The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3) Review
The quirky game studio Nippon Ichi is back again with their latest title The Witch and the Hundred Knight but this time with an action game instead of the usual strategy RPGs that they are well known for. Even if this new title sports gameplay that is more akin to games like Path of the Exile and the Diablo series, don't let that fool you into thinking that The Witch and the Hundred Knight is no NIS game. Chock full of whimsy and maniacal fun, The Witch and the Hundred Knight has all the trademarks of the NIS brand: tons of humoristic scenarios and characters, surprising gameplay elements, and a very addictive battle system.
The main premise of the game revolves around the idea that Metallia, the self-styled Great Swamp Witch, wishes to cover the world in swampy glory and wishes to subjugate it. In order to do so, she summons a terrifying familiar called the Hundred Knight. In reality, it's just really the player, who takes up the role of an adorable squeaking blob of darkness armed with an oversized helm and a foraged sword. Your job is quite simple: invade various lands and reach the gigantic pillars at the end of each stage to make them bloom. However, a journey is not a journey without various enemies to stand in your way as each pillar has its own guardian that is enchanted with the pillar's magic in order to protect it. In addition, there are also various other witches in existence that try to thwart your plans. Once these pillars are bloomed, the land will be covered in swamp and The Great Swamp Witch Metallia is one step closer to world domination.
The story though is a major downside to The Witch and the Hundred Knight: It's a predictable storyline and unfortunately follows a very linear formula in the game. Traversing through each level and defeating the bosses, the story is slowly revealed through very lengthy cut scenes. There are a lot of these cut scenes to sit through, making it difficult to tell the story in a way that flows cohesively without interrupting gameplay.
The characters presented in the game are rather one-dimensional and expected if you've played previous NIS games such as the Disgaea series or even Mugen Souls. There is always the big bad boss in charge that wants to take over the world or prove themselves (Metallia), the ever-obedient servant or butler (Arlecchino), and so on and so forth. This does not stop these characters in being cheeky and fun to watch, but it can get a little bit predictable.
In my opinion, The Witch and the Hundred Knight has an amazingly addictive base battle system at its core. The game has typical hack and slash gameplay for an action RPG but also adds several elements to shake things up from time to time.
The first thing is that as Metallia's minion, you are bound in contract to her and you essentially cannot live without depending on her. If you leave your master's side for too long, you'll die. So because of this fact, you are forced to think carefully about your GigaCal usage. GigaCals are used up in a myriad of different ways, particularly by walking. If you use your stamina bar for attacking and running, it only replenishes if you have GigaCals to sacrifice as well. The GigaCal monitoring system strikes a delicate balance between fighting off enemies and conserving your GigaCals.
Thankfully, there are ways to replenish your GigaCals by either mapping out destinations or consuming enemies. You can also use either your Grade Points or teleporting when you reach min-pillars that are unlocked throughout the dungeon. Oftentimes, I found myself just teleporting back to base to "bank" my experience points and items and refuel up totally on GigaCals.
Like any NIS game there's a lot of customization to be had with both your attacks and your equipped weapon. Each weapon also has a different attack pattern and special effect so there's a lot of fun to be had in figuring out what combinations to use in different situations. For example, hammers can break defenses while spears have a wide, arcing range, so choose what's best for taking out your enemies.
Besides this, there are also other quick-time events in battle such as dodging at the right time that allow you to beat up on opponents in slow motion or by using attack skills. I found skill casting was cumbersome due to the cast times or damage output. In the end I was content to just pummel mindlessly away at enemies with my default attacks and dodges.
Boss battles are handled a little bit differently than most games. While you still have your different boss patterns, there's also a special bar that indicates their guard defense. During battle, this bar will constantly fluctuate, so you'll need to time your attacks carefully. With this said, I found the bosses to be a very welcome challenge as there are a variety of different attack patterns and monster behaviors.
With the amount of systems that are presented in the game, it is also very annoying to see that there is very little explanation of the systems or they simply go unexplained such as using AP to trigger a strong attack or how your "stomach inventory" works.
Both long strategic turn-based battles and the usual beautiful 2D sprites that are standard NIS fare are no more. The Witch and the Hundred Knight is an almost fully 3D-made title. The only real 2D art you'll see are the wonderfully made drawn sprites of the characters made by Takehito Harada. The 3D models aren't too bad of quality as they are more anime-esque in feel, but I still personally prefer the rich 2D visual experience that NIS is well known for. The art direction is fairly straightforward yet offers a lot of unique character designs and overall setting. However, the dungeon designs are a little bit sparse looking at times which is a change from the tightly-packed and artistically well-made SRPG maps that I'm used to seeing from the developers.
Another thing to note is that the original soundtrack is also composed by a long-time veteran of NIS, Tanpei Sato. The melodies are composed in a similar vein to flagship games such as the Disgaea series in a whimsical way, which suits the game just fine. In terms of voice acting, the English cast does a fine job of portraying their characters. In particular, there are some hilarious moments as the voice over for Metallia has several choice words bleeped out and censored due to their profanity. One feature that I did appreciate was the fact The Witch and the Hundred Knight has dual audio tracks for both English and Japanese. Huzzah.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a really interesting game in fact it's something new and familiar at the same time in the sense that they chose to explore a new battle system, but there's the trademarks of familiarity for a NIS title. There's a large amount of customization that is typical for the title along with the dark humor that the developers are known for. The music and art all but scream Nippon Ichi. With the fact that this is a new foray into a different gameplay type, there are sadly quite a lot of things that could be improved on. Some systems are sadly not explored to their full potential or feel under-developed, and the way that the story is executed seems to falter in an action-based game as this.
Overall though, if you over look the blunders with story and character, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is still fun once you get into it and offers a decent gameplay experience that should satisfy fans of action-rpg games.
● addictive action-combat
● customization for weapon combos
● art direction
● familiarity as a NIS game
● dual audio
● Metallia is hilarious
● Many different gameplay systems
● Raiding villages / taking over houses rewards you with items.
● Bosses are a challenge.
● Faltering storyline.
● GigaCalorie counting is annoying.
● Some systems are rarely used or have little impact on gameplay.
● Spells can seem useless.
● Fun can wear off as the action-combat system begins to be monotonous in later stages.
● Lack of instructions on several systems / bit of a learning curve.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor.