on rails to some extent because the kinds of decisions the player makes must still reasonably function within the confines of the overall continuity.

    White Knight, on the other hand, was designed to follow a more conventional RPG/MMO vein from the start and such games tend to give the mechanics of the game (multi-classes, crafting, in-depth combat system, heck— town building even!) a far more central role.

    So saying Mass Effect is a “good example of what not to do” while comparing it to White Knight is like saying that a Porsche is a good example of how not to build an F-22 Raptor.

    The Porsche may suck at being an air superiority fighter but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a bad car by any stretch!

    • I don’t know. Back when Mass Effect first came out I remember it being pimped as an rpg. I do agree that WKC and ME are two different types of games, but I don’t think customization should be overlooked because one is more of a shooter and one is more of an rpg. When it comes to character creation, I still firmly believe that Mass Effect dropped the ball.

      The hair in ME 1 and 2 are atrocious, but WKC (even though it has a very anime look) manages to provide relatively attractive designs. The noses are also infinitely better, and when I’m putting more than three hours into a game I want my character to look at least passable.

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