PS3 Review – White Knight Chronicles: International Edition

White Knight Chronicles been a long time coming in the States, and finally, after a year of waiting, it has launched exclusively for the PS3.  The game did pretty well in Japan, enough so to merit a sequel, which is already in the works. Sony and Level 5 are hoping the game sees similar success out west.  With a long campaign and online capability, is White Knight Chronicles a great adventure worthy of fame, or is this just a way to pass the time until bigger RPGs later this year?

Before the tale of White Knight Chronicles even begins, you are asked to create an avatar.  This avatar follows the main characters through the story and becomes your persona when you decide to take the action online.  The customization for your avatar is extremely deep, with options for your eyes, hair, nose, cheeks, mouth, and more.  There are a slew of sliders under each of these categories as you try and create the virtual you.  There is an amazing amount of depth to work with here.

Once past the character creation, you are off on the story.  The story is one that has been told before, and there really is not a lot new here, though some of the twists give it a bit of variety.  The plot revolves around Leonard, who works in a Winery in the country of Balandor.  It just so happens that this Winery has been selected to provide the life of the party at the Princess’ coming of age celebration at the castle.  You are tasked with gathering the wine and making it to the castle, only to have a group called the Magi attack and kidnap the princess.  In trying to escape this mess, you stumble across the legendary armor of the White Knight, and the story begins.  It is now your job to stop the Magi and rescue the princess–again, nothing unique. Additionally, the beginning of the game is a bit slow, and it doesn’t really pick up until a good 10-12 hours into the game.  It is a long time to wait for the story to build up and the characters to mature, but once they do, it really picks up.  It’s also nice that for once, you don’t control a snot-nosed emo teenager, but rather someone who seems have his head on straight.

The game actually plays very similarly to an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game.  You have three characters in your party with the ability to control one character at a time during the battle, though you do have the option to switch to a different character at any time.  You can also set the tactics of your AI-controlled characters, and while it’s not as deep as the gambit system of Final Fantasy XII, it works pretty well.  As you run around the environment enemies will appear as light red dots on your mini map.  Some enemies will not attack until you do, but others will attack at the first sight of you, and when they do, their dot will turn a brighter red.   Red dots do not, however, show up on the mini map until you have actually seen the corresponding monster, which is not a big issue because the draw distance in the game is not bad.  One thing to note is that while selecting your attack, changing party members or assigning skills, the game is not paused, and you can still be attacked.

Once you draw your weapon, you are given a command circle on the screen.  The outline of this circle will start to fill until you are ready to attack.  Once this is ready, you simply choose a command from your palette at the bottom of the screen, and your character attacks.  The palette at the bottom can be fully customized to fit your fighting style by assigning skills to it through your menu.  Players are given 7 open slots and 3 rows, giving players a total of 21 various skills that they can assign.  Navigating through these is pretty simple, as you use the D-Pad to select the skill you want, and once your Command Circle is full, you then will attack using the selected skill.   Skills are gained by using skill points gained during battle to purchase skills.  You are at the helm here, creating the part of your choice with the skills of your choice.  To further this customization,  you can create combo’s by combining different attacks into one combo, therefore only taking up one Command Slot.  These combo’s are performed by selecting the combo and then pressing X at the appropriate time, requiring the player to time it just right.

You must also pay attention to you Action Chips, with each skill costing a set amount of action chips to perform.  Not every skill requires Action Chips and they will be gained back throughout battles or with potions found or purchased in game.  These chips are also very important when you feel the need to call on your White Knight to help you in battle, with this action costing the player 7 AC’s.  Now once you have transformed into the Knight, you are given a unique set of attacks only for your knight and all of these use the players Mana Points.  Once these points are depleted the player will transform back to their human form and continue the attack.  You cannot edit any attacks of your Knight which would have been nice and the Knight actually levels separately from its player host, but you can find equipment for it during the game which grants different attacks.  You can however equip 3 different pieces of Incorruptus Gear on your Knight which gives you various perks like the ability to boost nearby party members or shield allies from a physical attack.

While we are on the subject of equipment, you are given the choice of equipping each character with a pretty basic set of weapons from swords, axes, bows and staffs.   You also have equipment for your chest, arms, feet, legs and 2 accessories.  The cool thing about the equipment in the game is that whatever you put on your characters shows up in the game.  So if your tired of your characters looking the same throughout the entire game no matter the armor you wear, this is a nice change of pace as you actually get to see what the armor looks like that you purchase.  Players will also be given the ability to enhance armor and weapons, repair them or bind 2 pieces together to create something new.