Does this new JRPG franchise do justice to its classic predecessors?
|Game InformationTitle: White Knight Chronicles
Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Version reviewed: PlayStation 3 version
Ask me what the best PS2 game ever is and I’ll answer with pride; Dark Cloud. It had all the elements that I loved in games. While being a creative and humorous RPG, it was also a city building game, and those had been two of my favourite genres rolled into one JRPG gem. I played through the game several times, but I never actually defeated the fat, purple genie boss. None-the-less, I loved the game to bits.
Despite its awesomeness, the game was under-rated. Even I put it aside for a month after failing to defeat the first boss. I came back after that month of playing Timesplitters 2 and whooped the boss’ ass with bombs, and I’m bloody glad I did.
So it’s understandable that one year into my PS3 ownership, after finding out that Level-5 were making a new JRPG series called White Knight Chronicles, I squealed with excitement. The squeal got louder when I heard that there was MMO-style gameplay. Soon after that, the squeal became deafening when I heard that you could design , and run, your own city.
After a long wait, in which I let out increasingly loud squeals, I bought the game from and awesome little game shop in Cornwall. Months of playing would follow.
White Knight Chronicles opens with a character creation screen. Here you will be able to create your avatar who will accompany the main characters on their adventures. There are plenty of customizable options including skin tones, hair, size and face type.
Once you have created your avatar, and during a series of cut-scenes, you are introduced to the Kingdom of Balandor. A lot is happening in Balandor in celebration of the Princess Cisna’s birthday, and that is where the main protagonist, Leonard, comes in.
Leonard is tasked by his boss to go to a nearby town to get a supply of wine, this is also the first time that Leonard meets your avatar, as they go together on this journey. Once at the town, you will also meet Yulie, who is one of Leonard’s friends. She will also accompany you on the way back to Balandor.
After getting back into Balandor, the Kingdom is attacked by mysterious circus people, the King of Balandor is killed and Leonard, along with Princess Cisna, try to run away. They run deep into the castle until they find a huge set of armour. After being surrounded by enemies, Cisna whispers something and Leonard suddenly gains the powers of the White Knight.
After a fight between the White Knight and a huge monster, however, Princess Cisna is captured and taken away on an airship. Leonard swears to go after her, and so the party go on to try and get her back.
Along the way, the party meet several other characters, and travel to several different locations in a bid to save the princess. These locations vary quite a lot, while at the start of the game you will fight on lush grass plains, later into the story you will see deserts, caves and more. All of these areas are distinctive, and most of them are huge. Their size can sometimes be a bit daunting when you have to go from A to B, but it’s nothing that an RPG fan shouldn’t be used to.
The characters also have very distinctive personalities and looks, and you will find yourself liking some more than others. They also clearly have favoured weapon types, but you are not forced to keep to them, and you can change them easily with very little restrictions.
Although the main characters are all distinctive and recognizable, they are usually quite dull, and a lot of the characters are based on over-used gaming cliches. Also, the story is not particularly creative. There are some parts of it which you don’t necessarily expect, but there’s a lot of predictability with the ‘save the princess’ storyline.
Throughout the world in WKC, there are 5 distinctive character races:
- The Humans – The most obvious race, because you are one of them. Take a look at yourself, these characters have similar features, but they can jump much higher than you, and hold massive swords.
- The Frogs - Probably the 3rd most common race in the game, you will come across a lot of frogs, most of which seem to be involved in crime. Don’t worry, though, you’ll never have to fight one.
- The Wargs - Wargs are large, beast-like creatures who often have jobs in manual labour, such as mining and lumber(…ing?… jacking? I don’t know). They’re also bleddy ugly and seem to like mutton chop hair styles.
- The Papitaurs - Probably the most awesome race, and the 2nd most common. Papitaurs are tiny bunny-human-imp-things. A sub-race, the Windwalkers are all Papitaurs, they’re particularly awesome.
- The Farians - Probably the least common race, I didn’t even know they existed until near the end of the game. They’re simply the elf-like creatures, some of them even have antlers.
White Knight Chronicles has 2 main styles of gameplay; adventure gameplay and combat gameplay. The adventure stuff is what you would expect, travel from A to B and you might get diverted on the way in search of something shiny, but there are also a few fresh ideas present.
The map is littered with monsters and chests, but there are also resource spots. For example, when in the desert you could find a rock with a fossil inside, the fact that there are resources available would be symbolized by either a butterfly flying around or sparks of light floating above the object. Upon searching this rock, you would be given a random item from the possible resources, some of which are rarer than others. You can use the resources on your Georama (which I’ll explain later) , but you can also use them to upgrade and make weapons, armour and items, or you can just sell it as a raw material.
The other style of gameplay, combat, is a very large part of the game. Like with the adventuring, combat has several unique ideas put into it to make it interesting. Fighting has a fantasy MMO feel to it, as you can assign special attacks to the command panel at the bottom of the screen and perform them in battle. Also, attacks have a system similar to the cool-down system used in several MMORPGs.
Some (read: most) enemies will attack you on site, but some will just stare at you blankly as you unseath your sword. or charge up a spell. Any enemy can be attacked by pressing X when you’re near them, you will then go into combat mode where you will take out your weapon and your cool-down timer will count down. Once the timer, which is presented as a circle on the screen, has reached zero, you will be able to attack. whilst the counter is ticking, however, you can still run around and select the attack you will do.
One of the most surprising things about fighting in WKC is the size of some of the enemies. You can find huge enemies wandering around, and killing them might land you some nice loot. The range of enemies is quite big, but a lot of the enemies are changed only slightly to adapt them to new locations, and so it can sometimes feel a bit samey.
Each playable character has a skill wheel. On this wheel, you an manage their weapon styles and teach them new skills. For example, if you would like Leonard to be a swordsman, you could use skill points, acquired by leveling up, to teach him new sword skills, which he could then put on his command panel to use in battle. This is a very effective method, which subtly acts like the skill tree method used in other games, as learning certain attacks can lead to new oens being unlocked.
In battle, characters use Action Chips (shown in the image above as ‘AC’) to perform certain special moves. Some moves user one AC, some use 5, some even use none, but these are essentially the warrior’s equivalent of MP. Talking of Magic Power, each character has this too, but only certain attacks use it. For example, a sword attack which involves fire would probably use MP as well as AC.
It took me a while to figure out, but enemy health is represented by the blue crystal next to the enemy name. Another feature for combatants is the ability to create your own combo attacks. You can create them using any combination of unlocked attacks, as long as you have enough AC to be able to perform the move. These can be great for boss fight in particular as you can execute attacks one after the other without having to wait for the cool-down meter, as long as you can get your timing right.
If you’re playing as one of the characters who has the ability to control a knight, one of the highlights is the fact that you can transform into your knight at any moment as long as you have enough AC. When playing as a knight, you will have a different command panel and you will be able to play as a giant suit of armour for a limited (but reasonable) amount of time.
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