Over the years the concept of a role playing game has graced our consoles and PC's for many years. Each gives us what the developers hope, is an engaging story that will have the player coming back for more and see the tale through. Emulating an RPG on a console has always been a tricky affair compared to a table top game. Itís not only the dice and paper that have been absent, but also the chance to make moral choices that will affect the outcome of the story. That issue however, has been addressed with the likes of Fable, Mass Effect, and Knights of the Old Republic where actions swing your character from being a good two shoes, to an out and out rogue, or you can try and juggle things so your character becomes a neutral protagonist.
Even action games like InFamous 2 give you those moral choices to make along the way, and thatís no bad thing if you ask me. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see that White Knight Chronicles is a throwback (and I donít mean this as an insult) to the 'good old days' of earlier classics like the final fantasy series or Zelda. But hang on Iím getting ahead of myself here, so letís slam on the brakes, stick this review into reverse and take things back to the beginning.
Our story starts with our hero, who goes by the manly name of Leonard (Yeah you heard me!) being given the task of collecting a wagon of wine from a local brewery to celebrate the princessís birthday. Itís made clear to Leonard that he has to get the shipment back to the castle by nightfall or there will be trouble. Leonard is an experienced sort and as he collects the wagon to go and pick up the wine, he is told that an apprentice will be going with him. When you first meet this apprentice, he has a name that can be changed and this is where you, as a player come in. Once you have dabbled with his looks and clothing, you will set off on your journey, just as a strange and slightly suspect looking carnival rolls into town.
But being excited about the celebrations coming that night Leonard is just anxious to get going. During this part of the game, we learn that the princess hasnít spoken a word since she was a child after she witnessed the death of her brother. So Leonard sets off to get the wine, unaware that all sorts of chaos will break whilst heís away. But heíll have problems of his own as various critters will obstruct the journey. The little ones are no problem at all, but when a Troll emerges and attacks the wagon on the way back, it becomes clear that Leonard isnít going to be back on time.
But in the City things have also taken a turn for the worst. The carnival is a cover for an invading force and after a battle and an attack by a savage beast, the princess (in true final fantasy fashion) is abducted! So begins an epic journey to rescue the young maiden. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
A year later more problems arise as on an island, a general with ambitions to resurrect an evil empire draws his plans and once more, the dark clouds of war start to gather. Now I know what you are thinking, why is there a sudden leap forward a whole year? Itís because this is actually two games in one. White Knight Chronicles 2 has White Knight Chronicles 1 bundled into the same package. This is a tick in the Ďwiní column for me. So letís delve a little deeper into the game itself. Brace yourself; this is going to take some time!
First of all this game will remind you of Final Fantasy 12, as the landscape stretches into the distance ahead of you and you can see the critters ahead. There are no random encounters as such here, but areas will repopulate very quickly after using a logic stone which are the in game save points. Make a note of where these are as they serve as a multi function tool. Touching a stone heals the party but when touched; a sub menu of options will open up. These include access to the world map, a weapon repair function (it costs an amount of gold, but this is a very useful function indeed) and it gives you the chance to change battle orders and commands, and equip players.
A menu can be accessed that allows you to log in commands related to your skills and equipment. This includes different melee attacks with sword, axe or staff, ranged attacks with bows and of course the magic spells you know. This is easy enough to do. Open the menu by pressing the triangle button, use the shoulder buttons to scroll through attack modes, and allocate a skill to a slot with a press of the X button. In a fight you can scroll through the options for battle and queue in a set of commands. So when you have targeted an enemy, a circle will appear around the target and as the circle becomes white, you can select another attack option. So as soon as one strike goes in, the next one in the list will kick in. Bear in mind though that if you have skills for an axe and you donít carry one, youíll put away your current weapon and stand there doing nothing. So buy all the gear you can as soon as possible!
It looks complicated but youíll soon get to grips with it. As you gain experience and level up, you will gain skill points that can be allocated to each weapons and spells. These when allocated, will open up other useful enhancements to your attacks. Fire tip for instance adds an incendiary effect to your arrows, aerial strike delivers an attack with a blade that will send your opponent skywards and leave it vulnerable to other high attacks. You can also create your own combos that can mix melee with magic, or add magic to your bow shots. Weapons can be augmented as well as armour, so extra damage can be added to attacks with elemental effects added, or to the armour so you can be protected from fire, ice, poison etc. Feel free to experiment to your heartís content.
One other thing to remember is that Leonard came across a suit of armour that is unlocked by the princess. This means that Leonard can transform into the incorruptus, a giant suited form. This armour can also and should be augmented as you progress, as well as its weapons.
Each attack and action costs an action chip. These are displayed in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. Simple attacks will only use one or two, the more powerful attacks will use more obviously. Should you run out, you should step back as they will replenish themselves, and provided you have given your team mates the right orders, they can protect and heal you as the fight goes on.