I recently got my hands on a new Playstation 3. The machine’s hard drive is almost four times as large as the old 40GB model I owned previously, which has given me the excuse to splurge out on a number of downloadable games. The increased storage capacity has also given me the opportunity to play White Knight Chronicles, a Level 5 role-playing game that I actually bought yonks ago. Why has it taken me so long to try it out? Well, try as I may I couldn’t squeeze the hefty installation files onto my old system’s pathetic drive, no matter how much data I sacrificed to make space. Having just completed the game I figured I would put pen to paper (or should that be finger to keyboard) and reveal if the experience was worth the wait.
The game’s story kicks off with the lead character Leonard being ordered by his employers to protect a wine shipment on its journey from a nearby village to Balandor’s capital city. The booze is for a party being held by the royal family who are celebrating their princess’ birthday. With the player’s guidance Leonard is successful in his task and decides to reward himself by sneaking into the regal shindig. Perhaps he should have stayed away because the monarch-sponsored celebration gets crashed by invading Magi forces who assassinate the king and kidnap the birthday girl.
During the kerfuffle Leonard ends up in the royal castle’s catacombs were he inadvertently bonds with the White Knight, an ancient weapon that is being stored in the palace’s recesses. As the knight’s new owner Leonard is imbued with the power to transform into a giant unstoppable suit of armor. Using his newfound ability Leonard sets off after the Magi who are presently scouring the land searching for other giant knights they can use to conquer the world. Can Leonard and friends stop the evildoers and rescue the cute princess he has the hots for? That ultimately depends on the skill of the player and whether they avoided buying a budget PS3 that cannot install the game without melting.
Gameplay wise White Knight Chronicles reminds me a little of the divisive Final Fantasy 12, a game that some loved for its expansive world whilst others hated for feeling like a single player game mimicking a MMORPG. Much like Final Fantasy 12, the game gives the player direct control of one character whilst your other two companions are A.I operated. The combat system mixes elements of real time and turn based play. You have the freedom to move were you like, but when targeting an enemy you have to wait for a timer to run its course before you can execute your desired weapon strike or spell cast.
One area in which White Knight Chronicles excels would have to be the character customization that gives you freedom to develop your party however you see fit. As your warriors level up you are given skill points to allocate wherever you desire. To make a healer you can for example spend points on white magic. If you desire a budding Legolass, investing in the bow skill tree will allow the aspiring fletcher to perform various archery shots. More creative types could on the other hand make an arcane warrior by splitting points between sword and destructive magic skills.
There are also no restrictions on what gear you can equip your team. When making a tank, who fights on the front lines, I would suggest using heavy armor like plate or chain mail. Someone who avoids trouble and pelts enemies from afar may however be better served by donning lighter attire. Robes and leather clothing (my how kinky) may not negate damage as well as their metal counterparts, but being less cumbersome they permit the wearer to attack at a faster rate by reducing the cool down on abilities that triggers every time you select a combat action.
For the most part I enjoyed White Knight Chronicles, although there are some things it could have done better. The game’s main selling point is Leo’s ability to change into a towering suit of armor. It’s a cool skill and whenever you activate it you cannot help but feel like a giant mecha rampaging across a fantasy world. Squishing stuff underfoot sure is fun so I can now understand why Godzilla loves wrecking cities. The problem is that the move has a lengthy recharge timer so its use is limited. For the most part you’ll have to save it for taking on the end of level bosses or tackling the occasional oversized nasty such as dragons, trolls or golems.
The game’s lack of challenge is also a cause for concern. I got through the entire quest just by assigning one of my companions to heal, anyone who is hurt, whilst having the other two party members concentrate on dishing out pain with bog standard attacks. I never saw the need to buff my team with magic or exploit enemy weaknesses with elemental spells as my simple strategy got the job done. The game boasts a crafting system for upgrading gear and making new weapons, but manufacturing new equipment feels unnecessary given the game’s low difficulty. Why faff about with boring stuff when humble store bought equipment or loot found via dungeon exploration was all I needed to best the story?
Improving your arsenal is probably more important in the optional online multiplayer quests. Here you abandon your premade story team mates and take sole control of the mute avatar you create when the game first starts up (seriously your virtual creation speaks less than Link from the Zelda series or me trying to make small talk with a pretty girl.) I would have loved to tackle the online content on offer, but alas there was no one around to team up with whenever I logged on. This is a niche game, which is several years old, so that is to be expected. Anyone who enjoyed White Knight Chronicles when it first launched has probably since migrated to its rare to find sequel.
Overall I loved White Knight Chronicles, although I cannot quite give it full marks due to the quibbles I have mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. Even though overcoming enemy encounters isn’t exactly taxing, sussing out how to navigate through the labyrinth like levels, were you pull on switches to unlock doors and use teleporters to reach inaccessible areas, kept things from getting dull. The story is a thirty-hour cliche filled cheese fest, but as someone who is a sucker for JRPG tales I didn’t mind. I was however a tad annoyed by how it ends prematurely to set up a sequel. Ending on a cliffhanger? That’s a cheap stunt I would expect from the white hooded Assassin’s Creed series and not from a white helmed knight.