Unleashing a custom-built five-attack combo and transforming into an enormous war-mech-style knight in order to go toe-to-toe with equally huge monsters is a blast. But in the name of game balance, those moments are rare in White Knight Chronicles, and the result is a slog between exciting fights.
The Japanese role-playing game follows Leonard, a commoner in love with his kingdom’s princess. When she’s kidnapped by evildoers intent on harnessing her secret magical powers, he sets out to save her with the help of some friends and an ancient relic that lets him transform into the White Knight.
The plot starts predictably, and it never changes as it follows a purely linear path. While bosses are often genuinely cool, like the fire-breathing monstrosity with a cannon on its back, or a towering knight with gorgeous black wings, most of the creatures show lazy design. Wander through the forest, and you’ll battle giant wasps and wild boars. Walk through the desert, and you’ll fight the exact same things.
One strength is that characters are fully customizable, joining the party as blank slates so you can assign all their skills from deep trees of weapons and magic. But the real-time combat system makes it difficult to use all the skills you acquire. There is no pause button and no hotkeys, so you must trigger abilities by tabbing through a combat bar. The time between attacks isn’t long enough to move between your three active characters, though the AI makes good decisions for them. The system makes offensive spellcasting especially difficult, as your action ticker doesn’t start refreshing until the spell’s animation is finished, and the damage never amounts to much more than a good mêlée attack. Add in a tight limit on the resources used for special moves and transforming into knight form, and you spend most of your time whittling down enemies with basic attacks.
Players can also create an avatar that’s a silent member of the party. The avatar’s function is for online play, where players can join up to complete side quests, which are unrelated to the plot, but can provide decent rewards. But while there’s plenty of stuff to do in the game, very little of it stands out enough to make it worth doing.