Revisiting – White Knight Chronicles

White Knight Chronicles is a Japanese RPG that was released about a year ago – in February 2010 – in North America. When I picked it up a year ago, I quickly tired of it and grew bored and I put it down without ever finishing it.

About a week ago, I decided to give it a second chance. And I have to say, going back makes me disappointed I’d given up on it so quickly.

Not the Hero?!?

In White Knight Chronicles, you get to make a character. The character customization options are really thorough, almost too thorough. You can easily spend half an hour just struggling to get the look you want because there are so many options, and some of them are tied together – so changing one may change another that you thought you had ‘just right’. However, for people looking to create the ‘perfect character’ the level of depth will come as a relief. However, after you create your character, you start the game to find out that your character isn’t even an important character to the story. He or She are just being dragged along for the ride without even any lines or backstory. An odd move, to be certain.

After playing some other games, I can’t help but feel this might be a good idea, though. Most games that are voiced but use ‘customized characters’ end up with the main character having this awkward tendency to never talk and to have their name never spoken, which just leads to it not feeling right. Some games have found ways around this, but most games like that just feel wrong. This allows you to have a customized character who you control and do combat with, without having it negatively effect the story or the game too much.

A perfect segue into the story, eh?

The story follows Leonard, who mysteriously is able to link into this magical suit of armor he finds in the treasury of a castle, on his quest to rescue the princess who he is head over heels in love with despite only having met her twice in his life, and spent less than an hour in her presence. That is the worst part of the story, Leonard’s reason for being so desperate to rescue the princess never really makes sense. Now, the rest of the story is a fairly good Japanese RPG story, very linear and with good writing. The translation and voice acting are good, and most of the characters are fairly well written, even if Leonard can come accross as a bit of a dolt and Caesar can be annoying. But getting past that, Level 5 has created a rich, vibrant world with a deep, engaging story which has some really big twists that are foreshadowed well and a lot of cool mysteries that aren’t answered until the end, and even some that aren’t answered at the end, making me hope very sincerely that the sequel gets released in North America(hint hint Level 5). Overall, if you, like me, appreciate the Japanese style of story-telling; White Knight Chronicles has a story that you will thoroughly appreciate.

But its soooooo slow…

Yes, now we get onto the gameplay, where my two biggest problems with this JRPG on the whole lie. My biggest complaint with this game is just how slow the combat is. Think back to ff4/6 style ATB controls, but imagine you were only controlling one player. That is about how slow it is. You sit there waiting to use a command, and if you get knocked over, stunned, slept, etc. you’re stuck doing nothing until you get up which can take quite a while. This isn’t all bad, but it does feel very slow. However, when you start getting to string together some of the longer combos you can make and getting to get the combo bonuses… it does get very engaging. So it definitely isn’t boring, just… not a game you can expect to enjoy in small doses. Expect to sit down for a few hours minimum with this. The second biggest complaint I have is that range only seems to matter to you. Enemies can use their melee attacks from miles away, but you have to be right up close, and sometimes at the right angle. This really makes using a ranged weapon feel awkward, since the advantage you have should be that you can kite somewhat – which is not the case unfortunately. Altogether, it is pretty minor, but it does take away from the feel and make your position feel unimportant on lesser enemies, and often too important on stronger enemies. Altogether the combat, while slow, is definitely fun and engaging, but it is not the reason to pick up this game.

My Georama > Your farm

Yes, that is what you think it is. This game has an online component, and it is possibly the largest grindfest in videogame history. You gain guild levels by doing quests which unlock new items, new quests, and most of all, new levels for your town. You get a town that you get to build to your exact specifications with parts that you purchase using materials acq1uired during your quests or that you purchase at other peoples’ towns. Redesigning your town, also known as your Georama, is an addicting experience with a fairly powerful editor that allows you to manipulate things, add decorum, and even change the terrain layout. During your adventures in the main story, you can recruit people with different skills, and dependent upon the skills each person has and the parts you use in your town, you can gather different materials when you visit your town and you can purchase different things from the vendors in the town. Add to that that you can visit other peoples’ towns to do group quests with them and after each quest you can go around their town to get extra materials based off their town’s layout; and you get a very engaging and fun online experience that is addictive and interactive. Just don’t expect it to be quick, you’re probably looking at a grind worthy of an mmo in this game if you want to get to the high level components, quests, and online content.

In summary…

The game is a very well made, high quality JRPG. Between the story and the online component, you’ve got plenty of reasons to buy it – if the genre appeals to you. This is not a game that will turn a person into a JRPG lover, but it is certainly one of the best JRPG experiences in the past few years – and due to the endless nature of the online game, it is one that if you start playing, you may well still be playing it in a few years. Just makes sure that, if you do pick it up, you do so when you have the time to devote to really giving it a chance, or else you’ll end up putting it down much like I did a year ago.

Review written by Sean