As a gamer there's one thing that you never want from your video games - for it to be boring. It's the one thing that you really just can't do anything about, no matter how much you try. Truly great games are rare but it's always pleasant to find out that a game you've purchased turns out to be one. It's also quite easy to enjoy a game no matter how bad it is so long as there's something about it you can find to like. But with a boring game there's little you can do to make it better.
Unfortunately this is a problem that plagues just about every part of White Knight Chronicles. This is in no way a bad game but every part of it is so slow, plodding and even a bit time consuming. The game takes forever to play but for all the wrong reasons.
White Knight Chronicles plays a bit of bait and switch with the player. After turning the game on you will be tasked with creating a character. There are a number of options here and it's a pretty good character creator if not as fully fleshed out as, for example, Dragon Age Origins is. But after creating the character the game plays a trick on you - your shiny new character is totally irrelevant. Essentially you're just along for the ride as the game is actually the story of Leonard, a young boy who attains the power of the Incorruptus, the titular White Knight, and attempts to use it to rescue a missing princess. Well that's how it starts anyways and it only gets more interesting from there.
As you may have guessed since it's totally not your story your character does nothing. You participate in combat, which is helpful, and a few people acknowledge your existence early on but that's about it. Honestly it all plays out like some bizarre self insert fan fiction. The game could easily be called "The Story of Leonard and Bob" for all the impact you have on the story. It's vaguely similar to how Final Fantasy XII handled its plot except your character is entirely mute.
Then again the game doesn't exactly start off in the most promising manner. You've got the mute and oh so mysterious dark knight, the fat little toady who serves him, a cloaked older man using a Jedi mind trick to get past some guards and a King's advisor making sinister faces. It's not made much better that it's quite possible to hear "It's morphin' time!" whenever the White Knight is summoned, making it hard to take that part of the game too seriously. This might sound strange but the game really has a feel of a fantasy giant mecha show to it.
What will probably strike you before anything else is that the audio and visual for this title are bizarrely uneven.
At first glance the graphics for this game already look somewhat dated especially compared to recent releases. Unfortunately this is likely a symptom of the game having taken around fourteen months to reach the rest of the world from Japan. The one thing that stands up quite easily is the enemy designs. While the smaller enemies are fairly generic, and mostly unimpressive, the boss monsters are awesome. They have rather impressive designs and the bigger ones look really good as they try to obliterate you.
But the voice acting! Oh ye gods the voice acting is a double whammy of bad. All of it is either mediocre or just plain bad even when it's coming from easily recognized voice actors. It honestly sounds like almost the entire cast just really phoned in their efforts, really not putting too much into it. This might be ignored if not for the fact that the lip synch is absolutely terrible. Sometimes characters lips stop moving while they talk or they keep moving for some time after the voices have stopped. It's incredibly distracting especially since the game has plenty of close up shots on character faces.
Playing the game is just as much of a chore as listening to it which is where the main problems with this title come from. Combat is a fairly slow, plodding affair while also managing to not be easily enough controlled. It controls in a manner similar to the .hack series of games, where you control your character in real time while your party members perform actions based upon general behavior instructions given to them before, or during, battle.
The problem with this system is that it seems real time but in reality none of it is. You have a bar that fills up until full whereupon you can take an action, kind of like the AB battle system in older Final Fantasy games. Movement has no impact on combat so there's only a very basic strategy to combat other than "get in enemy's face and bash it in" or which opponents you prioritize. It gets really monotonous since you spend most of your time staring at the screen doing nothing. If it's going to be a turn based affair it should just stick with that instead of trying to masquerade as a more action oriented game.
Early on you will be introduced to the combo system which goes hand in hand with the very deep character customization. Defeating enemies will net you experience and skill points. We all know what the experience is for but the skill points are spent to learn individual attacks. These can come from weapon skills, divine magic (read: priest spells) or elemental attack spells. Pretty much anyone can use any skill meaning that you can customize your party however you want at any time. You then assign these skills to slots in one of your skill slots so you can use it during gameplay.
Where it gets really interesting is the fact that you can put together combos easily by going to a particular section of the skill menus. It's then possible to string together a number of your skills into a powerful, damaging attack that can be unleashed to wreck your opponents. These are limited only by your characters "mastery" of the weapon and your action points, energy used for stronger attacks.
Unfortunately even these tend to drag the game down, slowing it down immensely. Every time you learn a new skill, or many skills as it will often be, you have to go into the menus, learn the skill and then assign it into the bars. Doing this for multiple people constantly really drags out the time you spend playing this game. It's very possible to turn the game on and spend a half hour doing nothing but learning skills, assigning them and figuring out how to use your combos.
There's a lot to like about White Knight Chronicles but there's also a lot of problems with the title. For those who haven't been following the game since its announcement you're not losing much by skipping over this title for other, better, PS3 exclusives. But if you're a fan of the game then you will possibly get some enjoyment out of the title so long as you're incredibly patient. All we can hope is that these problems are hammered out a bit in the sequel announced during the 2009 Tokyo Game Show.