White Knight Chronicles (PlayStation 3)
To be released: February 2, 2010
So White Knight Chronicles! Yeah! Online! What's new over the Japanese version? Well, this is called the International Edition for a few reasons. One, unlike the Japanese, we lazy Americans need voice chat. Voila, we got it. Second, we get all of the online missions that SCEA has been adding to the game since the Japanese version released. With 51 in total, that seems like a solid amount, however, we can hopefully look forward to some more DLC. C'mon Sony and Level-5, let's see it.
Playing online, none of the single player characters will show up at all. Rather, the Avatar character that is created within the single player functions as the multiplayer role. Initially they have all burlap sacks for clothing, weak weapons, and lame-ass skills and spells, but between the single player mode, which unlocks missions and more, as well as the online only prizes and items, your Avatar should get buffed up before long.
When it comes to actual gameplay, there is two major elements of the online multiplayer for White Knight Chronicles. All of it is tied into the single player mode quite well, literally one menu screen away. You can jump in at any time, and once things get going, can be pretty simple. Actual missions involve running around fields with up to four players, killing baddies and performing simple objectives, such as collecting items, killing certain monsters, and all sorts of stuff like that. I honestly cannot say if the online mode has very strong staying power, however the time I spent with it was enjoyable.
Perhaps the best thing about it was the battle system. Actions and attacks are tied to a timer, and you can only attack monsters on the field if the circular timer is full. Since there is a cool down period between actions, moving between the action menus is surprisingly functional. I'm normally against a menu-based command system for an action RPG like this, but the method of three rows of customizable commands actually works pretty damn well.
For this event, I had the whole suite of actions unlocked, and there is loads of these abilities to play with, and coupled with the combo system, where a quick animation of attacks can be placed into on command slot to use, is pretty neat. What I'm getting at is that actions are easy to find and use, and the flow of the game works well with this. It feels very much like a Monster Hunter or Phantasy Star game.
The Georama mode was an interesting beast. Taken from the Georama mode of the Dark Cloud franchise, players will earn a plot of land that basically functions as a player-designed lobby. Starting off with certain building items, such as houses, shops, farm plots and more, players are tasked with fulfilling requirements for their town and bringing NPCs from the single player to move in. Those characters have certain needs, and if you can make them move in, they'll bring resources and weapons only available in this mode.
Also, when setting up multiplayer online missions, a player's Georama can function as a lobby, so friends can stop by and visit, receiving items and supplies from your NPCs. It's a nice feature, but I honestly do not know if many people are going to care too much about the Georama portion of the game. Players will have up to 20 of these towns, and up to 12 players can be in one at once.
One impressive element is the pure number of communication methods. There's voice chat, pre-determined messages, keyboard support, and wireless keypad. Having all of these options is helpful, so it's nice to see Level-5 throw us this bone.
Here are the problems I see with my hands-on with the game. When the game is over a year old since it's initial release date, the visuals have, what is the word, dropped a little bit. It's not like this MMO-style game looks bad, it's just that there is some bland textures and generic style going on here. Nothing really blew me away, other than some of the enemy designs. There was some pretty cool ones there.
Another issue is the menus. While getting online wasn't too bad, figuring out what the hell once I was connected was frustrating. Even the representative for the game pointed out that things were a little confusing. However, this is only a problem with the initial learning curve, and menu hopping, I suspect, won't be too much of a problem for players with more than 3 hours of game time.
I suspect White Knight Chronicles is going to appeal to a very specific sect of the market. It's not quite a JRPG, and it's not quite an MMO. While it really should have released a year ago, it's nice to finally have the game coming to market. Hopefully the little additions of things like voice chat can really make the difference in the game. Keep your eyes on it come February 2.
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