Even though White Knight Chronicles was released last week, I haven’t had the chance to check it out until this very evening. I only played for just under two and a half hours, but already I can see this looks like it will be a nice little diversion. I haven’t played an RPG in quite a while. There’s only one slight problem, it feels a bit generic, and when you have BioShock 2 out there, that’s not exactly a good thing. So, shall we begin?
The one area that every media site has been knocking has been the battle system, so let’s start with that. Battles take place entirely on the over world or game map. You move around, and as you see enemies you walk up to them to attack. Instead of fighting as you would in a Zelda game, you have to wait until your active time meter fills up. It’s a circle that slowly fills, to the right of the screen. While this is occurring, you use the d-pad to select various commands that you insert into the menu system.
Commands are broken down into a series of rows. The first row has five slots in it, where you can attach any command you have previously unlocked. New commands are unlocked by leveling up and using skill points. Let’s say you’ve unlocked the Slash attack command, well you can then attach that to Row 1, Slot 1. You have three different rows you can attach commands to, each with five slots. As you quickly unlock more and more commands, you have to select which one are the most useful to you. This is easily done in the well designed menu system. I also liked how this was implemented because it ensures that no two people will play the game exactly the same.
You can even create combo commands. Once you unlock the special combo ability, you can then attach a series of commands together. You can’t have something like Slash, Slash and Slash, but you can have Slash, Back Slash, and Fire Slash all together. During battle, you then fill your active time meter and press X to activate the first portion of the combo, then press X again for the next portion, etc. Right now I have the main character pulling off five hit combos.
Remember that I’ve only played for a short period of time, but the opening of the game acts as a big tutorial. You play as Leonard, and the character you create at the onset of the game is his follower. You can set AI-controlled parameters such as “always heal,” “stay back and defend,” etc. I believe you only use Leonard for the whole game. It does seem a little odd to have created a character through the character creation mode only to have him act as a secondary character, but maybe that will change later on.
Thus far as you level up you can use the skill points to unlock any one particular skill from the skill tree. So far I’ve been awarded four skill points per level. The skill tree works as such; it’s broken down into equipment and magic. There’s a short sword grid, a defensive magic grid, white magic, etc. Every character seems to have full access to the skill tree. In other words, not only can your custom character use white and black magic, but so can Leonard and everyone else you meet along the way. That seems a little odd for an RPG, but hey, we’ll see what happens.
To recap, while on the field, you can jump into battle with any enemy. You simply use the d-pad to select the command you want, like Slash, wait for the active time meter to fill, and press the X button. If you’re using a sword, clearly you have to be within striking distance in order for the attack to connect. Many media outlets have suggested that even if you’re far away from battle enemies can strike you, but that hasn’t been the case with me. If an enemy has a sword, and you aren’t close to them, they can’t hit you. That being said, I’ve yet to successful run away from a battle, which has been a little annoying. The other problem is that I can’t seem to attack different enemies at once. If I’m surrounded by three enemies, all three can go to town on me, but I can only attack one at a time. This is typically true even with three different members in my party. Remember, they’re AI controlled so it’s not like I can tell them to attack the other enemies while I take out the one attacking me. This is to be expected for the most part, but I’m kind of curious what will happen when stronger enemies appear.
For now enemies are quite weak. I’ve yet to be killed or had any of my party killed. In fact, I haven’t come close to dying. The AI heals when expected, and I’ve never run out of MP. There are more than enough check-points to restore health and save, so I’m kind of curious if this will continue until the end of the game, or if it’s just the game easing me into it. For now though, there hasn’t been a single challenge.
I only just received the White Knight armor so I really can’t talk about that just yet, but in terms of the ‘traditional’ battles, thus far the battle system seems fine, but generic. In terms of story, it seems quite predictable, but I’m enjoying it. All your typical character types are present, a lone mysterious warrior, a lad who overcomes adversity, a goofy side-kick, etc. These are all staples of the JRPG genre, so I’m kind of used to this by now. I don’t really want to discuss the story anymore for fear of ruining it for those interested in the game.
Finally I suppose I can talk about the graphics, another area where everyone seems to think the game’s trash. For me, I really enjoy the enemy designs and even the generic character designs. This game clearly isn’t going to win any awards based on its graphics, but I haven’t found them to be ugly by any stretch. Some of the environments are low res, but feature quite a few details and a large assortment of enemies. I’ve yet to see any slow down which is typical for a game released two years ago. People seem to forget that WKC is actually a fairly old game now.
I must admit that thus far I’m kind of surprised by this game. It’s not the most amazing RPG released ever, but I haven’t found it to be awful either. It’s as I said, it feels generic in a lot of ways, but I’m still having a fairly decent time with it. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the coming days as I delve deeper into the quest. For now, is there anyone else out there playing the game who cares to share their opinion?