Despite taking a critical beating worldwide, White Knight Chronicles has been a successful endeavour for Sony in Japan. With two iterations already available on the PlayStation 3, White Knight Chronicles: Origins marks the franchise's first foray into the portable space. Developed by Matrix Games, this prequel is set some 10,000 years before the events of the main series and lends much of its inspiration to Capcom's Monster Hunter series.
White Knight Chronicles: Origins is quite a rigid and limited affair, but its enjoyable in spite of its boundaries. Origins is a very digestible game, that settles for a straight-forward pick-up-and-play structure as opposed to a sprawling and overwhelming make-up.
Like Monster Hunter, you'll spend much of your time in Origins operating from a central-hub; a contrived steam-punk train that includes all of the staples of a traditional RPG town. There are shops, black-smiths and a few NPCs to interact with. It's a closed environment that forgoes the kind of sprawling environments typically featured in a game of this kind.
With no overworld to explore, Origins often feels like it lacks scale, and this is compounded by the game's quests which take place in similarly confined instances populated by various creatures and unpleasantries. It's a pretty bland looking game, with much of the visual stimulation coming from the character and enemy models. Thankfully, Origins has a fantastic soundtrack.
Origins plays a touch like an MMO, with a sequence of attacks assigned to a menu at the bottom of the screen. During battle you'll automatically lock onto foes and perform moves depending on your selected ability. You'll need to keep your attack bar populated with the appropriate balance of skills to succeed in battle.
Unfortunately there's very little framework to these battles because the narrative is threadbare at best. The game does very little to contextualise quests, settling for little more than "he's evil" justifications. The reward of XP and upgraded equipment is enough to keep you interested though.
Origins is not a lonely experience, and can be played online in four-player co-op or offline with AI partners. Both options result in the gameplay feeling less solitary than it would otherwise, with new AI characters frequently proposing themselves for recruitment, and new quests designed to improve your team dynamic.
There's a straight-forward elegance to White Knight Chronicles: Origins that makes it perfectly suited to the PSP. While traditional RPG fans — and in particular Monster Hunter loyalists — will scoff at Origins' simplicity, it's got quite a nice pick-up-and-play vibe to it. We spent much of our time with Origins playing in short bursts, completing a mission or two before putting the game down and moving onto something else. It's perfectly digestible in that regard, making the game's limitations forgivable if you're looking for something accessible.