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White Knight Chronicles offers a combat system that is layered nicely

January 26, 2010

White Knight Chronicles offers a combat system that is layered nicely
By Michael Lafferty

Depth of fighting schemes helps make this PS3 title more than a button masher

There is a phrase about familiarity breeding contempt, but in the gaming world, that merely means you don’t have to spend time with the game manual.

Combat in White Knight Chronicles is certainly familiar, but rather than draw from one narrow vision, the Level 5 development team combined several elements for a system that is thoughtful and rather well done.

It all begins with leveling and accruing points to be spend on acquiring skills. There are eight categories that the skills fall into – sword, longsword, staff, spear, bow, axe, divine magic and elemental magic. Each of the disciplines has a point value to buy the skill, and there are AC (Action Chips) in combat that must be spent to use the skill. For example, you can buy the flaming sword skill (one of the first you can buy) that costs one point to purchase and one AC to use.

Each skill bought, at the early level, is a precursor to more powerful skills. You might buy sword mastery, for instance, and that unlocks an agility buff. Buying fire lance, in the elemental line, unlocks Bonfire (a nice visual effect and solid damage).

Of course, the more damage a spell does, the more it costs to buy and to use.

In addition, each spell has a reset timer. You can cast the spell, but whether you miss or hit, you have to let it wind up again. This is tantamount to taking turns in combat. Of course, you can create combo attacks that utilize several skills and go for the bigger damage, but – again – the cost has to be weighed before triggering one of these.

Before the prologue to the actual game is done, the main protagonist – Leonard – will unlock the ability to call forth the Incorruptus. The Incorruptus is a large suit of armor (about 15 feet tall, give or take a few feet), and rather than use AC for attacks, the attacks it fires uses mana from a metered pool. Run out of mana and the character using the armor returns to normal.

The combat evolves in other ways as well.

You can edit your commands, with three bars capable of holding different skills. Using the reset time – which is constant for almost all skills – you can flip through the bars for the next attack you wish to use. Divine Magic offers heals, so those are always options.

Additionally, it is possible to set the combat profiles for the other two (non-controlled) members of the party. This element instructs the AI how to direct the behavior of non-directly controlled members of the party. While the options are not plentiful, they drive straight to the point with such tactics as playing defensively, consider casting heals before fighting, or go all-out offensively.

Each character is a blank slate to begin with, with cursory skills learned in each category. What that allows the player to do is skill up the individuals as he or she sees fit to create a solid, compatible fighting unit. Also, when attacking larger beasts, players have the choice of where to focus attacks. Some monsters are a bit more ‘delicate’ in some areas, but can withstand damage in other areas. Early in the game, players can get a pair of goggles/glasses that, when used, reveal the weak locations on monsters and help with targeting attacks.

The only drawbacks are that the controls are a bit cumbersome to switch out characters or perform other actions (like drink a health potion) during a fight. The pacing in combat is fast and players will have to be on their toes, watching health and AC points to ensure getting the most effective combat play from the party. Fortunately, the AI of the other party members is pretty solid.

The block skills take a little work, but all in all, White Knight Chronicles does a very nice job in the combat department – which is necessary, of course, since this is a game that has a foundation of combat.

Gw
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