Given the compressed schedule of the event, it was far from the ideal environment to go deep with such a high-profile RPG. Still, we were able to adventure through the overworld and come to grips with the combat system. The world itself is very lush and conveys a grand sense of scale, the latter being helped by an incredible draw distance.
Why wail away with puny swords when you can run an enemy through with a blade the size of a bus?
The enemies we fought were mainly pesky, wasp-like creatures with giant stingers and venomous walking plants. In other words, typical JRPG fare. Actually battling the beasts was very easy to get into -- we get the feeling Level-5 is trying to introduce a degree of mass-market friendliness with the controls. It's possible to simply point Leonard toward an enemy, keep pressing X, and finish them off -- but where's the flair (or fun) in that? Fortunately, the range of attacks seemed quite deep and the ability to create customized sets of them that are quickly selectable is a breeze.
With just a few button presses, we were able to create rows of custom attack combinations that could be navigated with a quick up/down/left/right on the D-pad. The Sony rep guarding the kiosk said he'd leveled the characters up "quite a bit," so it was hard to really get a feel for the effectiveness of one attack over another. They all killed in one hit!
Maybe it was payback for our hubris in gloating over all the quick kills, but we soon found outselves squaring off against an overworld mini-boss of sorts: a giant boar. Effectively flanking it and backing off when necessary using the real time movement system was the key to toppling the roaring, huffing, impressive beast.
Not long after this encounter we got a chance to transform our character into the towering --and titular -- White Knight in order to do battle with an equally gigantic enemy. After all, why wail away with puny swords when you can run an enemy through with a blade the size of a bus? We'd watched an earlier player attempt to take down the Ent-like tree monster
and have a pretty hard time of it as a mere human-sized Leonard. Battling it on its own level, in something that looked like a medieval mech fight, was over pretty quickly. Still, it was spectacular while it lasted.
Sadly, the online co-op component of the game wasn't being demonstrated, but we've gut a hunch we'll get to play -- and write about -- plenty of it before this gorgeous looking game ships at the end of '09. If Sony can deliver the same quality of dialog, voice-over and gameplay we experienced, combined with proper voice chat for online team-ups, we're looking at the next great PS3-exclusive RPG.