White Knight Chronicles is a frustrating game. This long delayed JRPG, which has been
out in Japan since late 2008, is full of interesting ideas, all of which have been very badly implemented. For every plus, there's a gang of minuses just waiting to kill your buzz.
We'll give you an example. You have the freedom to tailor each warrior to your heart's content. Fancy a healer who also packs a hefty wallop? Or an archer who can throw ﬁreballs? Fine - you can learn skills in any of eight specialised areas. But the structure that allows you to do this is diabolical. First, you have to go through two menus to assign Skill Points to unlock your desired action. Then you have another four screens to trawl through before assigning these skills to individual slots so you can use them on the battleﬁeld. One by one. For each character. Every time you level up. No thanks.
The item and equipment systems are equally convoluted. It took several hours before we worked out that we'd looted some decent swords, then another 15 minutes to equip them.
CHINK IN THE ARMOUR
The battles themselves fail to convince you to forgive these cack-handed oversights. If it's not the numerous HUDs and gauges obscuring your view, it's the camera doing its level best to focus on your feet, or the head of an off-screen giant. Adding insult to injury, it doesn't even matter how you grind; from the lowliest gnome to the meatiest boss, everyone's a pushover and doesn't require any tactical thought.
Of course, it does help that, once you Action gauge is full, the lead member of your party - orphan boy Leonard - can transform into the titular White Knight. Once morphed into this gigantic suit of armour, Leonard is pretty much invincible and will easily cull humongous monsters, without breaking a sweat.
IT'S NOT THE SIZE
On that note, everything about WKC can be summed up with the word 'humongous': monsters, levels and cut-scenes. Levels are unnecessarily large, with vast expanses of land that lead nowhere; not even to any rare loot. They're also littered with the same set of creatures (gnomes, bees, boars and trolls), who change colour depending on the climate.
Meanwhile, WKC's extensive cut-scenes will push even the most patient of RPG lovers to the limit. At one point, we put the pad down for a full 20 minutes and tried to switch our brain off, possibly as a defence against the painfully dumb dialogue. To make things worse, wooden, doll-like characters, whose lips open and close like Thunderbirds puppets act out the woefully idiotic lines.
The usual JRPG personalities are all present; Leonard the rather clueless hero, Yulie the sassy gal pal, Eldore the gruff grown-up and Cisna the pathetic simpering Princess who can't do anything without crying.
Your avatar is another bizarre addition to this stereotypical line-up. Control constantly switches back to Leonard, making your own warrior redundant. Meanwhile, your poor doppelganger hangs around, trying his best to peer into shot. In fact, he only takes centre stage when you plug in your network cable and partake in online quests (which you 'buy' within the game). The servers weren't up as we went to press but we'll feature a full review next month - we're not feeling too excited.
WKC fails because it's dated. The shallow, cookie cutter characters are as believable as mannequins. Your quest to rescue the princess from a megalomaniac intent on ruling the world has been done many times before. The menu-heavy battles are archaic and the delivery is badly animated, translated, and dubbed.
Everything about White Knight feels stale and stuck in a clichéd, JRPG rut. Maybe that was ﬁ ne back in 2008 but now, next to FFXIII and Resonance of Fate, this feel like a poor third choice.
Simple characters and dated presentation tell a bland tale.