White Knight Chronicles: Origins PSP
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Matrix Software
We've recently looked at the sequel to White Knight Chronicles and here, for the PSP, we have a game that covers the events prior to the first game. White Knight Chronicles: Origins is a combination of the new and familiar for those who have already been introduced to the series. Naturally some changes to the nature of the game have been made to counter the hardware limitations of the PSP but not all changes have had an adverse effect on the experience. In fact in some respects Origins manages to improve upon the two PlayStation 3 titles in the series.
After creating a character in a way that will be familiar to anyone who has played a White Knight Chronicles game, you'll get to witness your kingdom, the Athwan Kingdom, being attacked by giant knights known as the Incorrupti who are under the control of the Yshrenian Empire. With all of the other kingdoms crushed under the feet of the Yshrenian Empire's forces, only the Athwan Kingdom stands in their way and they are determined to crush them with a minimum of fuss. After a very brief encounter with an Incorruptus, your character will find him/herself aboard a train riding with the Mobile Corps, a mercenary force who travel around on their train accepting quests from all over their war-ravaged continent. To cut a long story short you're invited to join the Mobile Corps and are given an Optimite Crystal which has the ability to 'harness the energy of the bearer's soul.'
During the game the Mobile Corps' train acts as your hub and it is here that you'll return to between missions. There are various coaches (or cars if you prefer) attached to the train and each one serves a different purpose. In the Control Car you can choose your quests and also which members will make up your party for a particular quest. There is also a Guild Car (where you'll purchase weapons, armour and other accessories). You can purchase additional cars later in the game which will expand the capabilities of the train and give you more options. For instance, adding a Barracks Car will allow you to have more party members to choose from and the Scout Car allows you to send allies out on gathering duties. In the Comms Car you'll find the Bigelow birds (that are present in the other White Knight Chronicles games) and it's from here that you'll be able to communicate with others and take part in Network games via ad hoc or infrastructure mode. By completing quests together you can earn Grace Points (GP) which can then be spent on items in the GP Shop. You can even transfer party members, including your avatar, to each other's games.
It's clear that sacrifices have had to be made with the game being on a handheld console. There are no huge open world environments to explore here. You'll simply go from one quest location to another via the train. Each of the game's locations is actually a collection of chambers that have been strung together. Moving from one chamber to another triggers a load time (even if you do choose to install the game data which will consume over 440MB of your memory card space) and whilst the length of the load times certainly isn't bad, the frequency at which you'll encounter them is disappointing.
One of the things you'll notice almost immediately is that your custom character isn't just a silent character that is there to simply join in with the battles. There are dialogue choices to make in the game and you are given the impression that you do actually have a minor say in what's going on which is certainly an improvement upon the PlayStation 3 titles.
In many respects the combat will be familiar to those who have played the other games in the series. You have a customisable command bar to which you can assign actions (that your character will acquire during the course of the game) and during a battle you'll simply select the desired action from the command bar. You'll have access to three command bars, although here they only have five slots instead of seven into which you can assign actions that you've acquired as your character levels up. There's also an additional bar from which you can access items and transform to an Optimus.
During the course of the game you're given the opportunity of recruiting additional party members. There are only a fixed amount of members you can have in your party (although you can increase this limit). The bread and butter quests in the game are called Field quests and usually involve you having to destroy a specific enemy. In addition to these Field quests, each party member has three Corps quests to offer you but you'll have to improve your affinity with them in order to access them. In essence it pays to talk to them and give them gifts when the opportunity arises.
Although you can amass a sizeable party, you can only take three companions into battle during a quest. However, they are all capable of changing into an Optimus which essentially means they are enhanced beings who are more capable in a battle. It should be noted however that the combat forms your Optimus can take are dependent on the characters in your party for the quest in question. You'll want to bring along the party members that are going to allow you to transform into your desired combat form. It's not a major feature but it certainly adds more appeal to the battle system and encourages you not to simply stick with the same party members throughout the entire game.
The game's presentation is probably best described as modest. Graphically this is an average looking PSP game with quite a bit of aliasing and some mediocre textures. As we've already mentioned there are plenty of load times and this helps to break up the pace of the game at times. The game's opening cut scene isn't subtitled but the bulk of the dialogue in the game is text only. Quest details are given in text so you'll always be aware of what to do. All tutorial information is also given in text. During a battle the AI controlled party members will converse with each other and as the conversations are in text you'll get to see them which makes a welcome change from the usual speech only conversations you find in most RPG battle system. The game also allows you to send pre-configured text messages to your companions during multiplayer games.
White Knight Chronicles: Origins is definitely a game I would recommend to those who have enjoyed the PlayStation 3 White Knight Chronicles games and are looking for something similar that they can play whilst they are out on their travels. You're losing the ability to traverse the large open environments that are present in the first two games in the series but there are extra elements here that help to compensate. As with the other White Knight Chronicles titles, there are various aspects of the game that could have been better but there's enough here to keep things interesting for those who want to experience more of the White Knight Chronicles universe.