Monday, 31 March 2014

The Witch and The Hundred Knight

Just over a decade ago Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) unleashed the Disgaea series upon the world, a series that spawned four sequels, five spin-offs and an anime. Yep, needless to say, Disgaea, NIS' first game to be released outside of Japan, quickly cemented them as a force to be reckoned with. Now comes their latest title, The Witch and the Hundred Knight, a game that is both a success and a failure.

Developed by Nippon Ichi Software and out on the Playstation 3 now comes The Witch and the Hundred Knight, an action role-playing game that, compared to the 2D fan favourite Disgaea, brings the action into the third dimension. You play as The Hundred Knight, a small armour clad demon who, despite his tiny stature, can wield large, powerful weaponry. Metallia, a foul mouthed and powerful witch, has summoned the Hundred Knight. The reason; for the past 100 years she has been in a mortal struggle with a rival witch known as Malia the Forest Witch, and needs you to defeat her. Once defeated Metallia can spread her Niblhenne Swamp across the land. The story is surprisingly rich and layered, yet the characters right from the get-go are either completely boring or just plain annoying. This is especially evident in the case Metallia whose edgy, almost angry teenager personality is just cringe worthy at times. Considering this is the character that is giving you missions, the character that you should technically be sided with, it just seems like a bad choice to make her, you know, fucking aggravating!

The world presented to you in The Witch and the Hundred Knight comes in stages, with Metallia's house in Niblhenne Swamp being your base of operations. Though closed off at first, the player is able to instantly warp from the Swamp to a stage if a Pillar, important landmarks through the game, has been activated. These Pillars tie the world together, and without having the good sense to activate them, makes exploring a chore. Despite gameplay being split into stages, some stages have an open-world feel, and give the player quite a bit of freedom. This ability to ramble, explore and get lost is incredibly welcomed, and usually makes for the best gameplay moments in The Witch and the Hundred Knight. That said the game, for some bizarre reason, puts a time limit on exploration. To avoid this you'll find yourself merely leaving an area... then walking back in, thereby restarting the timer. It's a totally unneeded addition to the game, as well as a huge time waster. Boo!

Battling is focused on the age-old hack-and-slash mechanic, but The Witch and the Hundred Knight does try and inject some substance into the tired mix. For instance, dodging at exactly the right time slows the gameplay down, and gives the player free reign to pound away at their foe, free from any kind of retaliation. Attacks can be strung together too, and the ability to create your very own attack string is a fantastic addition that puts quite a bit of choice in the players’ hands. With this added layer of complexity to the battling, it ends up being fun and free form, if a little tedious at times. But sadly that's what The Witch and the Hundred Knight ultimately oozes, tedium. Though challenging at first, later in the game you'll find yourself going on autopilot during the fights. This, on top of the undercooked story, endless text-based game sequences and bizarrely underutilized Raid mechanic (which lets you raid the houses of villagers) leads to the game feeling like a mishmash of ideas, unsure of what exactly it should be.

Though cute to look at and certainly packed with a good deal of worthwhile moments, The Witch and the Hundred Knight just doesn't hit the mark. It'll appeal more to hardcore NIS fans, but everyone else should probably be a bit more hesitant.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight falls on its sword and just manages a 3/5, [★★★☆☆]

Denis Murphy

The Witch and The Hundred Knight at CeX

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