As of right now, I’ve logged 14 hours into White Knight Chronicles: International Edition. And unfortunately, the game isn’t living up to my expectations. While this isn’t an official Elder-Geek.com “review,” I thought I’d share my experience so far so people can make an informed decision on whether or not to purchase WKC. Generally we finish all our games before posting reviews, but given the size of White Knight Chronicles, I thought I’d chip in my thoughts early.
In WKC, you play the role of a self-made character as you tag along for the adventures of Leonard as he tries to rescue the world’s easiest kidnappable and once mute princess, Cisna. Along your journey to rescue and re-rescue the princess, you pick up several stereotypical teammates as you further unlock the mystery of an ancient civilization and reignite the power that lies inside the giant dormant knights. The game also features an online-enabled role-playing experience; a first of its kind for the Playstation 3. White Knight Chronicles has some pretty large expectations to fill among American gamers.
Make no mistake, WKC is a gorgeous game. It’s easily the best looking stateside JRPG available on the Playstation 3. The outdoor and the city environments are fantastic and they definitely show a level of imagination that I truly envy. The environments are lush and green in the open plains and they feel equally dingy and dirty when inside caves and dungeons.
Cities are large and well-decorated, each breathing with their own life and cultures. The smaller villages also feel “lived in” and portray a level of history that most games, even RPGs, don’t bother to flesh out.
You mold your own character in the image that you desire in a very extensive and thorough character creator. Unfortunately, the character creator is for humans only, but that is definitely not a deal breaker. The bodily and facial options available allow anyone to make almost any anime character gamers can think of.
The armor and the weapon models are fantastic. Even the leather armors make your mini-army look like a force to be reckoned with. Most of the sword models look deadly and realistic. They definitely have a personality of their own. The weapons feel deadlier because they are of finer quality, not of wackier design as can be found in some Japanese role-playing games.
Unlike the Final Fantasy series and most JRPGs, the armor worn by the party physically changes their appearance, a feature which I feel should be (and should have been for the past two console generations) standard in all role-playing games. That physical change stays true in most of the cutscenes as well. This is a huge thumbs up in my book as it adds to the immersion factor tenfold.
The musical score is phenomenal and it’s home to some of my favorite fantasy tracks of this current console generation. It’s haunting and beautiful at the same time. There are few tunes that will get stuck in your head, but the music sets the mood and the atmosphere perfectly.
While White Knight is gorgeous and it offers players amazing customization to their JRPG experience, it does have some pretty hefty flaws. First, almost all the characters are unidentifiable. The main character, Leonard, in essence, is Vaan from Final Fantasy XII. He’s not as effeminate as Vaan, but he has the exact same personality. So if you didn’t like him, chances are you’ll probably hate Leonard. His friend, Yulie, is a near cookie cutter of Penelo as well. Thankfully, Penelo wasn’t a terrible character, but she isn’t the one who is empowered with the ancient and powerful White Knight and thus charged with rescuing the princess. He is. Equally unfortunately, the White Knight cannot be summoned without our anime hockey haircut hero in the party.
An even greater injustice is that the character you create is NOT the main character of the story. Nor is he / she able to speak. After you use your god-like character creation powers to mold the perfect hero, your character simply becomes a background to when the other, seemingly “more important” characters are talking. I guess you could always pretend your character is a cool ninja who took a vow of silence like Snake Eyes.
If you happen to make a mistake, or you grow tired of how your character looks, there is an option to redesign your character while at save points. While this sounds like a benefit to the game, it’s actually one of it’s biggest detriments. Character redesign tickets, which allow you to unlock that option in the game, must be purchased from the Playstation Network for $5. I thought my original character looked like crap, so I dropped the $5 to add that option into my game only to find out that my $5 purchase was for ONE TIME USE ONLY. So, before you hit “enter” and start the games intro movies, be 1000% sure that you have your model perfect or else you’ll have to live with your decision for a long time.
The combat is incredibly easy and slow. It takes entirely too long for your attack gauge to fill up in order for it to be your turn again. I literally held instant messaging conversations during battles in this game while waiting.
I don’t know what the “game over” screen looks like in White Knight Chronicles. I never died. There was never a boss that I rushed into too quickly. There was never an instance of being surrounded by too many creatures. I never level grinded. The enemies, from what I’ve encountered 14 hours in, have all been entirely too easy. Personally, I can’t stand grind-fest RPGs where you need to spend hours and hours of leveling your character to make it through dungeons, but I slow burned my way through every enemy encounter.
Another downside to the combat is the lack of enemy character models. Every time I entered a new environment, I encountered the same types of enemies, but in different colors or textures. Even the bosses I encountered were all very similar and they all required the same tactics to kill. “Attack legs until monster falls. Then attack head until monster stands back up. Repeat until dead or bored.”
The combat screen is often times too full with text and menus and overall, it’s very cluttered. Many of the on-screen items could be reduced to 25% of their size and still be more than functional which would leave room for more of the eye-candy. But instead, you’re left looking at a giant circle that slowly fills on screen instead of a little line below the character’s name that could fill and let the player know when it’s their turn to push buttons. I did the math on my screen shots. Most of the time during battles, roughly 77% of the screen is filled with useless clutter which leaves 23% of the screen for enjoyment.
Quite possibly the biggest offense in White Knight Chronicles‘s list of failing marks is the voice acting. Almost all the characters are unappealing and all their voices are annoying to boot. The worst part is, they never shut up. Ever. Seemingly after every battle someone in the party feels the need to speak up and start a conversation with someone else in the party. It would be one thing if it was the selected party members speaking with each other, but conversation is held among the ENTIRE party. So even when a member isn’t currently in your attacking party, they still speak plainly to the rest of the group as though they aren’t invisible. And the amount of things the party can say is very limited, so you’ll hear the same “conversation” over and and over again. This doesn’t seem like it would be a game breaker in any other game, but the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve heard since the Playstation 1. Combine that with the unidentifiable characters and you have a game-breaking flaw.
The story is passable and I could certainly rank it into the “good” section of this impression piece. But the poor characters weigh it down, so I’m safely leaving it in the “neither” pile. It’s typical a JRPG type of story with a dose of Voltron tossed in.
In good conscience, I cannot give a proper “review” of this game since I have not finished it. Nor do I plan on finishing it. Right now, it’s being repackaged and sent back to the local online rental warehouse.
But if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick according to our Elder-Geek ratings, I’d say it’s worth renting. Every gamer is different and we all have different tastes. But what I can say is that fans of western RPGs will probably not like WKC as a whole. They’ll enjoy the armor selection and the character creation. Both are fairly “western” in their feel.
Fans of older RPGs like Final Fantasy VI and VII might not enjoy this game as much either. The overly complicated menu system and crowded screen real estate is going to scare away a lof of players.
If they haven’t already purchased it, fans of newer JRGs will probably find enjoyment in White Knight Chronicles, though they may be slightly disappointed with the slow combat. It’s big, beautiful and the story definitely has some potential.
Sadly, White Knight Chronicles is not going to be the system mover that many people — like myself — predicted it to be. JRPG fans who only own a Playstation 3 will be happy to add one more to their rather paltry collection, but the rest of us will be happy with a week-long rental.