Guest Author - James Shea
A mix between a normal JRPG and an MMO-style cooperative game, "White Knight Chronicles" has some interesting ideas, but an abhorrently stapled-together production. It harkens back to games like "Dark Cloud", but has no good features of its own.
White Knight Chronicles is best described as a single-player game that has an online component to it. In single player, you go through the usual mix of RPG standards - fight through dungeons, grind for cash, do quests, etc. The gameplay is highly reminiscent of an MMO, in that it's a real-time RPG system with a lot of similar HUD elements. The combat is simple: you pick a spell or attack, wait for the action timer to count down, and then hit X. If you use a combo attack, you do the same thing but hit X a few times instead of once. There's the usual mess of elemental weaknesses and so on, but it largely feels uninteractive. It doesn't help that you're only actually controlling one character at a time; the other two party members at any given time are AI-controlled.
The online component is much more inventive - in addition to cooperative questing with other players, you can also upload custom-built towns using the game's Georama system. This is a feature brought over from the "Dark Cloud" games, wherein you build a town out of recovered buildings and populate it with rescued inhabitants. However, the actual mode in WKC was added after the game was actually made. Because of this, the actual features are limited. There's no way to build huge sprawling towns or anything; in fact, it takes a lot of grinding just to afford a few houses. You can recruit people to join your town from cities in the main game, but there's no real character to them. In Dark Cloud, recruiting was a major part of the game: there were unique quests and requirements for certain people. White Knight Chronicles has no real feeling that you're actually making a unique town, which seems like the whole point of letting people put their towns online to show other people.
The graphics are good, but boring. Armor, weapons, and accessories show up on your characters' bodies, but aren't particularly interesting to look at or well-designed. The game's environments are large and sweeping, but don't have any really unique styles to them. Ultimately, even though it tries to be exciting and epic, it's pretty boring to actually look at. Everything about the game is generic: characters, levels, spells, items, and monsters. There's nothing really "original" in the game except for the titular "White Knight", which serves basically as a temporary powerup for the main character. When you enter "White Knight" mode, your diverse set of moves and combos is replaced with four fairly lackluster abilities. Sure, your character model turns into a giant mech and you do more damage, but it's really just more of the same RPG gameplay.
One final note about this game is that, while there's a remarkably in-depth character creator, your avatar is not the main character. He or she just sort of hangs around in the background while the game's real main characters do things. The avatar is mainly used for doing online stuff, because in online mode the only characters are your avatar and other players' avatars. This is indicative of the game as a whole: it seems like an MMO (or some sort of multiplayer-centric game, anyways) that panicked and attached a single-player game, or vice-versa. It seems like two different games inexpertly combined together. Neither one is especially good, and the product as a whole suffers for it.