NIS have made some excellent RPG titles in the past, both in Strategy and Action variations. The Witch and the Hundred Knight falls into the latter. It is a game that comes across as pretty standard fare, but isn’t without some issues.
You play as Hundred Knight and are tasked by the Witch to follow out various quests so that she can spread her swamp across the entire land. Metallia is the witch in question and therein lies the first issue with the game.
From the very start she speaks and barks out instructions, which you must follow. The problem is in the writing, as Metallia as a character is neither humourous, not particularly likable. If anything, she is rather annoying to the point of being plain nasty, so much so that it becomes difficult to want to do her bidding for her. Yet, you have to, as that is the point of the game.
The same goes with other characters spread across the game, they just seem to lack the personality you’d usually associate with titles from NIS, if it was a conscious decision to have the characters as flawed as they are, then it was a poor one. It may be that the game just hasn’t translated very well, but in any case, having characters you neither like, nor can identify with doesn’t help push you along.
Which is a shame, as the gameplay is pretty decent. A top down adventure of sorts, reminds you very much of games like Zelda, or a Diablo. Being an Action RPG means that combat is real time and pretty intuitive, pressing attack buttons to simply launch fury on those that are littered across the various stages.
It is a stage based world, where you are sent to follow a task, complete it, then report back to be given another to follow. On the whole it works well and allows you to get a good idea of progression. There is plenty to find across the stages too, so the ability to return to them later is very welcome, especially for those who like to uncover everything hidden within the game.
A nice take on something a little tired in the genre is the ability to raid houses in villages. Instead of letting you simply enter at will and steal whatever you would like, as you can in many other titles, you can raid them. Essentially take over a village forceably getting the items stored around. It does have a downside though, as you may get some nice items, but it can also turn a village against you, resulting in such things as higher prices in shops. However, whether you decide to raid or not, doesn’t really affect things too badly, to the point where you need to make a decision that could affect your progress, which is a shame, as the mechanic is an interesting one.
Your attacks have a mechanic attached to them, whereby you can chain together various abilities that are designed to be used in various scenarios and early on this works well and it is clear what you may need to change to get the right combos for taking on enemies. However a little later it does become apparent that there is a catch all option, that means you rarely need to change things up. Again it is an interesting idea that doesn’t quite feel like it is used to the best of its abilities.
You attacks also use up Gigacals, which limits how much you can attack, run, etc. This is the biggest issue with the combat, as it seems to be adding in a layer of challenge that is needless, masking other shortcomings the game has. Rather than harder enemies, or having to take on bigger groups, it adds a time limit type system. You can circumvent this by not taking any actions, or teleporting in and out of levels, but it becomes annoying, as you then have to wait on more loading screens, which whilst not being slow, do enough to break the immersion.
It is all a shame really as there is a good game there, but one that has flaws that outweigh its enjoyment factor. Visually it isn’t stunning as such either, it has some nice design, but just feels a little drab in places. Where some locations have some really impressive art, so lovely design, others are lacklustre and easily forgettable.
You do want to persevere with the game a little, as moving through the various stages is fun, the basic mechanics are enjoyable and enemies are challenging without being annoying, but the arbitrary additions to the basic mechanics, that don’t seem to fit with the overall game, the unlikable characters and occasional mundane locales turn this into a pretty ordinary game.
Ordinary. That is pretty much the best way to describe this, it isn’t a bad game, but neither is it one that will live with you, you will play it, have moments of enjoyment and moments of annoyance, then at the end of the day, you will forget about it. It could have been so much more, but it just isn’t going to make any new fans of the genre, that is for certain.