Sam Hansen
E3: White Knight Chronicles Impressions
Hands-on with Level-5's latest.
06.06.09 - 2:17 PM

Playing through White Knight Chronicles was sheer torture. Not because the game was bad (and trust me, it wasn't), but because I still don't have a Playstation 3 of my own! This game just served as a reminder of how much I want one. Claiming to be the first "true" RPG for the PS3, Level-5's latest epic is hoping to make its way to Sony's next-gen console during the first bit of 2010 with a large, exuberant bang. This was a title that I had to return to multiple times throughout my time on the floor, because I was never able to get a good idea of what exactly I was playing, but a final test run with fellow staff member Michael Salbato revealed a whole new side of the experience.

The story seems to star a young man named Leonard who works for a small winery within the kingdom of Balandor. His workplace has been called upon to provide beverages for the royal family in celebration of Princess Cisna's coming of age, with Leonard being forced to retrieve extra product from a neighboring town to meet the expected quota. Upon returning, however, a group of villainous bandits known as the Magi have come to wreck havoc and steal the White Knight, a tremendous suit of armor with unrivaled power buried deep beneath the kingdom. As you would expect from a JRPG, the tale will spiral into a save the world adventure and crisscross every which way as Leonard attempts to prevent the antagonist's planet-wide plans from taking place.

While I wasn't able to through the entirety of what I just described to you, I did get to traverse through the two areas associated with the pre-Magi events, the first being the kingdom of Balandor itself. There is little to say about it aside from the fact that it is one of the most enormous expanses of buildings and waterways I've ever seen. What I saw truly reeked of kingdomness (for lack of a better, real word), with tons upon tons of cobblestone walkways and stairwells leading to higher levels. Players can expect to find commonplace supply shops and inns, but most of the exploration will take place within the streets and amongst the droves of NPCs loitering about.

Equally impressive was the forest environment that followed. Level-5 should definitely be proud, because what they gave us here is absolutely gorgeous. White Knight Chronicles is a graphical powerhouse, with all sorts of foliage, landscaping feats, and downright gorgeous water effects. It's going to look amazing once everything has been tweaked and tampered with. Furthermore, the map itself was massive. Sony says that there will thirteen dungeon-esque areas to grind through, and while that might seem like a relatively small number, it's really not if you consider the scope of the thirteen that they've got.

On the gameplay side of things, this is going to be a straight up action RPG. As players make their way through the creature-ridden areas, a simple tap of the X button will transition you into you battle mode where menus aplenty will clutter up the bottom section of the screen. As you approach an enemy, a time meter will begin to fill up, which will permit particular commands once it is maxed out. Each character's skill set will be fully customizable, and there seems to be a healthy amount of potential techniques to choose from that will range from the simple Slash command to much more elaborate, element-based sword flurries.

An Action Chip system was also implemented into the demo. As foes are continually slain, characters will receive Action Chips, which more or less act as MP for physical attacks. Simple actions like the aforementioned Slash will cost nothing, but those with a bit more wallop will require usage of your chips, giving you another pesky meter that you'll need to keep track of and coordinate alongside everything else.

I was also given the opportunity to test drive the game's title character, the White Knight. Players who lay off their chips and save up seven of them can have Leonard hop on into the forceful structure and literally decimate everything in front of him. The larger than life White Knight will control very similarly to the bite-sized humans you'll be used to playing as. Everything about him will be customizable, as well.

Admittedly, the combat was very, very clunky at first, and I blame the hard to navigate battle menus for that. It got a heck of a lot easier as time went on, however, and battles went from frustrating to fun rather quickly.

Another facet revealed to me was the game's online features. While I wasn't able to sample it on the show floor, it certainly sounds like it will be promising. Up to four people can romp around in an online environment and tackle quests cooperatively, with any items gained within the escapade transferring directly into the respective player's offline files. The booth's speaker also mentioned that a town-building component will be stuck in there, ala Level-5's Playstation 2 franchise, Dark Cloud. And if there is one thing Level-5 does a commendable job on, it's town-building. Seriously, sign me up!

White Knight Chronicles has a long way to go before it makes its way to the states, but we’ve been told that it's all for the betterment of the game. From what we hear, the US release will have a staggering amount of additional content, including the rumored and highly requested online voice chat that was mysteriously absent from the Japanese version. Sit tight until early next year for what will surely be one of the genre's biggest PS3 releases yet.

Finally, don't miss our import review of the game, and a newly-updated gallery below.