The Metrovania genre has become one of the most popular gaming genres over the years and developers are really now experimenting with the format. The Knight Witch is one such example, with Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional trying to mix it up by bringing bullet hell and spell casting to the format.
But before we get into the mechanics of the game, it’s important to discuss the plot of the story, as it’s an important and well-crafted ingredient to the overall experience of the game. Mostly, storylines are included to just serve the gameplay, and not much thought can be put into the narrative. This is not the case here, with a plot that is not only interesting but thought-provoking. At the start of the game, you are introduced to the knight witches, a quartet of powerful beings who are leading the fight against the Daigadai, the deranged leaders of this world. Progression is the name of the game for them, no matter the cost, including environmental damage, and the world is on the brink of destruction. This concludes in a civil war, with the knight witches successfully defeating the Daigadai. Unfortunately, the damage is done, and society has to move underground to survive.
We join the story at the titular battle against the leader of Daigadai, where you take control of Robyn, the knight witch leader, and have to successfully navigate this boss battle to properly start the game. This is a warning of what’s to come, with it throwing a barrage of bullets at you that seem impossible to dodge, and you will die; I can guarantee you that. It was a brave move to include a battle like this right at the start, and I can easily see it putting people off straight away, but as you get used to the systems and spell cards on offer, you will succeed, and what a feeling it will be when you do.
We jump forward a few years after this battle, when everything is peaceful and happy. We meet Rayne, a knight witch who wasn’t powerful enough to join the war efforts, but when a group of Daigadai enemies appear and the knight witches disappear, it’s up to Rayne to figure out why the Daigadai are back and where the knight witches are.
To do this, you explore different sections of the world, with some parts inaccessible until you hold the correct power or tool. There are a bounty of enemies scattered around the world to try and stop you, and as you destroy them, they leave behind shards that you can use to buy armour or health from skeleton traders that you find around the world.
To assist you in your mission, you have a simple cannon as your main weapon, but you can gain access to other weapons and powers through the spell card system. You always have three random cards at your disposal, which can range from a machine gun to a massive lightning bolt. Each card uses a certain amount of mana each time it is used. Defeated enemies drop mana for you to replenish your stock and give you the chance to use more cards. This system works well and gives you a few different options during intense battles, but it is a little tricky because the cards appear randomly on the three buttons that are assigned to them, so you have to concentrate not only on dodging bullets and damaging your target but also on quickly checking which card is assigned to which button. This ends up with you just spamming buttons in the hope that you will land a heavy hit on your opponent. Assigning certain cards to certain buttons would have helped to deter this and give better control to the player.
One of the more fascinating mechanics of the game is the link that Rayne and the knight witches hold with the population of this world. The more positive interactions you have with the inhabitants, the stronger your link, and each link completed earns you a power up. These can be extra mana sockets, health, or more power for Raynes’ weapons. The biggest way you can increase your link level is through the live broadcast conferences you hold after every mission.
A very intriguing mechanic where you get put into a situation where you have to make difficult answers to the questions you get given. If you lie to the nation, you will gain a lot more from your link, but if you tell the truth, you will only get a pittance or, in some cases, nothing at all. Not only do these conferences showcase the social pressures we are all under these days, but they also amp up the tension, giving the game an edge I wasn’t expecting, and it was a welcome change from the bullet hell action I had just undertaken.
Speaking of which, the combat in The Knight Witch can become quite intense. There are two routes you can go down: one where you try to dodge the bullets by using your dash and letting the auto-aim deal with the enemies, or use your second stick to aim, which will defeat the enemies quicker as it deals extra damage.
The level of difficulty here will frustrate you immensely and, in some cases, make you feel the battles are unfair. I experienced this mostly through ambushes that appear throughout the game, throwing enemy after enemy at you until you deplete a bar at the bottom of the screen, it gets busy with the amount of bullets to dodge, enemies to defeat and concentrating on your spell cards.
I got to the point where no matter which way I went, I triggered a section I couldn’t master and was ready to abandon the game, but thankfully the game includes a cheat system with options like invulnerability, an unlimited amount of mana, slower enemy bullets, and so on. To gain access to these, you have to put in codes, which I had to find on the internet as I hadn’t come across them in the game at this point. I was happy the developers had included these features, but I wish they were available without having to put codes in—just an unnecessary feature.
However, you will want to get through the difficult parts because the storyline is unique and fascinating. I was impressed with the writing and the warm, likeable characters, with Rayne in particular being such a cozy, friendly person you couldn’t help but love. I was impressed by the gorgeous Gunstar Heroes-style artwork, often pausing to take in the details the artists included, as well as the well-crafted soundtrack, which includes some catchy numbers.
The Knight Witch is a thrilling adventure with some important messages to tell. You will end up frustrated by some of the battles while at the same time appreciating its graphical prowess, unique storyline, intriguing characters, and combat mechanics. With a better implemented card system and a less cryptic accessibility option, this could have been great, but there’s just enough to like here for a good recommendation.
The Knight Witch is out now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series, Playstaion & PC