White Knight Chronicles PlayStation 3
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Released on 26/02/2010
The story of White Knight Chronicles begins in the kingdom of Balandor, where a princess’s coming-of-age banquet is raided by an evil Corporation called “Wizard”. A boy called Leonard grabs the princess’s hand and leads her to safety in the castle cellars, where he finds a strange suit of armour that transforms him into the White Knight – an ancient warrior with the strength to defeat the Wizard corporation forces. Leonard’s transformation into a mighty hero, the White Knight, is the beginning of a life-changing fantasy experience, fighting against the fiercest enemies.
Alongside the huge single player quest, adventurers will be able to meet in online lobbies to team up for their quests through the wide world of White Knight Chronicles. Players will find friendship and team spirit in abundance as they journey through a land of awe-inspiring mountains, a lofty castle, a cavernous mine and a towering mobile city built on the back of a gargantuan creature. They’ll hone their combat skills and strategy against foe after foe in gripping melee battles with enemies large and small – and they’ll join a globe-spanning community of brothers (and sisters)-in-arms with a shared taste for adventure.
White Knight Chronicles
As the Japanese RPG has matured, so its themes have strayed from the knights, castles and fairytales of the genre's early years. Level 5, however, has been content to celebrate the simpler, more primary-colour approach of yesteryear, eschewing the fashion for angsty teen protagonists and grim futurism. Indeed, White Knight Chronicles shares many of the bright and breezy characteristics that defined the developer's previous work on Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII with lush, sun-dappled vistas and a chirpy orchestral soundtrack.
In terms of the battle system, too, this is an imaginative proposition. The game borrows many design elements from MMOs such as Final Fantasy XI in its freeform and engaging combat. Your party of fighters is free to engage any enemy it comes across in the environment, play switching seamlessly from explorative to combative mode with the unsheathing of a sword.
You control one member of your party, inputting offensive or defensive moves whenever the 'input' timer gauge fills. Using the d-pad you can cycle between 21 fully customizable attacks, spells and combos on the fly, allowing for a broad range of potential moves in play. As each character levels up you earn points with which to purchase more moves, which can then be inserted into your repertoire. All characters are free to specialise in any way you see fit, allowing you unusual freedom to customise your team.
Suited and Booted
Combat is enjoyable right from the off, but it's not until a few hours of play that a member of your party gains the power to utilise the titular White Knight, a 30-foot suit of amour that can be controlled like a giant Gundam-style Japanese robot. Accrue enough action points during a battle and you can press your character into the armour suit, where he'll tower above whatever foes you were fighting and finish them off with a grand, smiting fist. Best reserved for boss fights, the armour is a gimmick, but a visually pleasing one that lends a little extra strategy to the overall flow of combat through the game.
While the story initially appears to be a fresh take on RPG convention, it soon settles back into a familiar rescue-the-princess, save-the-world rhythm. Mercifully there's very little flab to the narrative. You won't need to grind to stay apace of the game's difficulty and a mini-map will always show you where you're supposed to be headed next, useful for those times you've lost yourself in character customization and forgotten what you were doing. The voice acting throughout the game is of mixed quality, and not every line of dialogue is voiced, but characters are well-animated and thoughtful camera direction of cutscenes manages to inject the lacklustre story with some drama.
Once the main campaign has been exhausted, White Knight Chronicles extends its usefulness by way of the Georama, a kind of MMO-lite that allows you and up to three other players to take on side-quests separate to the main storyline online. With both voice chat and text communication options, and the ability to quest with players of all levels, this aspect is a welcome one and, as any experience earned online is transferable back into your single-player game, players are encouraged to try out both the single-player and multiplayer sides to the experience. With new quests being added by Sony all the time, and a strong community of adventurers ready to pitch in completing them, multiplayer extends the game?s usefulness and, when played with a group of friends, elevates what is merely a competent JRPG to a good one.
Even so, there is a sense that the disparate parts of White Knight Chronicles fail to hang together quite as well as they might have, and the disappointing story lessens the impact of what is otherwise a good-looking, engaging world. With a sequel already announced for Japan, it seems clear that Sony is eager to replicate the success of long-running JRPG series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but whether the ideas laid out in this debut can sustain that remains to be seen.
+ Ingenious battle system.
+ Flexible character specialization.
+ Strong multiplayer.
- Clichéd storyline
- Irritating voice acting.
- Too easy
Words By: Simon Parkin
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