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.
6248596>Now you know why trolls are endangered.None
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.
The combat in White Knight Chronicles may be shallow, but at least the creatures that inhabit this world have a distinct look. The most noteworthy is a titanic being that has an entire city built right onto its back. It looks like a cross between an overgrown turtle and the monster from Cloverfield. The graceful manner in which it moves its appendages mixed with its screen-shaking roar make it a memorable aspect of your quest. The creatures you do battle with are almost as unique, showcasing a strong divergence of iconic figures. For instance, the Cerberus in the game is certainly ferocious, but it has an endearing quality as well that makes it eye catching, and--if it weren't trying to bite your head off--rather lovable. There is too much reliance on reusing these fantastic creatures over and over throughout the adventure, but that doesn't overshadow the fact that they are well designed.
6246851>Three heads? Now you're just being greedy.None
Some of the environments are equally adept at drawing you into the game. From a serene countryside to a stifling desert, many places you visit are colorful and inviting. Sadly, much of the game takes place in mundane underground caverns which lack the splendor of the outside areas. Furthermore, the level design is too reliant on confusing mazes, so by the time you find your way out of them even the most beautiful environments have long since outstayed their welcome. There are multiple instances of unnecessary mazes in White Knight Chronicles, and they only serve to artificially elongate the adventure, which just ends up making it tedious. During one section, you must dutifully wait by an overgrown dandelion until the wind blows a certain direction, making you stand still for minutes on end until you can travel onward. During another section, you leap randomly onto teleporters and cross your fingers it will take you where you want to go. Although during most of the game there is a waypoint showing you where your next objective is, it is removed during these intricate mazes. Thus, you are forced to wander around for hours until you finally reach the finish-line oasis at the end.
It will take no more than 30 hours to grind through the often monotonous adventure, but your travels are not quite over even after you take down the end boss. You unlock dozens of side missions during the course of your quest, and you can tackle these either by your lonesome or online with up to three of your friends. Teaming up with a band of hungry warriors certainly adds a bit more appeal to this usually sterile adventure, and you won't have to worry that the game lacks personality if your friends are injecting a bit of their own into the mix. But the online portion is as full of holes as the main adventure. The quests you unlock take place in the same basic environments with mostly the same enemies from the single-player portion, so if you've already rescued the princess, then you won't be able to look forward to many unique instances. Each side mission also has a recommend level rank and a required guild rank to enter it, and the conditions are so high for most of them that you will be forced to grind the entry level ones in order to earn you way into the tougher scenarios. Once you reach the appropriate requirements, the side quests don't offer much challenge for a well-prepared party, but getting your rank high enough to enter many of the quests is a chore. Furthermore, the white knight is completely absent from the proceedings. Because you play as your personalized avatar--who is not blessed with knight-changing abilities--you are stuck with the standard assortment of attacks found in every role-playing game out there.
Aside from the uninspired side missions, the only other extra activity to take part in is a town-building minigame. Here, you sink your money into building a prosperous city, erecting buildings and recruiting residents from around the world. The reward for your hard work is access to rare ingredients that allow you to forge stronger weapons and troll-resilient armor that would be nearly impossible to acquire without your own personalized means of production. But like every other aspect of White Knight Chronicles, what sounds good in theory cannot live up to the lofty ideas in practice. The amount of money needed to upgrade your city is preposterously high. You can play through the entire adventure and only earn enough dough to upgrade your town a few meager levels. Unfortunately, you cannot recruit the best and brightest citizens to work for you until your town achieves a certain rank, so unless you're prepared to invest countless hours into your personalized oasis, you won't get anything of substance out of it.
On the surface, White Knight Chronicles does a lot of things right. The world and creatures look really good, you can battle a variety of colossal creatures during the single-player campaign or online with some friends, and turn into a giant knight whenever you desire. But there are just too many problems weighing the overall experience down. Shallow combat and a predictable story make going through the main quest a slog, and the online portion is crippled by the same problems as well as dull objectives that lack variety. The beauty of White Knight Chronicles cannot hide the flaws of this forgettable and often tedious adventure.