Ah, Metroidvania. You’re a concept that I absolutely adore and a genre that I’ve always been notoriously bad at. There’s something awesome about the way a good Metroidvania builds both character and the world around you. Generally (but not always), the levels and maps in these games aren’t particularly big but this is the genius of the genre. There are so many areas within those maps that are either locked off or so insanely difficult for you to navigate that you have to unlock things as you go. The same applies to your character. You start off weak and often have to find your power by solving puzzles and collecting items. This means that the core of all of these games comes down to exploration and some very clever planning. The downside is that they have their own difficulty curve that can be somewhat steep for those not used to this style of play. I am used to this style of play and still spend far more of my time looking at loading screens than I do playing the games. Still love them though, which is why I’ve immersed myself in The Knight Witch. The question is whether it’s all more frustration than fun. Well let’s see, shall we?
The first glaring thing that I noticed when playing The Knight Witch is that this game isn’t a platformer. This is something that I’m absolutely not complaining about. A lot of platform games are over complicated because this style of play is relatively simple in that all you have to do is get your character from point A to point B. This usually means that tonnes of lethal, one-shot-kill, obstacles are shoved in your way, and with games like Super Meat Boy entering the market instadeath is even more of a thing. Add this concept to Metroidvania and suddenly things are getting awkward. This is actually one of my personal peeves with the genre. I love the concept but I think sometimes it’s a case of difficulty for the sake of it. The Knight Witch is a shooter/bullet hell and you have the ability to fly. This combines genres in a really clever, original way and I’m totally here for it. Obstacles such as spikes are still present but they’re there as a nuisance as opposed to a game-ending scenario.
Spikes that don’t one-shot you. What a novel idea!
This leaves me contemplating what The Knight Witch actually is. There’s definitely Metroidvania-style play there but it feels like more of a mechanic to carry the game than something that’s hitting you over the head with what it is. The shooting and action mechanics pair so nicely with this concept that we’re almost seeing something new. I think I’m going to call this a shooter with Metroidvania mechanics and it really is heavy on the action. This game has a really nice arcade feel to it and blasting enemies while you’re zipping about the place feels really satisfying and fun.
You’ll want to find armor magazines. The more you get the more wares will appear in the shop. You’re only giving yourself an extra heart but it’s the abilities that count.
To give you a vague idea of the story, The Knight Witch is set in a world where the pursuit of industry has destroyed virtually all natural resources. This is somewhere where a family who initially strove for progress ended up being corrupted by greed and turned into a dictatorship over time. The Knight Witches were created by a rebel group called The Children of Gaia in an effort to save the planet. This cast of warriors is powered by the will of the people and the more they are believed in the more powerful they become. All of their best efforts though can’t prevent a major cataclysm and the populace are forced underground. Fast forward many years after the tragedy and a new threat looms at a time where The Knight Witches have become storied heroes of the past. You take the role of Rayne a girl who trained to be the fifth Knight Witch but wasn’t strong enough to fight with them all those years ago. You’ll have to use all you’ve learned if you are going to save your friends from a pretty nasty fate. The story is really well written and laced into the combat in a way that feels natural. At no point did I feel like I was being pulled out of my zone by the plot that was getting in the way. This is something to be applauded for because finding the right balance between story and action in games such as this can be a difficult thing.
Mechanically The Knight Witch plays like any other action shooter in that you’re presented with a bunch of things that really want to kill you and have to blow them up first. As I’ve just mentioned there’s a distinctive arcade feel to this game so I’m not remotely mad at the simplicity here as this is a really action-driven title you don’t want too much being thrown in to slow the pace down. Aside from your main attack you also have a customizable deck of spell cards to take into combat with you. These give your character build more depth and act as your special abilities. The thing I really love about them though is that you can spam them as much as you like as long as you have enough mana to play them. You’ll get mana from killing enemies and as there’s no shortage of these you’ll be able to set off your spells to your heart’s content.
The graphics are simply gorgeous.
The Metroidvania aspect of The Knight Witch comes in the way levels are designed. Here you can go pretty much anywhere you like. Every time you enter a new room you’re presented with a new set of challenges and obstacles, (as you’d expect,) but some are definitely more difficult to navigate than others. As you’ll spend a lot of time backtracking you’ll also notice that everything in the rooms that you’ve already cleared will respawn when you reenter them. This is great because it keeps the action flowing but I actually quite like having cleared rooms because it’s a little less easy to get lost. As expected with any Metroidvania-style game there will be areas that you can’t get passed until later in the game. This means that you’ll find yourself re-exploring zones you’ve already completed in a bid to get all of the juicy stuff that you’ve had to bypass.
The level of difficulty of The Knight Witch is perfect. I’ve been shot to bits numerous times but at no point have I felt like I can’t succeed. You certainly have to be on the ball if you’re going to avoid the hail of bullets that are coming your way at all times but being killed doesn’t ever feel cheap. The bosses are a real challenge and the first one outside of the prologue gave me a really hard time. I won’t spoil it for you but this enemy has an attack that’s really hard to plan for and even harder to avoid because you don’t always know where it’s coming from. I like bosses with a variety of attacks and this is definitely something that you’ll notice here. You definitely can’t rest on your laurels. If you do you’ll be looking at a loading screen pretty quickly.
Every room provides a unique-feeling challenge.
All in all The Knight Witch is an excellent addition to Steam for those of you that love a good shooter and are fans of arcade-style play. The level of difficulty is perfect for pretty much anyone and the controls make play fluid and enjoyable. What I will say, though, is that you’ll want to plug in a gamepad. I can’t see play being anywhere near as enjoyable with a keyboard and mouse setup. If I’m looking for negatives I’m going to have to be pretty picky with this title. Everything is so well balanced that there isn’t a vast amount to pick holes in. I think it will really be a case of personal taste that will factor into how much you enjoy the game. For me, personally, this is a real winner and a game that I’ve completely fallen in love with. I’ll certainly keep going back until I complete everything on offer which, for me at least, is kudos enough. It’s very rare that I come across a game that merits a perfect score but in my book giving anything less would be a disservice.
Sword and Sorcery
Look and feel - 10/10
Story - 10/10
Controls - 10/10
Challenge - 10/10
I’m completely falling in love with the world of The Knight Witch. This feels like playing through your favorite anime and it’s hard not to adore all this game has to offer. Shooter fans and anyone that enjoys a good arcade-action romp need to get their hands on this title. I genuinely only have good things to say and strongly recommend giving this one a whirl. If you haven’t watched the launch trailer yet you must, that alone is a thing of beauty that sets The Knight Witch up perfectly for new players.