The Witch and the Hundred Knight
May 10, 2014, Author: Andy Buick
I love a good RPG, so I was quite excited to give The Witch and The Hundred Knight a try. An action RPG with a style not dissimilar to some awesome games out there such as Legend of Mana, Alundra and of course Zelda, and lovely cartoon graphics that shine on PS3; what could possibly go wrong?
The Witch and The Hundred Knight is a great idea on paper. The Witch is an antihero, who has summoned you, the titular Hundred Knight, to do her bidding. This largely involves running around laying the smackdown on anything that moves, and opening pillars so that her swampy domain gets ever larger. Sadly things don’t get off to a great start, with a long and fairly irritating tutorial as you discover the Hundred Knight’s skills, and they don’t get a huge amount better.
The first issue I encountered is with the witch, Metallia. Having a main protagonist who’s evil can be cathartic, a lot of fun. You only need to look at the sales figures for every GTA game to see that this is the case, or consider Dungeon Keeper, a game that does dastardly with a huge sense of glee. Unfortunately with Metallia, the point has been missed entirely. She is so unpleasant, it’s hard to believe. As the Hundred Knight I just had no interest in doing any of the things she wanted me to do, which, given that this is the crux of the experience, to a large extent made me disinterested in playing.
What makes her so unpleasant? Her entire demeanour, which includes a healthy dose of foul language (I’m no prude, but it feels incongruous to this sort of experience and is a constant barrage), and killing people for no reason other than she doesn’t like them. When these people are clearly good, that makes this all the more unpalatable, although as things progress, the waters do get muddied somewhat. I got the impression that the developers were aiming for Dungeon Keeper in tone, but if this was a football match it’d be the equivalent of hitting one over the bar from a yard out, the miss is so pronounced.
Fortunately a tap of circle allows you to fast forward through the talking sections but given this is a lengthy RPG, and the exposition between chapters seems to last an eternity, that’s going to be a lot of circle tapping.
If the gameplay itself was excellent, that would go a long way towards making up for any issues with character, but sadly there are problems here too. The tutorial that I’ve already mentioned is pretty straightforward to get through, and chapter one continues this, giving you a grounding in the basics of how to play. Once you get to chapter two, the step up is absolutely brutal. I didn’t die once getting to that point, but immediately into chapter two I died repeatedly, with enemies delivering a huge amount of damage.
You do have a block and a dodge to use but unfortunately in these levels, the otherwise gorgeous graphics of the level work against it. You’re in a forest, and as the view is isometric, you often run under cover. Even being able to move the camera doesn’t always help a great deal. The sheer amount of detail in the level works against it too, as even when my visibility wasn’t limited by foliage, I often found it difficult to see where enemies were. Because of this difficulty, I found this point hugely frustrating.
Fortunately, after coming to terms with the enemies causing all this damage, and after a frantic run to the nearest pillar (pillars unlock swamp and act as locations where you can return home, warp around the current area, and spend points earned on temporarily increasing various statistics), I’d managed to pick up some useful weapons and armour and then fighting became much more manageable again, before returning back to being a little too easy. From this point on, I only died once during a boss battle, and a couple of times when taken by surprise by legendary enemies who look the same as normal enemies but are much more powerful. I got one-hit killed twice by these which feels like something of a sucker punch when it isn’t always that obvious they are the more powerful enemy type.
This isn’t the only way in which things can get unnecessarily difficult. The various menus and support systems are a nightmare to get used to. There is little to no explanation of how everything works, outside of loading screens, which means some tips may not be seen for quite some time and by then it’s really too late. You will more than likely find you have to make use of R2 in the start menu to figure out the controls; until I did that I had no idea how to use items. You’d think going to the item screen in the start menu would allow this but bizarrely it does not.
At this point it probably sounds like I completely hated my time with The Witch and the Hundred Knight but that’s not entirely the case. Although the fighting seems to swing from difficult to easy a little too readily, it’s fairly good fun in action and you will need to learn to block and dodge so there is some reward for skill. Time the latter right and if you have any action points (AP) available, you may do a mystic dodge which acts like bullet time and allows you to get in a quick flurry of hits, especially handy for boss battles.
Equipping the Hundred Knight takes more thought than the average RPG too. Instead of just using one or two weapons as in most RPGs, the Hundred Knight can equip up to five, and use them to create combos. Each weapon has a number from one to five associated to it, and if you put the weapons in order of this number, then damage will be dealt in increasing multipliers, but you also need to consider the properties of each weapon as some will do more damage than others depending on the enemy. Weapons can also be levelled up (rarer weapons can attain higher levels – another thing it took me a while to figure out as I wasn’t told this). I spent quite a lot of time coming up with what I felt were the best combinations, and it was worth doing so as this made a tangible difference to how I got on while fighting.
Another clever system is that of G-Cals. While the Hundred Knight is away from Metallia’s home, he has a meter constantly counting down from 100. If this runs out, he will start to run out of health before dying, so it’s always necessary to keep an eye on this. There are items that will boost this to allow the Hundred Knight to stay out longer, but at the same time actions such as fighting will increase the speed in which the countdown progresses, as will recovering health. It’s also possible to consume enemies within a small window on their health bar, which will recover some G-Cals but will also fill your stomach with garbage, which is where any loot you’ve gathered is also stored until you return back home so this results in a careful balancing act.
If this sounds somewhat complicated, it is. Once I eventually got the hang of it, though, I found it to be a great system for pushing things as far as I could without that G-Cal meter running out, especially as there’s a bonus system too which rewards you depending on how many points you gather while out in one go. I felt pretty pleased with myself those times I managed to max out the bonus meter.
There is also currency, shells, which can be spent in shops. However, my experience suggests these are somewhat superfluous as I found better weaponry within each level than at any shop I visited. Just about the only things I purchased were antidotes as I made a habit of getting poisoned by traps. Other systems seem largely surplus to requirements as well, such as facets (similar to the different outfits in FFX-2), which I didn’t use at all, and tochkas, which are effectively summons – I used the bomb when needed but that was more or less it).
All-in-all, there’s too much to think about, too many systems (even now I can think of several things I’ve not mentioned here), and because of that I ended up ignoring many of them. The fact that I could ignore them more or less completely and still progress comfortably for the most part tells me that perhaps these systems weren’t really needed.
Unfortunately after thiry hours, still a long way from the end (expect to be playing for about seventy hours in total), I found that in spite of all the systems, statistics and so on that I needed to consider while playing, I was getting bored. The problem is that once you get used to how The Witch and the Hundred Knight plays, it becomes very repetitive, especially when it becomes easy.
Of course that’s true of any RPG really, but most RPGs carry you through on the strength of their story, and/or promises of ever crazier weaponry and screen-filling spells and summons. Given the problems with the witch as a character, the story was never going to have that hook. Sadly it shares many issues that the witch has.
To illustrate the point, there are attempts at being a little risqué that are laughable beyond belief. It feels like this has been written by a adolescent boy, it’s that bad in places. One of the witches is clearly meant to be a lesbian and tries to recruit Metallia as her “nighttime attendant” (we’re firmly in embarrassingly bad teenage fantasy territory here, The Last Of Us this is not…) while another character doesn’t act quite so coy and just asks to feel her boobs. It really is that awful throughout, I lost count of the number of times I groaned to myself in disbelief and in the end I did hit that circle button to get through dialogue as quickly as possible. It’s a contender for the worst script I’ve ever encountered in an RPG and I’ve played quite a few in my time.
It’s fair to say the story was not going to keeping me going, so what about the fighting? I don’t want to be too hard on this as I did enjoy it, but unfortunately although you do get increasingly powerful weapons, there’s not really anything to show for it. Sure, you can do more damage but that quite literally just amounts to bigger numbers on screen, there’s no extra bombast. You don’t unlock crazy special attacks as you progress, so in the main the only thing that really feels different as you progress is the environment you’re in.
A thousand curses upon you!
There’s nothing more disappointing than really looking forward to something only to find out it’s so much less than you were expecting. With a hateful main character, a script which hits the gold circle if it was aiming for repressed schoolboy, and so many systems with far too little explanation, a number of which have no discernible impact anyway, there’s plenty to be disappointed about too.
If you’re willing to stick with it through the opening few hours, once everything starts to click there is genuinely some fun to be had here, but The Witch and The Hundred Knight is so long, boredom became a factor for me long before the end. Had I wanted to know what happened to Metallia I might have stuck with it, but perhaps her attitude has rubbed off on me slightly as in the end I just didn’t care.