I have a soft spot in my heart for a game with a good twist. A narrative switcheroo, which takes you deeper into the story than you would otherwise like. The witch knight is one of those games, the one that I didn’t really like at first, but which finally won me over.
The Knight Witch is a light hellish action packed 2D Metroidvania. It follows the adventures of Rayne, the fifth member of a group of mighty magical warriors who gained infamy by saving the world’s population from extinction, leading them underground after a fierce battle with technologically advanced golems.
Initially, the game is slow and hasn’t really rubbed off on me. The initial premise, a typical magical girl tale where a green (but passionate) witch tries to follow the lead of her experienced peers and win people’s hearts, failed to appeal. I won’t hide my general disinterest in the genre; all the fiction I’ve read or watched that fits the archetype has been commentary on the genre, intentionally subverting expectations.
However, only an hour or two into the game, the game begins to chip away at The Knight Witches glittering paint – choosing the accepted role of your character and her predecessors in the world, and what it actually means to wear the hopes of the people on your shoulders.
The game features binary choice at many points, which has a real impact on your character’s performance in enemy-infested areas. Me, always one to dive into “bad options” when available in games, I was happy to see the game not pointing the finger at you. You may feel a little silly, but there’s a good reason to do so that’s woven throughout the game’s message.
Suffice it to say, The Knight Witch strayed from regularity and managed to keep me invested in what was going on. It’s not Disco Elysium, or another narrative masterpiece, that will be picked up by the most pretentious and artistic players, but it’s smart.
But what about the gameplay itself? You, as a sorcerer knight, have two forms of attack. First, a magic blast that acts as your main source of damage against enemies. The second are spells, mana-consuming attacks that are drawn from a six-card deck of a customizable spell deck. Typically, a firefight in The Knight Witch has you building up mana with magic blasts to collect mana, then bank your mana for powerful abilities.
This spell deck is the only source of customization in The Knight Witch. With it, you can choose what kind of fighting style you want to have fun with. Me? I really liked the magic blast modifiers, taking duplicates of the Hand Cannon card, a reload spell, and filling the other slots with defensive options so I could keep my weapon of choice permanently. However, the game casts a nice array of different spells that significantly alter the way you approach combat.
You’ll also want to hone your cards, as The Knight Witch can be really tricky at times. The game does not pull its shots. You’re thrown into a boss almost immediately, which, while not overtly troublesome, isn’t something you can just sleepwalk through. The game lays out a consistent difficulty curve throughout, keeping you on your toes from start to finish.
There are assists to help you out, like an auto-aim fire mode that fires blasts with reduced damage so you can focus on movement and dodging attacks and keeping the pressure on. Enemies also drop currency that can be exchanged for temporary armor and resting point upgrades, so you can rack up perks for tricky fights. Perhaps the most appealing form of advancement comes from increasing your Bond Level, your main source of character upgrades. You earn them by saving people in the world and making certain narrative choices, you can alter your approach to these moments accordingly.
This entire set is associated with a pleasing presentation, especially when it comes to aesthetics. The many regions of The Knight Witch are all distinct, with bright colors and intricate backgrounds. It’s just fun to watch. You find that every once in a while with indie games in particular, packing artists with serious talent like a hip six-shooter. Blame! Eye candy that comes right at you before you know what hit you.
As for the negatives, I encountered a few bugs during my playtime, including a save file not loading after a half-death Alt-F4 (I know, I know), as well as my bullet direction briefly locked in one direction. Also, while I myself like a great game with a short completion time, I beat the game in about 10 hours. Not bad at all for a passion-filled project, especially in a year with Signalis (of all champion games) the merits of a lint-free experience. But, if money is tight right now, you might want to keep that in mind.
It’s also worth noting that a console bug found literally the day before launch delayed the launch on that platform by an entire week. The game has a few issues of this nature, so while nothing like ruin my time with The Knight Witch, maybe prepare to encounter some if you pick it up at launch.
Overall, I came away pleasantly surprised by The Knight Witch. At a time when so many games are vying for your time and attention, a neatly wrapped gift from an indie, clearly made by a team that knows what it’s doing and a quirk not found elsewhere makes for a great reminder. While I don’t think it quite makes the cut as a classic, or makes many games of the year lists, it’s still worth a shot. Personally, I think Super Mega Team is a studio that I will keep track of from now on.