White Knight Chronicles (WKC) wasn’t what most expected, or maybe even wanted from Level-5’s first PS3 JRPG. However, I think it was overly criticized and was overall a good title.
Sure the story didn’t pick up till the end, but seeing as the game is just the first in a planned trilogy I can be a little forgiving of that. I think most of the characters weren’t deep enough, and they didn’t grow with the story. This is probably why most people decided to harp on the standard save the princess story. Even if similar tropes are the basis of many other games, which are generally given a pass.
As for the actual gameplay, it plays much like a simplified MMO. You key up actions (spells, attacks, items, etc) and use them when your gauge fills. You are able to stack abilities and actions to create your own combos. During these you will have to complete timed button presses to keep the combo going. It might not be my favorite combat system, but it worked rather well for what they wanted to do.
Besides creating your own combos there is also a very exhaustive crafting system in WKC. You can create a plethora of gear and items. You can also upgrade these. But more unique to WKC is the Georama system, where each player gets to create their own home space. These spaces can be filled with buildings, crops, mineral deposits, shops, filled with workers, and so on. It is a huge addition to the game, and can be fairly addictive. My main complaint would be the amount of time required to grind your way through most of the crafting and Georama systems. I think it would’ve been much better if it were easier to obtain weapons, armor, or new furnishings for your Georama. Instead I eventually succumbed to the realization that the game demanded way too much of my time to really progress. Instead of pushing forward, it made me want to take WKC out of my PS3 and move on to another game.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I really enjoyed WKC. There is a fun and uniquely deep base here that I hope Level-5 can build on for the sequel. The Georama and online aspects added a lot to the game. In fact, if WKC lacked these components I would have scored it lower. Hopefully we will see some needed tweaks in the upcoming sequel.
Final Fantasy XIII (FFXIII) is yet another game that I struggled with assigning a score to. If I look at piecemeal it seems like a great game, but when it is all put together I feel like it falls short.
Overall the graphics are very good. During battles the spell and combat effects look really good. For the most part, the character models looks really good. However, whenever there is a close up you can see where they cut some corners. I count myself among the crowd that thinks the game suffered from becoming multiplatform. There are a lot of low resolution textures, and even the way the game is designed feels like it was compromised to work with the 360’s DVD limitations.
Which brings me to the worse part of this game. It is incredibly linear. You are forced to run down one long corridor after another. It is designed like a shooter. However that style of game design only works for fast paced action games or shooters. Where you are constantly fighting enemies in real time and are usually met with dramatic set-pieces. In FFXIII you run down mostly empty and confined pathways. You engage enemies, and are then warped into a battle mode. After defeating the enemies you are warped back to the map. This is standard for a lot of RPGs, but the fact that there are no side-quests until much later in the game (waits until the second disc for the 360… convenient?) makes most of the game feel like one long corridor. If this was more of an action-RPG, this may have worked better. Or maybe even if it was a shorter game, as it really drags at times.
The battle system is more about managing your roles (think job classes) than actually controlling any one character. It is fast paced and flashy, but most of the time ends up feeling like I was just pressing “x” to win. You do need to juggle your roles a lot more later on in the game, but I still think it was lacking.
The characters are decent, and the story is good. Both of which are very important when it comes to RPG’s, especially when they are fairly long. They both had me interested enough to make me want to complete the game. Even after I became bored of the combat or fatigued by the seemingly endless amount of linear maps.
There were times when I completely loved FFXIII, but they a minute later I would be met by something that made me loathe it. It feels like the game could have been something much better and has left me wanting. If it hadn’t been so linear and felt like it was artificially extended just to make it seem like a longer game (which fans of the serious usually expect), I think it would have been a better game. Maybe we will see some serious revisions in the sequel, FFXIII-2.
Where do I begin… Fallout: New Vegas had a lot to prove to me after playing Fallout 3. I could tell there was an idea of a good game in both of these games, but I was also horribly burned by maybe the worst high-profile game engine in the industry. The bug ridden, low performance, and flat out broken Gamebryo engine. It was completely frustrating in Fallout 3 and when I heard they were still using that engine for New Vegas my heart sunk. I was really hoping they’d do the right thing and release an actually functional game. Turns out, they may have released an even more broken game than Fallout 3.
I know, why am I focusing on the engine and not the game so far in this review? Well, that’s because you have to be able to totally look past the massive amount of problems the engine contributes to the game in-order to find anything redeeming about New Vegas. There are the small issues, like poor lip-synching, late loading textures, and clipping. These are generally forgivable in an open world game if they aren’t too frequent. That is not the case with New Vegas. I would enter buildings or areas to be met with large portions (sometimes whole buildings, the ground, etc) of the world not being textured. It abruptly reminds you that you’re playing a game, and a poorly made on at that.
Then there are the larger problems. Hell, you can’t even run in the game without dropping frames like a tree drops leaves in the fall. I would have to stop moving so the game wouldn’t freeze on me. Even trying to move around the world cautiously to avoid these problems it would still regularly freeze on me (even after the patches that supposedly fixed that problem). Then you have broken missions, characters getting stuck inside each other, or maybe even you getting stuck in the worlds geometry. It’s like the real enemy of the game is the Gamebryo engine… and it usually wins.
As for the actual game, it’s ok. I enjoyed the setting and story more than I did in Fallout 3. Roaming the wastelands going where you please is still immensely gratifying. This is why you play these games. FInding new areas, new enemies, and new stories hidden away in documents, new NPC’s, or computers you get to hack. All of this is satisfying, and what I want out of a new Fallout game.
It is such a shame that a good game was ruined for me due to all the technical problems. I really wanted to be able to look past this, but since the game wants to constantly remind that it can’t run properly I can’t. Maybe the game just wants you to take a break, for your health, so it freezes which then requires you to get up and shut down your PS3. Or maybe it is time to kill off the Gamebryo engine and move on to a new one (which I believe they are with their next game). If you are able to stomach all the technical problems (a.k.a. a broken game) there is a fun game to be found in there.