The Witch and the Hundred Knight
When I first saw the trailer for ‘The Witch and the Hundred Knight’, I was pretty excited to say the least. A Nippon Ichi Software game that combines elements from rogue like games (Diablo, Torchlight) and JRPGs can only be amazing right, dood? Unfortunately, this mix of influences feels as though it has proven too much for NIS to handle, as The Witch and the Hundred Knight won’t be received favourably by NIS fans or newcomers.
The Witch and The Hundred Knight (which shall be referred to as TWATHK for the sake of brevity) tells the story of Metallia (Metallica in Japan), a power mad witch who is trapped in her swamp realm. She wishes to take over the entire world, but can only hold power in swampy areas, so she plans to expand the swamp across the world. Enter the Hundred Knight, who Metallia has summoned to aid her in her quest. Though he is small in appearance, the knight can wield large weapons and cast powerful magic. He holds even greater power, though it has been sealed away (but for how long?) The player assumes the role of the Hundred Knight throughout the game.
Like most RPGs, TWATHK features a tutorial. This tutorial however, perplexes me, as it is unbearably long and TWATHK isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Like most other action-RPGs, TWATHK involves running, attacking, dodging and other oft-used gameplay staples, so there isn’t really a need to make a tutorial this long. It does introduce the player to a handful of story elements, such as the Hundred Knight learning absolutely everything about existing. At the start of the tutorial, he can only move, and then learns to talk, and then learns about obedience (or disobedience, depending on the player’s choice), but due to the nature of the tutorial (as well as Metallia) any enjoyment the player might have felt will be lost in frustration.
I believe that the tutorial is also meant to go hand in hand with the story, in that it is meant to illustrate that the Hundred Knight (despite being controlled by the player) is in fact a tool of Metallia’s. It completely misses the mark, but I believe the intentions were there. Thankfully, once you complete the tutorial and the game’s opening quests, the game’s quality dramatically improves.
Metallia tasks the Hundred Knight with expanding her realm, through the activation of pillars littered throughout the game’s various locations. These pillars are large plant-like stalks that “bloom” when the player attacks them. The result is an eruption of fluorescent green goo and swamp water that completely changes the surrounding area. The story moves past the pillars (though they are a frequent and constant goal) and onto the rivalry between Metallia and Malia, the Forest Witch. Malia hopes to protect the forest, not because it’s her realm, but because she is a good-hearted person, and cares about living creatures. Metallia despises Malia, though only because she (Metallia) is an evil and twisted person, and Malia stands in her way.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight offers a pretty mixed take on action-RPG with some good and bad points that stand out. Firstly, the Hundred Knight has a constantly depleting energy bar, which determines everything from how far he can explore, to how well he can fight and dodge. Everything you do on a mission depletes your Giga calories (often referred to as Gcals) and careful management of your Gcals is crucial to completing some missions. I say some because quite often when you first explore an area there is little to do except for the mission objective itself, and these are quite often easily completed. Re-entering a mission area a second time or more will unlock new areas and paths to explore, and this is where TWATHK finally begins to feel like an actual RPG.
The Hundred Knight is able to wield many weapons and spells, and can level them up simply by using them. Each standard weapon has up to ten levels, and rare weapons have up to 30. Combining this with the unlockable paths and extra areas in missions feels like a rewarding experience to the player, if they dedicate themselves to the game.
NIS veterans might expect a fun and charming story involving interesting characters, comedic writing and the occasional immature insult, but just like other key elements to the game, The Witch and the Hundred Knight gets the execution of these wrong. For one thing, Metallia is a foul-mouthed, bratty and annoying tramp. Her vulgar language might have proven entertaining if it were at least funny, or if she had some redeeming qualities about her, but I felt that no matter the situation, Metallia just infuriated me. She’s a far cry from the likable Laharl from Disgaea, who is both hilarious and that special breed of likeable evil.
Visually, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a major departure from NIS’s usual 2.5D art direction (2.5 being 2D sprites on 3D environments). While I was at first excited to see NIS’s 3D take on an action-RPG, visually, things are quite bland. The environments lack any sort of flair and feel very repetitive, and the same can be said for the game’s monsters (except for perhaps a few of the game’s bosses). To make matter worse, there are quite often times where the environments look unrefined and jagged. I know NIS have less experience with 3D graphics than other developers, but a mushroom is meant to be round and smooth, not jagged and/or grainy.
- Breaks NIS tradition with an ambitious new franchise
- Under-developed story and characters
- Bland graphics
- Poorly executed gameplay features.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight might have sounded like a great idea when it was first being planned, but a series of poor design choices have sucked a great deal of the appeal and fun out of the game. With that being said, action-RPG fans might find the nutty NIS sense of humour and design a refreshing take on a genre that quite often fails to find innovation and originality. An ambitious game from a developer with such deeply-rooted design traditions was bound to be met with a few problems, and should a sequel be announced, I’m confident that NIS will improve upon the Witch and the Hundred Knight’s mixed results.
Score – 5.5/10