Review

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review

  • Game release: March 18, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

Late bloomer.

by

In many ways, The Witch and the Hundred Knight represents a distinct departure from NIS's norm. Instead of following the company's usual strategy role-playing game formula, Witch is a loot-collecting, combat-heavy action RPG. Rather than 2D sprites, the game is populated with 3D character models. And where most NIS offerings feature a lighthearted, humor-infused story, The Witch and the Hundred Knight features a dark story beneath its charming anime illustrations. The result is an interesting, ambitious game that, unfortunately, takes its sweet time in becoming enjoyable.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a tale about the titular duo, the swamp witch Metallia and a squat, humanoid magical creature called the Hundred Knight, which she has summoned from another realm. Metallia has been confined to her swamp for years, and during that time, she has developed a fierce hatred of, well, just about everything. She aims to destroy the other witches of the world and expand her marshland territory. When the hidden Pillars of Temperance scattered throughout the land are released, Metallia's murky swamp waters can flow more freely across the world, augmenting her power and giving her more freedom to move about, but since she is confined to her swamplands, the task is up to you, playing as the Hundred Knight. There are some interesting nuances to the plot introduced from the get-go--such as Metallia's impending death and the mysterious origins and hidden power of the feeble-looking Hundred Knight--but the majority of the early story is spent releasing the power of the pillars and destroying the other witches that stand in Metallia's way.

Get used to a lot of dialogue like this.

The setup sounds fairly straightforward, but the gameplay is anything but. A (too) lengthy introductory tutorial teaches you the most basic elements of moving, running, dodging, and attacking, but once you're in Metallia's house, the game stops holding your hand and leaves the Hundred Knight to fend for himself, save for some brief pop-ups and scattered explanations during loading times. And is it ever a tough learning curve.

The most important gameplay element in Witch--and one that isn't explained well--is the GigaCals, or GCals. Metallia can't leave her swamplands, so she sends the Hundred Knight to do her bidding, but he needs GCals to make use of her magic power. Much like a hunger meter in a roguelike game, the Hundred Knight's GCals are constantly draining, and certain factors--such as the area being explored or damage taken from enemies--cause GCals to deplete faster. As long as the Hundred Knight has GCals, he can be killed and revived (at a massive GCal cost), but once the GCals run out, he takes a huge reduction in power and is ejected from the dungeon upon knockout. There are ways to refill GCals within the dungeons: using grade points earned from defeating enemies, partaking in healing items from your stash, or even eating foes that are on the verge of death (at the cost of filling up the Hundred Knight's loot-storing stomach with garbage).

The visuals are pleasant, though they grow tiresome in time.

Since the dungeons are large, and enemies can be dangerous, it's important not to act frivolously; every movement, strike, or misstep can have a serious cost. The slow, weighty strikes of the Hundred Knight's weapon combos and dodge moves add to this feeling, plus a stamina bar prevents you from going hog wild with combo attacks and running. The design of dungeon exploration and combat lends a satisfying risk/reward element to your actions, and while it's more forgiving than in a typical roguelike--every stage has numerous pillar checkpoints that allow you to return to base and refill GCals--it still challenges you to try to stick it out as long as you can in a stage with the ever-tantalizing prospect of more experience, better stat boosts, and high-level bonus loot. (Of course, if you get knocked out, you can kiss some of these hard-earned rewards goodbye.)

In addition to the GCals are numerous other gameplay elements that make Witch unique. The Hundred Knight can equip up to five weapons at once, and carefully leveling them up and balancing their attributes creates fantastic, incredibly damaging combos. Tochkas are magical skills you earn throughout the game that create varied and interesting effects, from simple projectile attacks to traps and damaging decoys. Enemies have emotions that can be manipulated through certain attacks, with certain attacks scaring them to death or making them fall in love with you (and thus becoming temporary aides). Homes in villages can be raided for valuable treasures and key items. The Hundred Knight can equip and swap between various "facets," each with its own experience levels, proficiencies, and special augmentations.

Much of the dialogue during this particular story sequence wouldn't be appropriate on a family-friendly website.

There are a lot of interesting gameplay ideas to experiment with, which makes the fact that so many of them are barely explained in-game incredibly frustrating. At the five-hour mark, I finally learned about consuming enemies after checking my control scheme and seeing what the button combination was; the hint screens I'd seen so far had only mentioned the act without explaining how to do it. At the 15-hour mark, I felt like I was still learning some of the basics of using tochkas. It wasn't until about 25 hours in that I finally felt comfortable with everything I could do in the game, and most of what I had learned had been through harsh trial and error. (Getting killed rapidly in the beginning of the game's third dungeon forces you to learn pretty quickly, I must say.) Once you do have a handle on everything, seeing the way the various gameplay elements flow together is fun and satisfying, but getting to that point is extremely rough. Some overly long and repetitive dungeons and lengthy story sequences certainly don't help endear the game to you early on, either, but at least the fantastic soundtrack makes those drawn-out stretches of learning experiences more bearable.

Even beyond the harsh learning curve, however, there's one big thing that could turn you off to The Witch and the Hundred Knight early on, and that's Metallia's outright deplorable personality and behavior. Unlike the mischievous demon protagonists of Disgaea, who went about their dastardly deeds with an air of cartoonish camp, Metallia's actions toward others are outright abusive and vile, with little hint of humor. She frequently degrades her foes in both words and actions, cussing up a storm and delighting in torturing her fallen enemies while they're down. A good example of her awfulness comes after beating the first major foe of the game: after defeating her foe, Metallia kicks her until she throws up, refers to her as a "vomiting whore" (which sticks for the rest of the game), transforms her into a mouse, and sends male mice after her with the heavy implication that they will sexually assault her. This one scene alone might have you wondering if it's best to shut the game off and walk away.

There are a lot of interesting gameplay ideas to experiment with, which makes the fact that so many of them are barely explained in-game incredibly frustrating.

Metallia's not alone in being a horrible person--many of the game's other characters are distinctly awful in their own ways--but it still feels very uncomfortable doing the bidding of such a nasty character. Equally distressing is seeing many of the game's more relatable characters develop a weird case of Stockholm syndrome-like affection toward her despite suffering her terrible abuse. While there is some redemption for Metallia as the story progresses, it doesn't occur until late in the game, which is far longer than is tolerable. The Witch and the Hundred Knight isn't the first time NIS has dealt with darker stories--the post-game Demon Path in Soul Nomad and a few Disgaea series endings come to mind--but it is the first where you feel forced down such a demoralizing path.

Witch certainly has its merits, and it rewards you for the time you're willing to invest in learning its nuances. But between the badly designed learning curve and the utterly unappealing lead, it's quite the challenge to get to that point. It's nice to see NIS applying its unique and complex approach to game design to different genres, but I hope that its next effort will be a bit more welcoming from the outset. (And, hopefully, involve less mouse molestation.)

The Good
Lots of varied, interconnected gameplay systems to explore
Weighty, challenging combat makes every hit feel substantial
Memorable and enchanting soundtrack
The Bad
Many gameplay elements are barely explained
Several dungeons drag on for far too long
Deplorable lead character
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Heidi counts herself among the fan base for NIS's distinct style of experimental and complex game systems. Witch has been on her radar for quite some time, and though the end product was disappointing, she has high hopes for NIS's announced PS4 game in development. Hopefully that one won't take three years to hit the market.

Discussion

25 comments
Deus_ex_magica
Deus_ex_magica

Looks like a more advanced shining force type game. I'll pick it up. Nice going reminding me of soul nomad. That path was the only path like it, before or since, where you actually go around killing main characters and generally blowing up stuff. Give me soul nomad hd.

blklizrd
blklizrd

Good Review! I like that people seem fine with the 6 Score and still want to play it. I didn't mind a long tutorial, (I mean it wasn't Final Fantasy XIII long) and I'm looking forward to all the weapons and power upgrades to come. Metallia's cruel, childish temperament seems to be endearing itself to me. I wouldn't call her an 'unappealing' lead, seems more like the antagonist from a horror film. Like Freddy, Candyman or Pinhead, they're the reason you go see the movies, you watch people do their horrible bidding and look forward to them popping back up on the screen and saying or doing terrible things. There aren't too many games with that flavor in their characters.

msauce32
msauce32

This game is very charming, and fun out the ying yang.  It's one of those good sixes, if ya know what I mean.  One might even say a seven.  I'm enjoying the frig out of it.  You can enjoy a 6 reviewed game, don't let the number deter you from trying it.

SillySkeleton
SillySkeleton

I hope they get onto releasing a Vita version of this at some stage. Though considering how long it takes NIS to release handheld ports, it'll probably be another five plus years before I get to play this. (assuming they even bother to with this game)

chasecarnevale
chasecarnevale

"Deplorable main character". Feh. I think you're taking it too seriously. Her cruelty is meant to be so over-the-top as to be laughable. And frankly I found it refreshing. Most other NIS protagonists are "demons", but they're really just fantasy heros with horns on their head. Metallia felt significantly evil. And she's just a badass besides. Can't wait for some feminist blogger to complain about a lack of strong female characters while conveniently ignoring someone like Metallia.

longestsprout
longestsprout

Personally I think games need more deplorable lead characters :P

I understand the appeal in relateable protagonists who reflect idealistic human virtues, but since 99% of the stuff out there is just that, I sometimes find myself frustrated and wishing for a good anti-hero. Now if only the tale was also well written I would find myself in heaven.

DEATH775
DEATH775

Damn I wish this game was on the Vita. My PS3 has too many game right now while my Vita only has Deception 4 Blood Ties.

Bregzeinkul
Bregzeinkul

The real question is if I like Soul Sacrifice will I like this?

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

Sorry for the weird formatting issues in the review, everyone. Everything should be fixed now!

sunbeam4
sunbeam4

I'm surprised there's no vita cross-buy feature.

sonic244
sonic244

Stick with Disgaea. Its much better series then this game.

Yukeshime
Yukeshime

The first sentence of this review is not a full sentence. You may want to change it to be grammatically correct.

dipdish
dipdish

Seems like IGN and Gamespot agree on this.

Megamandrew
Megamandrew

Metallia's voiced by Mariya Ise.  Also, in the original Japanese, her name is Metallica.  The main character is an evil witch named Metallica voiced by Mariya Ise.  I absolutely need to hear this.

Panzer_Zwei
Panzer_Zwei

I gave the Japanese version a whirl when it first came out, and honestly I was not impressed,

darkljolly
darkljolly

Wow. I;m surprised gamespot of all review sites gave it a 6. I was fully expexcting a 3 or a 4.

nayce54
nayce54

Girl on box cover art looks like the Salacious Sorcerer from the sexy game, "Dragon's Crown"

Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

@sunbeam4 Out of curiosity, how many games have actually had the cross-buy feature? It doesn't make much sense from a business perspective, and I don't believe any of the games that have featured it are niche titles.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Yukeshime  

If you are going to play language police, don't ever be caught making linguistic guffaws. ;)

Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

@nayce54 Nah...Metallica's breasts aren't nearly as large. So far, it also looks like Dragon's Crown has been better received by critics than this.

lower case dave
lower case dave

@Yukeshime @Gelugon_baatI don't know if it has been changed since you posted, but as it stands now, the first sentence is complete.  Subject = The Witch and the Hundred Knight, Predicate = represents. 

The Witch and the Hundred Knight More Info

First Release on Mar 18, 2014
  • PlayStation 3
The Witch and the Hundred Knights lets players have the choice to be the hero who saves the world or go evil and pillage the village.
8.1
Average User RatingOut of 11 User Ratings
Please Sign In to rate The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Developed by:
Nippon Ichi Software
Published by:
Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
Genres:
Role-Playing, Action
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
All Platforms