The lights are on
White Knight Chronicles is an unusual beast. On the surface, it’s a straightforward role-playing title, with the expected mix of daring heroes and princesses in need of rescuing. At the same time, the game plays host to an extensive multiplayer component that exists largely separated from the story, in which up to four friends can work together to tackle a number of designated quests. The two components are united by the large open game world through which you’ll wander in both single- and multiplayer excursions. The real-time, turn-based battles and extremely large areas that make up that world are reminiscent of a massively multiplayer game in scope and style. We had the opportunity to play the first several hours of the single-player game this month, and got a good feel for the game’s combat, story, and skill system.
The plot of White Knight Chronicles is a familiar setup for RPG fans. Two medieval nations have been at war for generations and have only recently come to an uneasy truce. The crystallization of the new peace is to be formalized when the kingdom of Balandor invites the leader of the opposing nation of Faria to the birthday celebration of Balandor’s Princess Cisna. A rogue army of mysterious enemies called the Magi attack the event, and the leaders of both countries are murdered, threatening that war will begin again. Simultaneously, Princess Cisna is kidnapped by the Magi, as she has mysterious powers that will help them to enact their world-conquering plans. Enter Leonard, a young man who works at Balandor’s local winemaker. When he is caught in the conflagration of the Magi attack, he tries to rescue the princess and in the process awakens an ancient and dangerous relic -- a powerful, giant suit of armor that fights at his command. With the princess in danger, Leonard and an expanding group of friends set out to save her.
Among those friends is a silent tag-along buddy, who just happens to be an avatar that players craft at the game’s opening. Unique among JRPGs, the character creator is incredibly detailed, letting you choose everything from gender to default facial expressions. This character travels as a main (but silent) companion throughout the game’s campaign, but he or she becomes your playable avatar in the extensive multiplayer missions that unlock throughout the game.
Dozens of missions are available to play online with friends. When you enter multiplayer, you’ll be able to gather with large groups of friends (up to 12 at last count), but you’ll be forced to narrow down to four players who will travel together to complete quests. If you fully embrace these multiplayer missions, we’re told that they can easily add 15-20 hours to the game’s already hefty playtime.
During our time with the game, there was ample opportunity to explore the game’s combat and exploration system, which really begins to open up after the extensive opening story sequences. Areas between towns and cities are extremely large, and offer plenty of opportunities to grind for XP and treasure against frequently repeated bad guys. Among the many smaller enemies on the field, huge multi-story foes wander the world. Your best bet for taking on these massive foes is transforming into the equally large white knight, and throwing down Voltron-style.
Combat feels like an MMO -- each of your abilities sits in a hotbar at the bottom of the screen, and there’s a wait after each attack as the character’s action gauge recharges. In addition, every attack takes up a certain number of “action chips,” so there’s a need to monitor your skill usage over time. In order to transform into one of your large knight forms, you’ll need a certain number of action chips, so it’s wise to keep them available when serious fights get started. As you play, it’s simple to switch back and forth between your three onscreen characters so you can take advantage of each of their abilities. When you’re not directly controlling an ally, you can set battle tactics beforehand that govern their actions.
While spending five or six hours with White Knight Chronicles introduced us to the basics of combat, like many games in the genre, it barely scratched the surface of the story or more complex gameplay features. Sony has detailed that the game will include the option to build your own village over the course of the game -- a site that will play host to your friends when you invite them into a multiplayer session. These homegrown towns can have their own shops, residents, and layout based on your desires. It’s a feature that should come as no surprise from Level-5, who built the Dark Cloud games around a similar concept.
Our time with White Knight Chronicles revealed an ambitiously vast game that should have a lot of appeal to players wanting a more traditional role-playing experience on the PS3. Some story and gameplay clichés are certainly in place, but we’re hopeful that as we play more, those familiar ideas will begin to be replaced by more nuanced plotting and tactical combat. We don't have to wait long to find out for sure -- White Knight Chronicles is set to release in early 2010.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.
very cool to bad i don't have a ps3
looks like a pretty good game to me
Very excited for this one. Level 5 is an excellent studio.
I always feel compelled to buy JRPGs - probably thanks to my roots of playing them on the NES & SNES. Everytime I do I feel cheesed by the eye rolling dialog and cliche story (star ocean was sooo painful - oh so very painful).
This one is another buy for me - lets hope it breaks the pattern but based on the preview I better prepare for more eye rolling
This is by Level 5? The same guys who made "Jeanne D'arc" for the PSP? Cool!
omg looks so freakin awesome
Sweet! Hope it gets a good review.
i used to love jrpgs,since ff7 on the psone,but after going through so many of them i got sick of them. this one seems ok but im more into fallout 3 and demons souls now. maybe ill rent it but id rather wait for ff XIII even though XII was boring
Eventually I will own a PS3 and this will be one of my buys on the system as well as Heavy Rain and Little Big Planet, oh yeah Resistance doesn't seem too bad as well
Level 5 and studio Ghibli are teaming up for Ninokuni on the DS, right?
that's a game that i'd like to see previewed.
exclusive? gotta check it out then.
Looks pretty good. I hope they make a Demo cause these JRPG can be a little meh now a days but im keeping this one in the back of my mind and if the reviews are good then mabe ill get it but idk, i rather have FF13 if this comes out within a few days of FF
This game seems interesting, though I hope the combat evolves. I loved how Rogue Galaxy worked, but I'd still like to see an enhancement to their mixture of real-time/turn-based combat.
Also, not sure how I feel about only having one giant robot. Is it like Eidolons in Final Fantasy where the other group members disappear? And how does it work in the multiplayer? Guess I'll just be waiting to see what more information comes out, though this does seem interesting. Level 5 has made quality games for a while now.
Well... it looks pretty. Guess we'll see.
I have yet to play a Level 5 game. Yeah, I know where the corner is. *sits in corner (in shame)*
cant wait to try this game
I am so stoked for this game to release too! I read about this a long time ago in GI and I had a good feeling about this game, and I think this game will exceed the standards I had set in my head. Can't wait!
Been waiting for a good jrpg to come along.