At first glance Knights Contract seems to have all the makings of a great slash and smash game: cool characters, a great story and awesome combos and witchcraft combined with finishers to totally devastate large numbers of enemies.
But before long, problems started to rear their ugly little (soon-to-be-decapitated) heads.
I have a boo-boo…
The game plays out in an alternate reality medieval Europe where you play as the protagonist, Heinrich Hoffman, a witch trial executioner who becomes cursed with immortality.
Fast forward 100+ years and you are searching for a means to end this curse so Heinrich can finally die. You meet up with a witch named Gretchen who you executed long ago, who has now returned from the dead with a pimped out new supermodel quality body courtesy of her local alchemist.
She agrees to break the curse, BUT you have to first help her to re-kill all the witches you executed in the past who were also resurrected into now twisted forms by a bad guy named Faust.
With your awesome scythe and pet witch in tow, it’s up to you to stop Faust from completing his vile plans. The story is actually one of the game’s single redeeming factors.
What’s the black plague without zombies and monsters?
Knights Contract won’t win any awards for best graphics. The game is quite bland, lacking colour except for a few skyboxes that are quite eye-catching. The bosses and spurts of blood which emit from your scythe and dismembered monsters add some necessary splashes of colour. Spell effects from Witchcraft are nice – not eye-candy level mind you, but still fairly pleasant to behold.
Boss fights: they deserve their own de-motivational category
Well as the image caption above suggests, the boss fights are difficult. The early ones are fine, but that doesn’t last very long.
Bosses deal out one-shot kills as often as they like, knocking you or Gretchen out of the map, causing instant defeat.
The QTE’s (quick time events) are unforgiving. A single mistake gets you either killed or seriously damaged, while the boss has the benefit of regaining 30% of its health or in some cases all of its health.
This was made more frustrating by dodgy camera panning and glitchy controls.
Playing grab-ass while being bad-ass
In Knight’s Contract you are immortal; please don’t mistake immortality for invincibility. Injury, sickness and time won’t kill you, but as you take damage in combat, the injuries overcome you and you go into a downed state. You can still attack, but one hit from an enemy will smash you into pieces.
Once downed or dismembered you need to will your body back together again by mashing buttons repeatedly for what seems like an eternity, while Gretchen gets beaten to a pulp as she throws wimpy spells at enemies every 10 seconds or so. This can be a problem as before you are healed she might get impaled by a sword or crushed to death, all quite fun to watch but irritating nonetheless as you have failed.
You will note that the healing mechanic is weird as you need to carry Gretchen to heal her faster as well as restore your injuries faster. Luckily there are amulets that you discover throughout the game and they increase the maximum health Gretchen has or the recovery rate of health while carried as well as a few others you can discover throughout the sometimes difficult to navigate levels.
There are also way too many load screens. Some areas have load screens every couple of seconds. Load game. Walk 10 feet. Load game. Cut scene. Load game. Walk 20 feet. Load game. It breaks the entire pace of the game.
Om nom nom nom!
Witchcraft, combos & finishers
While you’re dismembering enemies left and right you will notice that you acquire ‘red stuff’ – these are souls. These souls in turn are used to upgrade, or infuse your witchcraft. There are 12 total witchcraft skills that you can unlock in the game. You will be given the first 6 skills, the last 6 will be found in the game world.
The first 6 skills can be upgraded. You can only equip 4 witchcraft skills at a time, and they can range from spikes sticking from the ground and impaling enemies to increasing Heinrich’s scythe to 3 times its normal size.
The one that is probably the most overpowered skill of the lot is a magical spear that Heinrich throws at enemies. At its first level, it’s not much, but taken to the third level, you can clear a room of enemies or totally devastate a boss’s health as it sweeps around and constantly electrocutes every enemy it can find. If there is just one enemy, that sorry sucker takes the full brunt of the attack.
You also have combo attacks at your disposal, and as you progress in the game you unlock more combos and longer combo chains. It really adds a great element to the game, and in conjunction with the witchcraft and finishers it really pushes up the fun factor.
A new level of dumb-blonde!
Ah, sweet stupid Gretchen. Sure she allows you to vent your murderous rage on all sorts of creeps with her handy witchcraft, but most of the murderous rage is generated by this fair lady.
I have seen some stupid AI at work in games, but Gretchen takes the cake. Running headlong into packs of enemies, frolicking in front of boss attacks and unable to successfully navigate the most basic movement paths, Gretchen’s AI is a prodigal work of failure. How she ever managed to learn something as complicated as witchcraft, is beyond me.
You are constantly forced to look out for this witch and even if you carry her away from danger, two seconds later she will be right back in the thick of things getting owned.
I have never played a game (and I can say this honestly) that has caused me to swear as much as Knights Contract.
The game in itself is fun; it has a great story and fun combat, but it is mostly let down by bad gameplay elements, unbearable loading screens, horrifying AI and those unforgiving boss fights and QTE’s.
Had the developers actually typed up a manual that was more than 4 pages of fun facts, sorted the AI and trimmed down the boss fights just a tad, this game would’ve scored a lot higher and probably been a game I would’ve replayed a couple of times just for the fun of it.
When I started playing this game I was full of glee as this would be my first game review for MyGaming. Fast forward 4 hours later; I’m raging at my Xbox 360 and cussing in ways that would make sailors blush. I think I actually invented a few new insults and swear words.
Knights Contract is going to sit in a lonely corner of my cupboard where all those rejected games eventually end up, only to be played again on one of those days where I absolutely have nothing else to do.