With 2010 being the year of the RPG, Level 5 brings us their latest game, White Knight Chronicles. WKC was released in Japan in December 2008 and it spent a good amount of time undergoing the localization process. The game features all of the online patches that were released in Japan as well as in-game voice chat, per request of the Western audience. WKC has a lot to prove in order to stand among the ranks of other RPGs being released in the coming months. The real question is if WKC will be becoming part of your collection and why, so let’s jump into this headfirst.
White Knight Chronicles is a game that has a similar interface to that which was seen in Final Fantasy XI, which isn’t a bad thing. The design of the UI is minimalist and clean, which is a plus since your screen is never jumbled or messy. The attack commands only come up when you initiate combat and each bar is numbered, so you are able to browse attacks with relative ease. The combat text is outlined in black and I never had any trouble reading what was going on, although when a lot of action was going on it was impossible to keep up on it. One complaint with the UI is the map. The map shows only a small portion and you have to select the full screen map quite a bit while navigating areas.
The combat in WKC is extremely user friendly, which can be a turn off to RPG fans that want a combat system with more depth. The combat system consists of you picking the move you want to use and then waiting for the combat gauge to fill up, after you use the move, you wait for the gauge to fill up and attack again. Through customization — which I will get into later — you can devise combos. Certain attacks and all combos require Action Currency in order to use them. If you run out of AC then you have to use regular attacks in order to regain AC. There is also MP, which is used by magic as well as some skills. Back to combos, if you want to use a combo, you hit X again as the name of the move you are currently using lights up, if you do it right, then you can do the following attack, rinse and repeat. If the combat gauge fills up, you can press R1, and you can block incoming attacks, which will reduce the amount of damage taken. While blocking, you cannot attack. An extremely annoying thing about the combat system is when you get knocked over, when facing multiple enemies alone, you may get stuck in an endless loop of getting knocked down and slowly getting up only to be knocked down again. One gripe with the combat system is an inability to switch characters with ease. The character switching seems more like a chore than it really should, and this will be a turnoff for a lot of players.
When you acquire the ability to turn into the White Knight it takes 7 AC in order to make the transformation. As you progress through the game you will acquire more AC, and when you get 12 AC you can transform with more attacks, and at 15 AC you receive more. As the White Knight you will stay in form until you run out of MP or after the battle is done. The biggest drawback about fighting as the White Knight is that the relatively easy combat becomes jokingly easy. I found myself fighting bosses as my group without transforming to try and add difficulty, but for some fights, you have to turn into the White Knight.
As far as graphics go, White Knight Chronicles is decent, but nothing truly differentiates it from any other game out. The game does not look bad, but it does have it’s shortcomings. The game suffers from jaggy textures and some anti aliasing would have been nice. However, the shadows are smooth and beautiful. WKC does not suffer from screen tearing, I had to really try to get minor, and I mean minor, screen tearing. Another good thing is that I don’t recall seeing texture pop in, which helps enhance the look of the world. The maps are huge and once you are in a zone, there is no loading while traveling anywhere in that map. The mandatory install made all loading extremely speedy. However, the saving seemed to take much too long. It is annoying as hell when after you save it then says “saving system settings”.
The art style of WKC is something that resembles a lot of other JRPGs out, in the sense that characters resemble human beings, but there is a cartoony nature to them all. The character design has a lot of charm, especially the Papitaur characters. The biggest graphical failure is the mouth syncing. White Knight Chronicles has the worst syncing I have seen this generation. The mouths open a few times yet complete sentences are spewed out. It got so bad to the point where I could not look at the characters mouths during the cutscenes.
The music in WKC is the highlight of the game in my opinion. The music in this game is exotic and refreshing. It is reminiscent of Yasunori Mitsuda’s music work on Chrono Cross. The music complements the game beautifully, and WKC is a prime example of how music in a game should be done. The sound however is a bit more on the stale side. The sound effects are relatively stock, but they serve their purpose nevertheless. The character voices are decent, but a few of the characters are ANNOYING. Another bother about the voice work is the passing banter between characters. The banter is sub par at best and the voice work sounds cut and pasted. The fact that the game would have been better without the passing banter says a lot about the poor quality.
The customization features of WKC are something truly wonderful. The character creation system is robust and you can make a truly unique character using the tools at your disposal. Just keep in mind, a lot of the default features are very Eastern oriented, if you want a Western looking character, you will be doing a lot of tweaking. Also, the combat customization is something that can keep you enthralled for hours. You distribute points in different skill trees in order to teach your character new attacks and spells. Then you can actually make your own combos by inserting skills. If you obtain weapon masteries, then you can make larger, more intense combos. Keep in mind, the more attacks means the more AC used. Also, if you stack certain attack types, then combos will become stronger as well. The ability to make your own combos will lead to many different ways to attack.
The single player story mode of the game doesn’t bring much to the table as far as originality is concerned. WKC is a game made up of archetypes, from the settings, to the characters, this game is as cookie cutter as you can get. The storyline doesn’t do much to really grab the player. There are some moments in which the game grabs you, but these moments are few and far between. The story’s pacing is moderate. There are very few points where you will feel like the story is dragging it’s feet. One of the biggest disappointments with single player is that your avatar is not the main character and since he/she doesn’t have a voice (silent protagonist archetype) you will want to use the other characters. However, if you do missions in single player, you will play as your avatar. This caused me to craft my character specifically for online play since I did not use him in the main story line.
The multiplayer is where WKC really shines. When dealing with online interactions, characters will use the GeoNet system. GeoNet is your personal account for WKC. This is where you will add your friends so that you can view their profiles or join them in games, etc. The fact that your GeoNet friends list exists outside of your PSN friends list is a thing of beauty, especially since a lot of the people I played with had full friends lists. Also, you can start missions in single or multiplayer and choose to open a lobby for other players to join, or even join an already existing lobby to do a quest. The biggest drawback about quests is that they are acquired in the single player game, and you have to pay for them (a big WTF here, it just seems ass backwards to me). As you quest, you gain Guild Ranks, which allow for you to do more advanced quests.
Within GeoNet, players can create their own personalized lobby called a Georama. The Georama is your own personal town. As you collect more materials, you can build more pieces for your Georama, from crates to houses. After you get the ability to make your Georama, you also get the ability to recruit different inhabitants for your Georama. These inhabitants will serve a purpose and can even provide certain services. You can also extend the surface area of your Georama by paying money to expand it all. Expanding will allow for you to gain Georama ranks, which will help you recruit better skilled inhabitants for your Georama (just remember you can only recruit 20). If you are too lazy to make the structures for your town, there is a shop that will charge you real money for items, but the items are horrendously overpriced. The Georama will unlock special stat specific gear in the shop, also, you will get a discount in your own Georama.
White Knight Chronicles is not a revolutionary RPG by any stretch, but the game is definitely fun. There are quite a few shortcomings, but a lot my complaints are nitpicky. Nothing in the game is debilitatingly broken. The single player is good enough to where you should be able to play through the duration of the game. The multiplayer is what gives this game legs. I hope this game will build a community, because if the multiplayer dies, then this game will fall by the wayside. If you love an RPG where you can tailor the playstyle to fit your own preferences, then White Knight Chronicles is definitely worth a playthrough.
Just a final note here, I am giving this game a 7/10 but as you know I can’t do half stars in our layout, so I have to put 4 stars on the site.
- Title: White Knight Chronicles
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: Level 5
- Publisher: SCEA
- MSRP: $59.99
- Release Date: February 2, 2010
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for reviewing purposes