White Knight Chronicles Review
The monsters may look interesting, but slaying beasts is way too easy in this forgettable role-playing game.
- Memorable creatures
- Lots of optional side quests.
- Combat is far too easy
- Mazelike level design is frustrating
- Story is trite and predictable.
An idyllic green field stretches in the distance as three young adventurers begin their quest to save the kingdom from the clutches of evil. After walking to the top of a small hilltop, they are confronted by a giant beast rising two stories above them. One of the young heroes stands tall, not backing down an inch from this monstrosity. He uses his hidden powers to transform himself into an equally gigantic knight, itching to come to blows with this foul creature. Although this certainly sounds like an amazing setup for a captivating adventure, every one of these promising elements comes with its own downside. The beautiful green pasture quickly loses its appeal as you get lost in its labyrinthine layout; the heroic warriors are devoid of personality; and the promise of interesting combat dissipates when you realize that every enemy you face is a big pushover. White Knight Chronicles is often beautiful, but it lacks a hook to keep you invested in the adventure or any sort of identity to separate it from the crowd.
Princess Cisna has had a difficult life despite her royal lineage. After witnessing an unspeakable tragedy when she was just a young girl, the princess loses her desire to speak, preferring to live a life of mute contemplation. And then, just as luck would have it, when she finally decides to open her mouth again, she gets kidnapped by the foulest members of the kingdom, which deprives her citizenry of hearing her lovely voice. Your job, as the chosen heroes, is to rescue her from the clutches of evil and bring the fine folks of Balandor their princess back. The story is undoubtedly cliche, but it's the way in which it is told that makes it so hard to enjoy. The characters you meet along the way lack any notable personalities, making it difficult to remember anything about them when they are not actively onscreen. When a member of your party reveals a dirty secret, it is impossible to care because there has been no emotional connection established among this trite cast of characters or the world as a whole. To make matters worse, the voice acting is downright silly, which makes even dramatic scenes laughable.
The strangest aspect of the story is the manner in which your created character is utilized. Before your adventure begins, you enter a robust character creation screen in which you choose the gender, the physical attributes, and even the voice of your hero. However, when your quest begins, you will find out that your personalized avatar is not the protagonist but a silent companion along for the ride. Whereas everyone else in your party will mutter their desires, hint at their unrequited feelings of love, or pine for a far-away princess, your character will stand dumbly by only to observe the quest without ever being included in the camaraderie. It is a jarring, exclusionist feeling that makes it difficult to form any kind of connection to your created character. When you tackle side missions online, you control your created character, so you better get their skills in order and equip them with the finest weapons. But it feels really strange that they are never given any lines of dialogue or included in any substantial way during the main quest.
Thankfully, there is more to White Knight Chronicles than a dull story. You will spend most of your time engaged in combat, and though it's certainly more enjoyable than the forgettable plot, it has its own issues. Battles are essentially turn based, although at any time you are free to run screaming from the fight or move around the battlefield to get better positioning. That's useful when you want to target a specific area of a large enemy, but it has no impact on whether or not enemies can hit you because even their melee attacks will find you regardless of your position and your distance from them. You have a standard spread of melee and magic attacks, as well as healing and buff spells that provide a dose of variety. The combat is fairly cut and dry, but there are two elements that make it a bit more interesting. First of all, the protagonist Leonard can turn into a giant knight when he has enough stored power, and it is pretty neat to see your mythical doppelganger go toe-to-toe with a roaring Cerberus. Second, you can create your own combo attacks, which lets you take down your enemies with a flourish. Performing a rising sword attack on a tiny troll then smashing him back to the ground is pretty fun, and creating new combos lets you put a bit of your personality into battles.
But those good elements are tossed unceremoniously to the curb when you realize that every battle in the game is mind-numbingly easy. It doesn't matter if you're fighting a lone spider in a mining cave or an enormous dragon donning its own magical armor because even the most powerful enemy in the game will be hard-pressed to kill one member of your party, let alone the whole lot of you. And don't think that the game only becomes easy after you create a bunch of neat combos or grind your way into becoming an unstoppable killing machine. From the very beginning of the game until the end boss, you will face off against a wide assortment of enemies that are simply unable to take down the fine heroes who are intent on saving the day. To make matters worse, these monsters often come with inflated life bars, so even though they pose no threat, it will still take an awfully long time to whittle their health to zero. Fights in White Knight Chronicles are often tedious because they test only your patience but never your skill.