Disclaimer: This review may seem late because many of you have been able to buy White Knight Chronicles for some weeks now. Unfortunately the game is only just being released this week in the UK. Which is why our review is only just going up.
Level 5 have been known to produce some fine RPG’s, such as Rouge Galaxy and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. They have managed to maintain a close relationship with Sony Computer Entertainment, and White Knight Chronicles is one of many exclusive gems that they plan on delivering to Playstation 3 gamers. As we are all in anticipation of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII, Level 5 have given us White Knight Chronicles International to occupy ourselves with. So how does the game stand up as a JRPG? For what it is the game is very solid, it just suffers from a true lack of identity.
White Knight Chronicles takes place in the kingdom of Balandor; where an evil organization by the name of Magi take it upon themselves to kidnap the lovely princess, killing the king in the process. While attempting to save the princess, your main character Leonard discovers some ancient armor. By proving himself worthy Leonard manages to utilize this suit of armor in battle. Contrary to the fact that Leonard becomes worthy of using the armor, it is agreed that he will take his team on a quest to save the princess and bring calm to the kingdom. It is a very straight forward plot, and in a lot of ways it is unoriginal. The whole concept of gaining the White Knight armor kind of reminded me of Blue Dragon, where you could utilize the powers of the dragons. So you may see the whole plot in White Knight Chronicles as yawn worthy, but it is exciting enough to keep you playing.
The game itself starts off with a character creation feature, in which you will be forced to adjust the look of your own personal avatar. The character creation elements aren’t very advance at all, and if you are a male you may be bothered with how feminine your character will turn out, no matter how hard you try to make him look more manly. What may annoy you even further is the fact that once you finish creating your character, you will quickly find out that they are not even meant to have a leading role in the games story. Your character is designed to play the background, and is generally just another body to carry along in your mission. Your avatar will be seen in the background of all the cut scenes looking out of place. Whats more, is your avatar is a mute and never once participates in any conversation. Your character (which I called Hydro) only really gets to shine when you play the game online, as you will use him as your online character to complete many of the side quests. Aside from that, don’t expect your created character to be involved directly with the storyline, as this story is all about Leonard. Nevertheless it is somewhat cool to see a Japanese RPG have some form of character customization.
Perhaps one of White Knight Chronicles finer points, is the fact that you can embark on a number of side quests online with a friend. No RPG is complete without a number of side quests to take part in, when you just want to level up or explore. The fact that White Knight Chronicles allows you to do this with a friend, is a very welcoming factor. This can make the game feel almost like an MMO, as you can take up to two friends and work like a guild. Just remember that you will not be able to use the power of the White Knight whilst playing online, due to the fact only Leonard can unlock this power.
The combat system in White Knight Chronicles can seem very complex at first, but once you get to grips with it, it is actually very fun to use. White Knight plays like an action RPG as it has a very free flowing style of combat. However it is really more of a turn based RPG, in the sense that you have to wait for a certain period of time before you can attack. The fun part about the combat is that you can put your own personal spin on what actions everyone in your party performs by creating your own combos. Combos allow you to string together certain attacks that you have unlocked. They perform much like the tactics system in Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins. Setting combos determine what actions members of your party will perform when you are not actually controlling them yourself. You are likely to use Leonard himself through the majority of the time, due to his ability to transform into the White Knight. Though the game does allow you to control any of the other characters in your party, which can be refreshing if you chose to build them all up differently.
Once Leonard gains enough action chips in battle, he can then transform into the White Knight himself. The White Knight can easily take out any foe in the game, mainly due to his size and power. The catch is that once you use up all of the White Knight’s MP, you will revert back into Leonard’s normal form. Though the game is far too easy for this to even become a problem. Very rarely in White Knight Chronicles will you be faced with a challenge in combat. Which can be frustrating to know, as White Knight Chronicles does feature some very well crafted enemies. It’s also so fun setting up different combo’s and changing your parties equipment, but in the end it all just seems worthless as you’ll be mowing down enemies with your eyes closed.
As for preparing for combat, the game features all the aspects of an RPG that you would expect. Such as purchasing new weapons, armor and items. Every time you level up you will gain more points, which allow you to unlock new techniques that you can add to your move sets or combos. Another unique concept you will find in the game, is the ability to build your own towns. Building up these towns will allow you to uncover more rare and powerful items that will help you in your quest. The downside is that maintaining these towns can be very costly. Meaning that if you wish to go all out with it, you will have to go on quest after quest after quest, just so you will be able to afford the numerous upgrades for your town.
Visually the game is very nice to look at. White Knight Chronicles manages to maintain very realistic looking textures, whilst still carrying that JRPG anime essence. The game has many vibrant colors, and will look fantastic at a high resolution. Many of the creatures you will come across in the world are well crafted and unique, and they make exploring the world that much more intriguing.
The voice acting in the game is what you would usually expect from a JRPG with an English dub. The translation process is a very delicate matter when it comes to these games, and it can either come out really well or really bad. In fact the voice over may be what makes the story in White Knight Chronicles somewhat bland. This is not the fault of Level 5, it’s just the simple fact that the true essence of a story can be lost in translation, which is perhaps what happened here.
To summarize, White Knight Chronicles is a very solid JRPG. I have enjoyed every moment of what I have played thus far, and look forward to playing more. The game will last you up to 40 hours, perhaps more if you decide to indulge in many of the side quests. Although the game lacks any outstanding features that gives the experience it’s own identity, it is still very much worth playing if you want to sink your teeth into an RPG that will occupy you for some time. Because of it’s timing, White Knight Chronicles can be considered the perfect supplement to your gaming diet while you wait for Final Fantasy XIII. If you play White Knight Chronicles and accept the game for what it is, you will be more than satisfied. However if you are looking to be blown away by the experience then you may end up disappointed. With that being said, I would only recommend this game to someone who enjoys playing a JRPG that will hold you from beginning to end with little complaint. With a White Knight Chronicles sequel already announced, you can see clearly by playing this game that Level 5 introduced this edition to tell a tale that is likely to blossom along the way.