"White Knight Chronicles would have been better had Level 5 focused on creating an entertaining single player game with an engrossing story, and then marketed the online components as a separate title. The developers spread their attention on each aspect too thin, and crafted a mediocre addition to the J-RPG library with a ho-hum story."
White Knight Chronicle's first aim is captivation. It wants you to build a character and guide him and a cast of teenagers across lands as gorgeous as they are perilous. You first step out of the kingdom in which you live and into a beautiful grassland. Rolling hills, peaceful trees and lush environs tell you that developer Level 5 worked hard at rendering visually amazing scenery. Stage designs go beyond the cosmetic. Each one is immense and elaborate, begging for exploration.
Yes, White Knight captivates. Unfortunately that's about all it does properly, as everything else is a voyage through mediocrity.
Vicious predators stalk the land, waiting to taste your flesh. Without moving to another screen, you engage them in turn-based combat with a twist: rather than standing still, your characters are free to roam about. Using skills points, you learn new attacks and spells which you can enter as commands on your customizable battle menu. Most attacks are free, though some will cost you some action points (AP) or MP.
Slicing up goblins and killer plants isn't enough. White Knight tosses in immense beasts--trolls, giants, dragons, golems--that pack a powerful punch and take scores of slashes to fell. This is where the game's main focus comes into play: the Knights, giant mech-like suits of armor that give the game a Power Rangerish feel. Each one has its own special commands and devastating attacks that can take out a giant creature within a few hits.
You must be thinking: "So where does it go sour? The battle system sounds adequate." It's not the battle system itself that sours, but its implementation. You can win virtually every battle by selecting the basic attack command. Most of the new skills you pick up do less damage than the basic attack, even the ones that cost MP and/or AP. Most skills are a blatant waste of skill points. There is no sense of strategy, battles rarely increase in challenge, and fighting the large enemies is the absolute pits. You can transform into a Knight, but that drains your AP. You'll have to fight the next few large enemies without a Knight (and you only get two), and there's also the area boss to consider. It's more to your advantage to conserve the AP for the boss. Fighting these large enemies without Knights is a chore that nets you little reward besides some building materials and slightly more experience than normal enemies--though not enough to make it worth your while. You wind up avoiding battle most of the time because it's downright boring.
You will hope for a great story with engrossing character to distract you from the tedium. It isn't very long before you figure out the avatar you created is really a pointless supporting character who has no bearing on the story whatsoever. Instead we shift focus to Leonard, an overly eager teen with a nasty rattail hairdo who controls the White Knight. Joining our lad on his quest to rescue his kingdom's princess are a typical scorned female and childhood friend (Yulie), a stoic older warrior (Eldore), another overly eager teen (Caesar), and a second female added only so the first one doesn't feel like a token (Kara). I give you the Mediocrity Rangers!
They stumble through their journey, simply going from one location to another battling the antagonists and engaging in just about every RPG cliche you can think of. Each new scene is predictable, each twist and turn practically foreshadowed to the point that there's no surprise. On top of that, there's very little character development. We do learn something of our characters, but nothing that makes us feel closer to them. Most of what we learn is factual, like where a character was born or whether or not they know their parents, and we seldom see any true personality come out beyond basic 'good guy' heroics. We learn little about Leonard except that he's obsessed with the princess, and Yulie's development seldom goes beyond her unrequited love for Leonard. Most of the characters are trapped in their archetypes.
There is one point where White Knight Chronicles picks up. A cutscene plays, showing you that a new conflict has arisen and that your struggle with be much harsher in the future. The first half is over and the explosive second half is about begin. You think this is the point where White Knight will turn around and prove its worth. You crack your knuckles in anticipation as.......credits roll. You've accidentally beaten White Knight Chronicles. What you went through only feels like half of a game, with the other half is waiting in stores under the title White Knight Chronicles II.
Level 5 devoted the other half of White Knight's disc space to its online mode, in which you take your created character and mingle with any friends who happen to own the game to complete online missions. If you don't have any friends, you can always play alone or join up with a random player. However, waiting for someone to join you in order to complete a certain mission is a hassle. Each mission gives you a recommended level at which you should challenge it, but most of them are ridiculously high. By the time you finish the single player campaign you should only be early to mid-30s, but many missions require 50+. That's a lot of dull combat you'll have to suffer through. Apart from online missions, you can also set up a profile on GeoNet and build your own hometown called a Georama. From there you can buy and sell items from other Georamas, but if you have no plans to take part in the online missions, then the Georama aspect is pointless.
It's nice that online mode isn't necessary to complete the campaign, but not intertwining the two makes the online elements feel tacked on and pointless. This in turn reinforces the notion that the online mode takes away from the campaign and the overall worth of the game. White Knight Chronicles would have been better had Level 5 focused on creating an entertaining single player game with an engrossing story, and then marketed the online components as a separate title. The developers spread their attention on each aspect too thin, and crafted a mediocre addition to the J-RPG library with a ho-hum story. White Knight takes its place along side the likes of Legend of the Ghost Lion and Beyond the Beyond, in the halls of the unremarkable and the forgotten.
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (February 08, 2012)
Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.
If you enjoyed this White Knight Chronicles: International Edition review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!