The Witch and the Hundred Knight (Witch) has been a long gestating title from Nippon Ichi Software. The company has always been known for bizarre strategy-RPGs full of deep mechanics, a quirky cast and characters that can reach levels of 9999. Labeled as a kind of 3D action-RPG, Witch initially sounds like a departure from NIS‘ bread and butter. Though its oddness and complexity are familiar, does it result in some cohesive fun?
Metallia is an angry and bitter Swamp Witch. She desires to cover the world in her green swamp and will destroy anything in her path to do so. However instead of leaving the confines of her own home, she summons a legendary familiar named the Hundred Knight to do the work for her. Functioning as Metallia’s reluctant servant, the Hundred Knight must defeat enemies and destroy Pillars located throughout the world of Medea to spread the green swamp across the world.
Typical of an NIS game, Witch features a tale populated by characters with a wide range of personalities. Titles like the Disgaea series have demons with evil intentions but they are often buffered by clumsiness or a tendency to do more harm than good. Metallia’s actions frequently come off as more villainous and downright mean. She hurls insults full of bleeped-out expletives and relentlessly kills things without remorse. She’s a hard one to like but causes a chuckle, especially when bouncing off the rest of the cast.
Throughout the long, winding plot, players will discover the truth behind Metallia’s desires and why she has been banished to her swamp. A whole world of lore is opened up that can potentially be mined for more story. One of the major obstacles of Witch is its reliance on walls of text. Sifting through long strips of dialogue shouldn’t be anything new for fans of these games. It might work for the methodical speed of tactical RPGs but doesn’t do favors for a game meant to deliver action. At times, it will be hard to stomach the frequent breaks between gamepaly and story but enjoyment can be found for those willing to take the plunge.
Don’t let the action-RPG nature fool you, Witch is full of familiar ground built with a different gameplay engine. Controlling the Hundred Knight, players are sent out onto the battlefield to clear the map of enemies, collect loot and destroy checkpoint-like Pillars that fill the world full of more swamp. The core element of gameplay is allowing the Hundred Knight to equip up to five weapons, including hammers, lances, swords and spears. Spears can sweep a group of enemies while a hammer can deliver heavy blows. Damage types such as blunt and slash are applied to weapons and various enemies are immune to them.
What becomes crucial is figuring what weapon combinations are best used for groups of enemies and situations. Throw in dodging, blocking and a quick evade that slows down time and Witch becomes a kind of hack-and-slash affair. This all becomes elevated with the many RPG systems in place.
Players will scour the map for loot and constantly have to manage inventory. Weapons and the player can be leveled up and points can be applied to make the Hundred Knight stronger. Facets act as a kind of job system and allow the Hundred Knight to do things like defend against magic or tank damage. It’s overwhelming but manageable through good menu navigation. For players who hate the sound of that, keeping things simple is possible but they will miss out on the variety Witch has to offer.
Things are rough for the Hundred Knight. A persistent player can exploit everything they are given to conquer all obstacles and keep the familiar alive. Experimentation is crucial to enjoyment but outside of a standard RPG format, they can feel out of place. Witch splits itself between action RPG, dungeon crawler, menu-fest and more. Those who derive enjoyment from each will find a lot to love.
Graphics & Sound
Being the first of its kind for NIS, Witch has a lot to live up to. Developers have done this type of genre much earlier in the life of the PlayStation 3 to varying degrees of success. Graphics have rarely been a talking point of NIS fare but their games never lack style. Witch looks fairly dated. Textures aren’t always sharp and don’t often look great close up.
The isometric view and camera often clash. Controlling the camera to view the map is awkward and getting a grasp of the battlefield can be unwieldy. Still, Witch has a lot of style that helps smooth out its rough edges. Characters during their cutscenes are wonderfully drawn and environments and enemies are still colorful and unique despite their aged feel.
Even with a long script and even longer scenes of spoken dialogue, localization brings a certain harmony and joy to the story. Text-heavy moments are made better with great English voice acting and spot-on jokes and translation. It actually makes the parts lacking dialogue more of a drag and might cause players to start fast-forwarding after awhile. Additionally, the score is quite good but has a tendency to drown out everything else unless its turned down in the settings.
For an uninitiated player, The Witch and the Hundred Knight is a complicated mixed bag of wild story and varied gameplay. Fans of the genre should have a blast peeling back the layers of mechanics and diving head first into the action. Either way, the story might present a brick wall in terms of dense dialog and an unconventionally mean lead. But as a potential first step into a new series, The Witch and the Hundred Knight holds promise with further refinement.