The Knight Witch
I’ve been a fan of Metroidvania games for as long as I can remember. I love finding all of the nooks and crannies that I can’t quite overcome yet, and trying to remember where they all are once you gain the ability to progress. Equally, I love a shoot-em-up – dancing between hundreds of incoming enemy shots while also trying to deliver blows of your own is both panic-inducing and incredibly exhilarating! Imagine my delight then when Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team came out with The Knight Witch, which manages to blend them both! And supported by the stalwarts at Team17, who seem to hit much more than they miss, I couldn’t wait to get started!
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Beautiful art style and soundtrack|
+ Well written script with endearing characters
+ Nice merge of bullet-hell shooter & Metroidvania
|Negatives||– Spell mechanic has drawbacks|
– Some of the busy backgrounds can be distracting
– Multiple crashes and soft locks
|Price (When Reviewed)||£15.99|
|Our Playtime||13 hours 20 mins|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
In a format I’ve long enjoyed, the introduction sees you play through a portion of the game’s backstory. You learn of the power hungry Daigadai family and their maniacal leader, Emperor Erebus, who, through the use of terrible technology, has raised a mechanical army of golems and committed all manner of atrocities to the planet. Looking to stop them are the lovers of the planet, known as the Children of Gaia, and their champions, the four Knight Witches, whose efforts to fight back culminate at the epic Battle of the Broken Sky. The Knight Witches draw their strength from the faith, love and admiration of their followers through a magical bond known as The Link, which plays a huge part in the game as the story unravels.
Leading the charge for the Knight Witches is their legendary captain; The Angel of Destruction, Robyn. You control Robyn as she takes on the Daigadai horde and eventually squares off with Emperor Erebus, in what is a tremendous introduction to both the gameplay and the world at large. You have an incredible amount of strength and number of abilities at your fingertips, and get a feel really quickly for what The Knight Witch will have in store for you further down the line. After overcoming the evil emperor, you’re catapulted 14 years forward in time and meet the protagonist-proper, Rayne, who had been trained as a Knight Witch but never made the cut to go into battle alongside her sisters.
Instead, you’re introduced to Rayne during the long period of peace that was ushered in through Robyn’s victory, living out a pleasant life alongside her doting husband Akai in the underground town of Dungeonidas. And it’s now that things take a turn for the worst. During an annual celebration of Robyn and her victory over the Daigadai, a host of golems attack Dungeonidas, and with no Knight Witch support anywhere to be seen, Rayne is forced into action, evacuating the townsfolk before being drawn into a adventure with plenty of well written twists and turns. I could dive into more detail about the story here, but with a relatively short runtime, I’d instead encourage you to play through it yourself – I think there’s a level of foresight in the underpinning plot and universe that is miles ahead of similar titles that I’ve played.
What struck me early on was the genuine warmth that Rayne and Akai showed one another as a husband and wife, through both their well-written dialogue and their character placards, which are excellently drawn and convey a wonderful amount of emotion. The strong script writing is a constant throughout The Knight Witch, and while it may not be especially complex, the story has added weight because of the connections you’ve built with the characters and their relationships with each other. I would absolutely love to see more from the writing team at Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team focussing on the universe of the Knight Witch – it feels like a deep well of potential just waiting to be plumbed to great success for years to come.
The other thing that becomes evident rather quickly -as early as the title screen, in fact- is that The Knight Witch is a beautiful looking game. Hand drawn throughout, there’s a wonderful amount of character in the visuals – from the quirky characters and detailed backgrounds in the gameplay, to the impactful comic book-style frames that narrate the more intense scenes, The Knight Witch has a stunning look. The soundtrack is a pleasure too, with a mix of traditional fantasy fare mixed with some more heavy sounding guitar pieces, alluding to the games stylistic blend of the magic and machine really well.
Perhaps the only knock on the graphical elements of the game is that perhaps the animations don’t stand up to the same level as the static imagery, and at times can look a little wooden by comparison. The backgrounds too, whilst wonderfully detailed, can be a little distracting during busy fight scenes, and I’d have liked for some of the details to have been darkened during battle to allow me to concentrate on the enemy fire and my positioning more easily. That said, the universe is beautifully designed and delivered, with the war-torn, the wondrous and the macabre being well represented as the game plays out.
So, we’ve established that the story, characters and setting are very good, but how about the gameplay? Well, that’s pretty good too.
The Knight Witch takes the twin-stick bullet-hell shoot-em-up and Metroidvania genres and smashes them together pretty successfully; the game uses a side-on view that lets you glide the flying Rayne around the screen and blast magic at your enemies as they shower you with innumerable shots of their own. Movement is maybe a little on the sluggish side, especially early on, as you’re given an intentionally underpowered Rayne who can’t so much as dodge, which is a decision that definitely feels like a bridge too far for a bullet-hell game.
As Rayne completes side quests for the townsfolk of Dungeonidas and gains their trust, she also gains their strength via The Link, and her power and abilities begin to grow. You’ll gain access to spell cards, each of which have unique effects in battle – from shielding you from enemy fire, to spawning creature companions and even blasting an entire screen of baddies to bits. You can customise your small spell deck to include whichever cards you like the most, and they’re shuffled so that a different card is activated by a different button on the controller. Once you cast a spell it’s then replaced by a random card from your deck; your spells are never permanently expended and you’ll continually rotate through your deck of spell cards as you expend your mana.
While a great idea in theory, I found the spell cards more tricky to use than I’d like. Not only did some of the button presses frustratingly fail to register when the bullets were flying, but I found myself constantly having to look down at my HUD to see which spell was in which slot; a death wish with so many shots hurtling towards you, especially during boss fights. I also found that some of the spells were a little too niche for the size of your deck, and that you needed incredibly good fortune to pull off the combo that they had been designed for. This was disappointing since there are a tonne of obviously cool ideas that only become useable in the last few minutes of the game, due to the power levels required and availability of the spells.
While mostly a joy to play, there are portions of the game that will without a doubt annoy players too, with sudden difficulty spikes coming in the form of bosses, moments of (thankfully optional) razor precision platforming and a number of crashes and soft-locks that had me rebooting the game much more often than I’d like.
The general gameplay is at a drift along pace, but the boss fights are chaotic, with more bullets and more accuracy required than would sometimes seem reasonable – especially when compared to what you’ve been asked to do during the preceding level. The final boss stands out as an example of players being asked to do wholeheartedly too much versus what’s come before, and while I hear your cries of ‘well it IS the final boss!’, I’d still say that it represents a peak in difficulty far above the established average. Are the bosses beatable? Yes. But not without a lot of long winded respawns and a fair amount of swear words too.
The Knight Witch is a blend twin-stick bullet hell shooter and the Metroidvania that succeeds in the face of some technical problems by virtue of its enjoyable story and wonderful universe, expressed in beautifully hand drawn visuals and filled with endearing characters. Whilst not perfect, the gameplay is enjoyable and requires a good amount of skill – there’s just a few elements that just needed a little more polish in order to really make the most impact. It feels to me like the opening entry in a wonderful franchise, where new spells and features could lead to even bigger and better things in the future.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.
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