Back in 2006, Level 5 announced a new RPG by the name of White Knight Story. Since then, the name has changed to White Knight Chronicles and is due to release in the states this February as White Knight Chronicles: International Edition. White Knight Chronicles begins in the kingdom of Balandor, where dark plots by mysterious groups and an attempted kidnapping lead a young man named Leonard to discover a magical suit of armor that possesses the power to turn him into the mighty White Knight. Leonard thus begins his journey to discover why this mysterious group would want to kidnap the princess and why he is able to don the White Knight armor.
"Based on various import and hands-on previews, White Knight Chronicles looks to be a solidly mediocre title."
While the story revolves around Leonard and other various companions, players experience it as another character that they will be able to fully customize in an exhaustive character creator. This character will not only serve as the player's eyes and ears during the main story. White Knight Chronicles also includes an interactive online component in which players can take their self-made avatar and join up with others to complete special quests to obtain rare equipment and items. This appears to be the extent to which the player's avatar can influence the main story, however. Besides providing a third-person viewpoint, this avatar looks to have little influence on the actual plot.
Combat in White Knight has the player directly controlling one character at a time with the remainder of the party acting in accordance to different battle settings, giving charge of the characters to the AI. While conventional attacks are present, players will also be able to pre-configure strings of combo techniques to execute during battle at the cost of slow-to-recharge command points. Taking it to the next level, Leonard will be able to transform into the White Knight during combat, potentially allowing for players to better handle tough battles.
As mentioned earlier, White Knight Chronicles features an online mode which allows for cooperative play. Players will be able to take their avatar online to complete the aformentioned special quests, but will not be able to take Leonard and company along with them. Instead, people having difficulty with a particular quest will have to team up with other players to accomplish their given tasks. Another interesting feature of online play is the ability for players to create their own Dark Cloud-esque Geonet, which allows them to recruit NPCs to a customizable town for support and dialogue.
Since its original release, White Knight Chronicles has received a number of update patches to address various interface and gameplay issues, all of which will be included in the international edition. Also included will be party chat functionality, which will allow players to voice-chat with each other during online play. Based on various import and hands-on previews, White Knight Chronicles looks to be a solidly mediocre title. In spite of this, White Knight Chronicles 2 has already been announced, so players can be sure that Level 5 is still behind them and invested in the series. That being said, RPGamers may have a tough choice ahead of them. With Final Fantasy XIII right around the corner, how many will be willing to shell out for a middle-of-the-line title now when a top-tier entry will be out a month later? White Knight Chronicles doesn't look like a bad game by any means, so definitely take a good look at it if you are itching to fill the gap before Final Fantasy XIII releases. Look for White Knight Chronicles: International Edition when it releases February 2.