Much more could be said about the single player story mode, but we need to move on to the co-op elements. It is a real shame that the story mode isn't playable in co-op at all, since this is where the game is most impressive. The big draw of the game is Leonard, and his ability to change into the grand White Knight, but you can't use him in co-op mode. Instead, you play as the character you created at the beginning of story mode. I can understand that the transformation mechanic would horribly break the multiplayer experience, but I still felt far more attachment to Leonard than my own character, who has no lines in the story, and was really not much more than a mere heal bot. Once you get past this initial letdown, there's some reasonably good if not groundbreaking co-op to be had.
Co-op is available in White Knight Chronicles' Geonet service, which can be used from any of the various save point markers, once you reach a certain point in the story. Geonet is a bit confusing at first. It took me a bit to figure out how to join a game. After you scroll through the end user agreement (which has to be done every time!), you end up at your Home Page. Here, you can choose a town to begin adventuring in, browse message boards, or even blog about your mad skills in the Adventure Log. When you enter someone's town, you can visit all sorts of NPCs, including a quest officer, who manages all the quests for those who are in town. You can search through open quests and find one to your liking, or create one of your own. Each of these quests is separate from the Story mode, but they do sometimes recycle encounters from it. Once the quest is full, a timer begins, and the game is on.
Once in a quest, players are free to run about the map as they choose. I found that pairing off was a good strategy, since a solo player could get overwhelmed rather easily, but four was really overkill. There are all sorts of goals to the quests; one early one has you searching for a pair of items at opposite ends of the map. Once both items are turned in, the players are teleported together and the boss battle begins. Once the quest is completed, your character picks up a few items, earns some guild points (used to access tougher quests), and then everyone is kicked back out to the town. Quest time limits vary, but generally are from between 30 minutes to a full hour.
The co-op elements of White Knight Chronicles are standard, nothing more. There is a nice sense of working together, certainly. But the sameness of the characters means that everyone can fight, heal, cast spells, etc., and there's no really pressing need for cooperative tactics. A party made up of balanced characters will likely do as well as a more specialized group. True, there are some skills they are better in a group, such as the party buffs. But the co-op is just average, rather lukewarm. The real draw of the online play is customization, including crafting weapons, armor, and most especially checking out other people's towns, which can be very impressive. It's very easy to reach a save point and hop onto Geonet for a bit if a friend comes online, and items, gold, and experience all transfer easily back into the single player campaign. The online portions of White Knight Chronicles feel like a very light MMO, but with only fifty online quests on the disc, I'm not sure if the game will have the long-term appeal that MMOs thrive on.
Truth be told, White Knight Chronicles is a far better single player experience than a co-op one. I enjoy co-op as much as the next person (okay, probably more than the next person), but my time spent on Geonet wasn't nearly as fun as the single player story mode. Everything that is great about the game, the huge fights, interesting story, and sense of scale, is largely absent from the online quests. I definitely enjoy playing the story mode; though there are certainly some things I would change with the skill and combat system, it's still quite fun. In the end, the online co-op via Geonet is really just gravy, a nice bonus that is worth checking out, but not nearly as exciting as the meat and potatoes of the single player story.
The Co-Op Experience: Play co-op specific adventures with friends online.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.