[boxout]The game is set within a network of settlements and towns once guarded diligently by a sisterhood of witches. For years they would cure illness and bestow good fortune among the human inhabitants, though the emergence of the Black Death changed everything. Upon the spread of the epidemic, Doctor Faust accuses the witches of creating the plague, and it isn’t long before his crusade sees each one die at the hand of his executioner, Heinrich. Upon the final killing however, the axeman is cursed with immortality, and it isn’t until almost a hundred years later that he realises the error of his ways after coming face to face with Gretchen, the witch who laid the hex upon him.
Having been resurrected by her apprentice, Minukelsus the alchemist, Gretchen returns in search of his killer, warning him that they too have been resurrected, but now seek revenge on those who condemned the sisterhood. Heinrich agrees to help the young with in her quest under one condition: that her spell of immortality will break when it’s all over.
Though it sets itself up nicely, there is very little going for the story in Knight’s Contract. Events unfold sporadically, soon stamping out any sparks of plot innovation or creativity. Minor characters have no sense of depth about them whatsoever; neither Gretchen or Heinrich have any likability about them either. If not for the grim setting which at times feel similar to that of smash hit RPG, Demons’ Souls, there would be little to keep the player engaged.
Knight’s Contract follows a linear, episodic design. The game is broken into chapters and once beaten, these can be revisited to scoop up any collectibles or to improve your level score. In terms of the gameplay, if you have played Devil May Cry, or more recently, Darksiders, you will know what to expect. For the larger part of the game players will take control of Heinrich, a number of brutal combos available. With Gretchen at your side, you will also have access to a panel of magic of attacks which can be upgraded over time, though they need to recharge upon use.
The only unique gameplay aspect in Knight’s Contract is Heinrich’s immortality. No matter how much damage he takes, Heinrich can always piece himself back together and jump into battle once more. The way this is translated into gameplay however is appalling; after being hacked to pieces the axeman will simply lay there whilst you hit buttons for a good twenty seconds to resurrect him. Gretchen on the other hand is not so tough and you will find yourself protecting her throughout the entire game. It wouldn’t be such a chore if her friendly AI wasn’t so inefficient; instead of dodging attacks she wanders straight into them. At times Gretchen will simply walk into lava or other hazards, prompting a restart from the last checkpoint.
Without puzzles or any other form of diversions, the game feels like a complete slog from start to finish. One of the final stages lasts at least an hour, forcing the player to engage in battle after battle. It’s a total grind, and what’s worse is the spiking difficulty level; one second Heinrich can be slicing through enemies like butter before you suddenly hit an unyielding brick wall. Chokepoints are clustered together so tightly, especially during the end sequence, that Knight’s Contract is a test of your patience more than anything else.
Another gripe many will have with the game is its visuals. Despite the leading characters having a creative flair about them, the rest are fairly generic, with only twelve or so enemy models in the entire game. Textures are embarrassingly poor as well the sturdy animations; even the cutscenes are below-par.
As a port of a Japanese-developed game, the poor voice acting should come as no surprise. The script is needlessly melodramatic and even nonsensical in parts. With that said, the audio presentation of Knight’s Contract is somewhat rescued by its soundtrack; an epic yet chilling chorus of tracks which bring flavour to the medieval setting.
- Interesting plot to begin with
- Soundtrack is fitting
- Sub-par graphics throughout, sturdy animations
- Sporadic plot development
- Stagnant, progressive-less combat
- Repetitive mission design, unfair boss battles
- Shameful friendly AI, and spiking difficulty level
With such a diabolical amalgamation of defunct mechanics and monotonous mission design, it will take half an hour tops to tire of Knight’s Contract and shelve it for good. Compared to the magnificent Majin & The Forsaken Kingdom, Game Republic’s latest adventure is a complete let down, and is easily one of the worst games we have seen this year.