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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developed By: Level-5
Genre: RPG
Players: 1-4
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: February 2, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Anthony Cara

February 19, 2010 - Castle walls crumble in the flaming night sky- there is chaos, panic, and murder. A black horned knight stalks the princess and all that stands in his way is a young man who works at a winery and his generic customizable friend who happened to get hired on the wrong day… White Knight Chronicles has finally arrived!

The much anticipated White Knight Chronicles has finally been released- not with a bang, but with a whimper. I previously commented on various aspects of the game that deserved note- things that could have been different, but made no such bold statements as “biggest disappointment of 2010” like some reviewers have. I personally believe White Knight Chronicles to be a decent JRPG with a fun and intuitive online system and great potential for future titles. Without further adieu- into the gritty details!

The story of White Knight Chronicles is touching, epic, and entirely overdone. A princess has been taken away by airship and every time you come so close to rescuing her…well it turns out she’s in another castle- sound familiar? Okay, well she isn’t exactly in another castle, but the close calls and endless chase gets old after a while. That being said, the characters are well drawn and well acted. It’s become quite fashionable to detest all things American when it comes to dub voice acting- but this game does a very good job of rounding up talented voice actors from both the domestic and import scene (Dana Snyder in particular was an unexpected delight!). Sure some of the voices are your “typical whiney anime guy A” but most are pretty good. All these factors add up to an enjoyable- albeit played out- Japanese RPG adventure!

As for the characters being “well drawn” I feel I should qualify that by saying this does NOT apply to your custom avatar. Unlike games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, or Demon’s Souls – your Avatar is not the center of a deep, customizable story. Basically, your Avatar becomes window dressing for most cut scenes and has absolutely no real impact on the game’s story line. In fact, more often than not, the other characters simply ignore the Avatar and the game really focuses on Leonard and his quest to rescue his princess with the awesome power of the White Knight Ark (a sort of medieval Gundam). Throughout the course of this quest, there are a few surprises, some political intrigue, and even a love triangle (something I personally hadn’t seen utilized since the days of Legend of Dragoon for the PlayStation One). Finally- and a bit off topic- the graphics are pretty, but clearly not pushing the limits of what the PS3 can accomplish. The characters look decent, but lack some detail, environments are gorgeous, but in a glitchy fashion appear to be splitting at the seams (you can literally see cracks where textures meet) and enemies lack variety and are pretty much just a handful of stock types with different color swatches.

The combat system is quite simple and is often compared to that of Final Fantasy 12. This comparison isn’t exactly appropriate because it implies a great deal of customization over your party’s actions. This is certainly not the case. Before entering a fight, you are able to customize 3 action bars each with 7 empty slots. A special 4th action bar is reserved for items and other essential commands. On those limited action bars, you are allowed to place any moves you wish ranging from physical strikes and spells to healing (each skill will have an ATB bar once used). You also have the option to string together up to 7 attacks (providing they are combo-compatible) and placing the entire combination in one task bar slot. It is important to customize these action bars not only for the character you choose to play, but also for your AI controlled team mates since they will only use the skills on the bars. This naturally becomes quite troublesome and is a stark contrast to the classic “Tales of” games that just let you turn certain moves on or off for the AI. Finally, the only real control you have over your AI team mates is that on the fly you can tell them to focus, spread out, defend, or do whatever they feel like. In the midst of combat, clicking R3 becomes a context sensitive call for action and can prompt your allies to either go “all-out” or heal. Unfortunately, you cannot really choose who takes action or which they action take and you can do nothing but hope for the best. It seems obvious that there is a set percentage that will set the characters’ response triggers to heal, but I prefer to keep my HP at a much safer level, and it would be nice to know which character will heal since I only have one dedicated mage with me! Sometimes it’s easier to just manually change to that character, use a quick spell, and change back.

The game’s integrated gameplay mechanics are pretty interesting as well. The game always has the same basic commands, graphics and functions, whether you are in town, online, offline, or in a dungeon. What this basically means is that you can emote in the middle of a fight, see your current armor in most cut scenes, and enjoy rich immense cities or dungeons almost entirely free of load screens. For the most part, this works in the game’s favor, but I must admit I was quite sad the first time I saw a cut scene with all four of my character’s decked out in the exact same shade of drab copper armor. Where was Leonard’s fancy coat- or Yulie’s hot pants? Sacrificed for higher defense bearing protective gear… In my younger days I lamented the fact that it mattered not what armor or weapons you gave your party when they all ended up looking the same through the entire game, but now I’m not so sure what’s worse- a party dressed the same, or a party of uniquely dressed heroes that maintain that style for an entire game. It does get better as the game progresses- armor becomes more specialized and your melee and mages start to look different. Still…why couldn’t those hot pants have just had a little more defense…

One aspect of the game’s mechanics which could desperately use some improvement is the equipment handling. While it may add challenge and fun not being able to take everything with you into dungeons or move things between characters too easily, when attempting to upgrade your equipment in town this becomes incredibly frustrating. There is no all encompassing “item menu” but rather smaller ones for each character and the storage. Furthermore, there are no dedicated “status” or “equipment” menus. They are inconveniently integrated into the game’s “combat setup” and the individual player item menus. You cannot equip straight from storage or another player, you cannot see the effect of the new equipment unless you are in the “combat setup” menu and there is no option to automatically move or replace newly equipped items. If your characters are loaded down with items, it becomes quite a chore to unequip each piece, move it away somewhere, move the new piece, and finally equip it. Needless to say, arriving at a new town and stocking up on all new weapons and armor is less than amusing.

Now for the game’s big selling point: online co-op multiplayer and custom built towns. After you have made it through just a little bit of introductory story, the game allows you to purchase a deed to build your own unique city and go online to meet up and play with other people via the PlayStation Network. The online mode allows players to create their own home page (complete with photograph of their current georama) and post messages on a bulletin board. If social networking isn’t what you are looking for in a Japanese RPG- the quest matching system will definitely be more your speed. All you do is either create a room and leave it open for others to join, or do a search (based on level or other criteria) and join the room that’s right for you! The online quests are quite simple and usually revolve around killing a certain number of mobs, finding something (or someone), or solving a puzzle that will ultimately unlock a boss that you must defeat. As you progress through the single player mode and unlock new areas, more quests become available. If what I’ve heard online is true, the real fun starts well after your first play through of the story mode when you are finally able to fully utilize New Game+ and Reincarnate features to max out your Avatar and your equipment while taking on higher difficulty online adventures.

The town customization is relatively deep and allows players to choose a location type, building placement, resident choice, and a nearly limitless combination of accessories. The way players customize their buildings and residents impacts the selection available at the item shop, so inevitably a few denizens and job related buildings will become absolutely necessary in order to obtain the optimal ingredients. These ingredients are then used for combining and enhancing the game’s ultimate weapons and armor.

One often neglected area where White Knight Chronicles does quite well is its sound design. The score is rich and well orchestrated- I remember being particularly fond of the Gondola Station inside Greede’s theme music. My only complaint is that the music can become quite repetitive- especially the one battle song that you will hear a countless number of times before the game is through. The sound effects are also appropriate- the slashes, clangs, and bow twangs are all familiar and typical, but the extra audio effects for the Arks and caves are very interesting. When Leonard is fused with his big shiny Gundam- it really sounds like he’s talking through a giant robot. Such details are frequently neglected in most games.

While White Knight Chronicles a good, solid RPG/online play experience. I can’t wait to see the direction Level 5 takes this exciting new IP, and I hope to see a more polished engine and comprehensive online experience. Fans of Japanese RPGs should definitely pick this game up, but if you are looking for an action packed online multiplayer experience, approach this title with caution. The online questing system is a lot of fun, but not as action packed as some game play videos may make it seem. Finally, the game is ultimately an easy one. If that bothers you, you can always avoid combat whenever possible and then see how challenging bosses become. Personally, I explored every dungeon thoroughly and rarely ran from a fair fight- I was able to get through the game with almost no challenge whatsoever.

An imperfect game to be sure- but as for the “biggest disappointment of 2010” – let’s wait and see how Final Fantasy 13 turns out once it reaches our shores in a few weeks.


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