Reviewed: February 6, 2010
Released: February 2, 2010
The PlayStation brand has been synonymous with my yearly fix of RPGís for as long as I can remember owning a PlayStation console. This is not to say that other systems havenít had their fair share of my attention over the years, especially the DS and 360 as of late, but Sony keeps reeling me back in with something new almost every year. So far itís sad to say that Sonyís flagship system, the PS3, hasnít had much love in the RPG category since its release. But those days are over as White Knight Chronicles - International Edition hits stores this week.
White Knight Chronicles, a PS3 exclusive, is the first title that publishers/developers Sony and Level-5 have worked on together on the next-gen console. I am a big fan of Level-5ís previous works; Jeanne díArc and Rogue Galaxy, so I was very hopeful for what White Knight had in store for me when I received my review copy. To say the very least I was in heaven the moment I could switch to another part of town or go in a building without a rather annoying load time.
One of the things that I will mention first is that White Knight Chronicles can and will offer players two different experiences for those that choose to take this title online via the PSN. For those that have experienced titles like Phantasy Star Online or Monster Hunter, like me, youíll almost instantly get a feel for the gameplay and that helps a lot. Regardless of which you choose, I recommend both, you can have plenty of fun either way.
Another thing I will clear out of the way as it is a common misconception that Iíve been hearing about the online play; White Knight Chronicles does not have a co-op story campaign. Players can join up with others and do quests via the GeoNet feature, which Iíll cover, with up to four people including the host.
White Knight Chronicles is a real-time combat RPG that starts off in the fantasy kingdom of Balandor. The story follows Leonard, a young worker that is in the employ of Rapacciís Wines and a new hire, you, which are tasked with getting wine to the coming-of-age celebration for Princess Cisna. Once you complete your first little ďadventureĒ, which includes a drunk little rabbit named Raus, the real fun begins, as you are drawn into an adventure that change Leonardís life forever.
Players must first create their very own avatar prior to starting the story. This avatar serves as your character in the online portion more than anything, because lets face it. Who wants to see up to 12 Leonards walking around a User Room? Certainly not me. Players can customize their avatar using the fifty-four different sliders to their hearts content. This character will follow Leonard, silently in the background, throughout the entire story campaign, as well as being fully usable on GeoNet.
The combat system is one of my favorite things in White Knight Chronicles. Like some of the newer RPGís to come out lately, White Knight features a real-time combat system that takes place right in the environment youíre in without going into some screen-shattering fight arena. Over the years, Iíve slowly embraced this type of combat system though Iím still a sucker for old school turn based combat.
Players can have up to three members in their story party at one time, with the occasional guest member tagging along for the ride. Players can swap out characters in classic RPG fashion, though I spent most of my time using the first three characters that you start your real adventure off with until I really needed to switch things up. Each character does have certain abilities that they cannot do, but for the most part you can create a pretty balanced team. Players cannot control any guest members, like Kara, but you can heal them via potions or Divine magic.
The creatures are fully visible out in the environment, which does away with the random encounters of games of old. Characters will initiate combat if they are approached by hostile enemies or you can do it manually which is what I preferred to do for a couple of reasons. The first being that you can usually get in the first hit and the second being that it gives your attack counter time to charge for your initial attack. The attack counter adds a bit of strategy to your fights instead of just being able to jump in and destroy anything in a matter of a few button presses. The enemies can block your attack and in some instances your attacks can miss entirely if you aren't in the immediate proximity of your target depending on your character's skill set or weapons.
Upon leveling, spanning both online and off, your character will earn skill points that you can use to develop your party members as you see fit. A character cannot use a weapon if they do not have skills or level required for that weapon or vice versa. There are even items that you cannot use until you reach a certain Guild Rank as well. Guild Rank is achieved by doing side quests bought from the Adventurerís Guild in the various towns. These quests can be completed within the Story mode as well as with up to 3 real players in the online portion, which is more satisfying honestly.
The key feature of this rather addicting adventure is the White Knight itself. This colossal war machine is pacted with our young adventurer Leonard who must use its awesome power to save the Princess he has the hots for and ultimately save the kingdom of Balandor and the world from the clutches of the Magi. Without giving away too much, Leonard will be put to the test as he comes face to face with some of the coolest and sometimes weirdest looking bosses that I have seen in an RPG. Every time that I had the chance to use the White Knight was a moment of joy. Itís just really fun to dish out some serious pain. The White Knight can level up just like its human counterpart, so be sure to use it whenever you have a need to.
To transform into the White Knight or use any of your more powerful attack you need to build up a certain level of Action Chips, or AC. These are gained by simply fighting creatures with your normal attacks and saving up your AC to use the desired attacks or Combos. Combos need to be created by the player and you can have anywhere from a two to a six attack combo if you purchase the ability to do so. There is some limitation to the types of combos you can do but for the most part you have a great deal of control over them.
To execute these custom combos you just need to carefully time pressing the ďXĒ button at the right times to finish out you damage dealing combo. The only downside to this is that if the enemy hits you the combo fails. White Knight Chronicles features a clean and rather simple combat selection Rolodex that is pretty easy to use. Players can assign up to 21 Command Skills as well as Combos to the available slots. It is very important to slot your Skills to these, as your AI controlled characters will not use any of their new abilities if you donít.
The world of Balandor offers much to the player that decides to explore its every corner. There are plenty of treasure chests with sometimes-valuable items inside. Throughout your adventure it also very important that you gather materials from pretty much anything that sparkles. These materials are used to upgrade weapons and armor as well as binding just about anything once you earn the ability to do so. Binding weapons can especially be useful as you can take two items of your choice, such as two swords or a sword and some mineral, and create a new even more powerful weapon.
Graphically, White Knight Chronicles is sort of a mixed bag. There are times where the game does look unpolished such as various characters throughout but there are times that the graphics really shine. White Knight Chronicles features some really gorgeous landscapes and cities. The mobile city of Greede is without a doubt my favorite city in the game. This beautiful city is mounted on the back of a massive creature called Demithor, which carries the city wherever it is needed. The fact that there is even something like that in White Knight Chronicles is really cool.
I am also a huge fan of the seamless city environments. The ability to interact with a door and not have to wait for what seems like an eternity for the game to load a shop is just awesome. You just open the door and walk right in. I also like the variety on how they open or the design work on these doors. The door handles on Phibianacci & Co. are just priceless.
I really liked the look of most of the characters in White Knight Chronicles. All of the usual character types that fall under the RPG genre are present and each is nicely designed and brought to life. But one of the things that did bother me a little was the lip movement during spoken dialogue. There are times when mouths will not even move when you can clearly hear the character speaking. There is also the issue of the words not matching the mouths but that is to be expected to some degree due to localization.
Besides the characters I really like the look of all the weaponry and armors. Metal armor a nice shiny texture to it and doesnít look painted on to the fabric underneath. The folks at Level-5 and Sony didnít disappoint here. White Knight Chronicles is presented in 720p, while it doesnít use the PS3ís capabilities to greater extent, its still suits the game well during both online and offline play with smooth character movements and hefty looking attacks with a good constant frame rate.
White Knight Chronicles features some really good music particularly in the town of Greede. Actually Greede was my favorite city overall while playing. Everything about it was marvelous. The voice acting is also very commendable, despite the noticeable lip-synching formalities. I also like the chatter that you here amongst your party mates as you go about your adventure. Theyíre always making comments when you happen to head back the way you cam or do a lot of backtracking in preparation of departing cities. Itís actually kind of nice to hear them instead of them just staying silent while you run from place to place.
White Knight Chronicles can offer players at least 100 hours of gameplay if they take the time to do all the side quests, gathering materials or just exploring the expansive locals. For those seeking a bit more, players can sign into GeoNet and take their adventure online and visit, shop, and embark on quests with other players across the globe Ė thus the International Edition. GeoNet can be accessed from any Logic Stone in the story mode. All you need is a broadband Internet connection and youíre on your way to making new friends and hopefully having a lot of fun.
GeoNet feature a multitude of useful features such as posting messages in the GeoNet bulletin board, tracking adventure logs and visiting home worlds of players close to your level or guild rank. Players can create or join created quests and try to complete various objectives for each with up to three other live players. For right now the only quest you can do are the ones that you purchase through your run in the solo campaign but I wouldnít be surprised if more content becomes available for White Knight Chronicles in the future. This game definitely has a lot of potential online.
I do recommend that if you do plan on giving GeoNet a whirl that you have a USB keyboard or the Sony Wireless Keypad to be able to type responses or interactions within a timely manner. I also think that having a headset; either USB or Bluetooth is a must for the online portion of White Knight Chronicles. It is so much easier to coordinate attacks or strategies when everyone is using a headset, like in an MMO.
Players can also use the Georama mode that becomes available to you early on in your adventure. This allows you to create your own little town where you can recruit NPCís from the various towns to cultivate and make it flourish. There are several different types of job-classed individuals to recruit so you can make your Georama unique from everyone elseís. I did find that it isnít a good ideal to start messing with this feature right away as your party will most likely be too poor to afford to do anything at all with it earlier on.
I definitely had high hopes going into reviewing this title and I must say that I wasnítí disappointed. Sure there are the usual hiccups such as localization but for the most part White Knight Chronicles is a solid title with some room to grow as far as the online portion of it is concerned. The graphics and voice acting are both very commendable and the story is solid nostalgic material. I highly recommend picking up White Knight Chronicles for the PS3 as soon as you can, especially if youíre an RPG fan.