White Knight Chronicles Review (PS3)

Looked at from afar, White Knight Chronicles will seem like the typical Japanese RPG. It tells the story of Leonard, a young boy who discovers he has a special ability which in short puts him in the position to save the land.

Leonardís ability allows him to turn into the White Knight Ė a gigantic, powerful suit of armour that is kind of reminiscent of a transformer or Gundam. It has that traditional swords and sorcery look youíd associate with a medieval styled JRPG, but at the same time it looks surprisingly high-tech and, it has to be said, pretty damn awesome.

Creating your avatar with a ton of options to choose from.
White Knights Ė gigantic medieval Gundams.

Before you get to any of that story stuff, White Knight Chronicles actually throws you into a character editor that would be more at home in an MMO. The character editor is one of the most detailed ones Iíve ever seen in an RPG that isnít an MMO, and it provides you with a wide array of sliders to edit almost every facet of your characterís appearance.

In the end, this character isnít actually Leonard, the lead, but a member of Leonardís party that will tag along during the adventure. This mute, customizable husk will hang around in silence in cutscenes and aid you in battle, and as soon as you start the game youíre given control of Leonard, not your home-made character.

That character actually exists almost entirely for the online segment of the game Ė itíll be your created face you use if you head into White Knightís online mode Ė but for single player, youíll be firmly focused on Leonard and company, who travel through a largely predictable story where a ragtag group of would-be warriors band together to save the world with their determination and a bit of help from the powerful White Knight.

Where White Knight Chronicles becomes atypical is in its mixture between the MMO and regular RPG genres. The interface in battles is somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy XI, throwing up text reminders of exactly how much damage youíre doing in numbers in one corner, a minimap in the other as well as all the details of your party membersí status and what skills theyíve queued up to use next.

The HUD is very reminiscent of an MMO overall, but it feels cluttered and messy in the context of a single player game and much of the information tends to feel redundant at best and at worst downright irritating and distracting.

Also similar to Final Fantasy XI (and XII) is the fact that the system is turn-based without any random encounters. Enemies are visible on the field and approaching them will kick off a battle with no transition. While there are no turns in the traditional sense, youíll have to wait for your character to Ďrechargeí before they can carry out another one of your orders.

Combat with White Knights is simple at best.
Some of the designs are pretty and rather inspired.

Recharging takes such time that it slows the combat considerably and White Knight Chronicles can sometimes feel like that worst bit of an MMO Ė where youíre just hammering the same button on an enemy, with only the delay between moves slowing the combat down. While you only control one character (and you can change who that is) you can issue basic commands to your other party members in battle as well.

With battles seamless, it makes sense that the game takes place on gigantic fields and areas that sprawl out with multiple pathways through them. Like an MMO, missions will sometimes push you through an area and sometimes have you backtracking and slaying enemies. The mission variety is respectable, and I found the open-ended aspect refreshing as I was playing this alongside the linear Final Fantasy XIII. The backtracking can get a tad annoying, though.

Character progression is equally as open-ended, offering a massive amount of customization on every character. Characters arenít given set classes and itís instead up to you to decide who will fill what role. As you progress youíll unlock a plethora of new moves, skills and combos to use, all of which have their various pros and cons.

Playing as the White Knight is exciting the first couple of times, but sadly the gigantic beasts are so powerful that gameplay with them isnít at all engaging. There are no combos, and their limited repertoire of moves means youíll essentially be hammering X once you transform which really isnít much fun at all.

The design of White Knightís world is as generic as its plot, but itís peppered with moments of genius, beautiful design thatíll make your jaw drop. Itís the design that's impressive here and not the graphics, as the game sadly already shows its age as a 2008 title in that respect.

The online segment of White Knight Chronicles is responsible for many of the MMO-like decisions in its design, and in a nutshell it allows up to four players to head online and tackle quests similar to those in the single player. Instead of AI party members, the four players will work together to complete the mission. The multiplayer mode is disappointingly disconnected from the main story, with any storyline events locked to single-player.

Enemies range from gigantic beasts to killer Wasps.
Sprawling Locations await on the adventure.

The multiplayer content should almost be considered post-game content, with the online missions adding a bit more variety and a bit more to do in the game, although it brings nothing significant to the table. As with any game it's better with real people helping you than it is with AI, but getting online and getting connected is such a headache many players may not bother and the lack of co-operative storyline action is truly disappointing.

White Knight Chronicles is a game that isnít quite the sum of its parts. The parts actually add up together pretty well on paper, but in reality the MMO and single player Japanese RPG styles donít merge too well, and what youíre left with is a fun combat system with a cluttered HUD, generic storyline and design and a multiplayer component that is a side-component at best. It couldíve been so much more. Itís still a solid game and an enjoyable RPG, but a lot of that potential has been wasted.

Best Moment:  Seeing the awesome Incorruptibles Ė the White Knights - for the first time.