Rating: 3.25 out of 5
Knights Contract is an action adventure game that will appeal to players who like their games on the darker side. While the game has its share of flaws in things such as loading segments, repetitive level design and difficulties with the camera during some boss battles, the storyline and character design are what drive the momentum of wanting to play. It is also worth noting the soundtrack, which has a memorable orchestral arrangement. Fans who enjoy games like Bayonetta, Devil May Cry and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and can overlook some of the technical blemishes will enjoy Knights Contract.
Knights Contract review
Knights Contract is dark tale of witches and immortality, set in the European Middle Ages. Heinrich Hoffman, the protagonist of the game, is the stone bodied and cold eyed executioner that has been tasked to dispatch The Coven of Seven Witches. Under the orders of Dr. Faust, members of the coven are executed. However, the execution does not go without the sacrifice of Heinrich. Fast forward 100 years and Heinrich roams as a cursed immortal knight, while the land is suffering from the Black Death. At the heart of Dr. Faust’s intentions is the possession of the shards of the “Anima del Monde,” which were entrusted by The Coven of Seven Witches. With most of the witches now under the control of Dr. Faust, only one witch holds the final key shard. Gretchen, a resurrected witch executed by Heinrich, offers Heinrich eternal peace in exchange for help in ending the Black Death plague and Dr. Faust’s immortal intentions. Throughout the journey, Heinrich and Gretchen must encounter the twisted reincarnations of the coven of witches. At their side is the alchemist and plague doctor Minukelsus, who dons the distinctive cone shaped beak mask. So the player sets out on the twisting path of Knights Contract.
The action in Knights Contract takes place from a third-person perspective. Players primarily control Heinrich, who wields a scythe and the ability to regenerate after being sliced in parts (or whole). Gretchen is, for the most part, alongside Heinrich and can conjure up spells in support of her battle scarred knight. Gretchen is not immortal. Her new body, which Minukelsus aided in resurrecting her with, can indeed be destroyed. While moving Heinrich around, commands can be given to Gretchen to cast spells. By holding a trigger button and pressing a button to which a spell has been assigned, the spell can be executed. Spells include spikes that impale enemies from the ground or explosive spears that Heinrich can hurl at floating enemies.
Each spell can be upgraded up to three times, which allows for some flashy damaging effects and finishing moves. Heinrich can activate the powerful Knight’s Fury spell, transforming into a large, hulking beast while slowing enemies down. Gretchen’s Witch’s Embrace spell casts her body into a nude giant, squashing enemies for an instant kill with her butt. Players will need to keep a watchful eye on Gretchen’s health. Heinrich can heal Gretchen by carrying her. Heinrich’s attacks mainly involve a lot of hacking and slashing with his scythe, which is also upgraded throughout the adventure.
A few technical things in Knights Contract blemish the presentation. The gameplay flow of Knights Contract is heavily impeded by many segmented loading points. The amount of time it takes to load the sections isn’t long, but the game has many interruptions with black loading screens. Graphically, Knights Contract can look muddy at times, especially during some cutscenes that look overly compressed. A couple of the opening cinematic sequences look beautiful. It’s too bad that level of quality was not used in other cutscenes during the game.
Another issue with the gameplay is the repetitious level design. More than a couple of times, players will need to rescue Minukelsus from danger within a limited amount of time. In other repetitive segments, players will need to survive chase scenes which could result in instant death. There are also several levels that are like mazes, with little enemies and really leave you like a rat in a maze. Like in many third-person action games, there are boss quick time event cutscenes (timed button presses or thumbstick movements). What makes the quick time events unforgiving in Knights Contract is the checkpoint system. The quick time event sequences happen after players have depleted a bosses’ health gauge. Some of the boss battles can take long, especially later in the game. Miss one of the timed button presses and it results in not only an instant death for the player, but being sent back to the boss battle again. During some of the boss battles, the camera positioning becomes misaligned, showing an aerial perspective. Without being able to see where to run, players are crippled and are at a disadvantage for getting killed. That could be especially frustrating if you are far along in a boss battle.
For players that can overlook some of the technical issues in the game, the reward is really completing the storyline and discovering The Coven of Seven Witches. The storyline touches on some philosophical meanings of life and the afterlife. One environment that really stood out for me was the castle of Rapunzel. A dark shell from the youngest of the witches, Rapunzel’s castle is strewn with strands of hair throughout. Her story is probably the most tragic among The Coven of Seven Witches. The twisted alternate forms of each witch is a sight to see. The sound production is another stand out for Knights Contract. The orchestral soundtrack is memorable, and rich with strings and recurring themes that really make the music distinctly Knights Contract‘s own. The voice acting compliments the character styles as well.
Knights Contract is a fairly challenging game, besides some of the sequences with the bosses and chase scenes that may be heavy handed in difficulty with one hit player kills. Just getting through the main game will take about 15 hours. Achievements and Trophies are steadily rewarded throughout the game, and players should be able to attain more than half in their first playthrough. There are five levels of gameplay difficulty and a letter rating system is given for each level (20 levels total, which vary in length for each). Artwork and more details on the story can be found and unlocked, as well as some upgrades and costumes for Heinrich and Gretchen. If you are the kind of player that likes letter grade and leaderboard rankings, Knights Contract offers that and unlockables for replay value. Knights Contract will appeal to players who like third-person action fantasy games and who like their story on the darker side.
See more screenshots here. Thanks to Namco Bandai Games America for making this Knights Contract review possible.