I have a soft spot in my heart for a game with a good twist. A narrative switcheroo, pulling you further into the story than you would otherwise want to go. Knight witch is such a game, one I wasn’t too keen on initially, but eventually won me over.
The Knight Witch is a 2D Metroidvania packed with light bullet-hell action. It follows the adventures of Rayne, the fifth member of a group of powerful magical warriors who gained notoriety by saving the world’s population from extinction, leading them underground after a hard-fought battle with technologically advanced golems.
The game is slow at the start, and it doesn’t rub off on me. The initial premise, a typical magical girl tale where a green (but passionate) witch tries to live up to the example of her seasoned peers and win the hearts of the people, failed to entice. I won’t hide my general disinterest in the genre; any fiction I’ve read or seen that fits the archetype has been commentary on the genre, intentionally subverting expectations.
However, just an hour or two into the game, the game begins to chip away at the glittery varnish of The Knight Witches – picking at the accepted role of your character and their predecessors in the world, and what it actually means to carry people’s hopes on your shoulders .
The game offers a binary choice at a number of points, which has a genuine impact on your character’s performance out in hostile areas. I, always one to delve into “bad options” when they are available in games, was happy to see that the game doesn’t wag its finger at you. You might feel like a jerk, but there’s a good reason to do it that’s woven throughout the game’s message.
Suffice to say, The Knight Witch shifted away from regularity and managed to keep me invested in what was going on. It’s not Disco Elysium, or some other narrative masterpiece that will be held up by the most pretentious and artistically-minded players out there, but it’s smart.
But what about the gameplay itself? You, as a Knight Witch, have two forms of attack. First, a magical blast that acts as your primary source of damage against enemies. The other is spells, mana-consuming attacks that are drawn from a six-card deck from a customizable spell deck. Typically, a firefight in The Knight Witch allows you to build up mana with magical blasts to collect mana, then take your mana out for powerful abilities.
This spell deck is the only source of customization in The Knight Witch. With it, you can pick and choose what kind of fighting style you want to mess with. Me? I really enjoyed magic blast modifiers, taking duplicates of the Hand Cannon card, a reload spell, and filling the other slots with defensive options so I can keep my weapon of choice constantly. However, the game throws a number of different spells your way that change the way you approach battles.
You’ll also want to hone your cards, because the Knight Witch can be really tricky at times. The game doesn’t work. You’re thrown at a boss almost immediately, which while not overtly troublesome, isn’t something you can just sleepwalk through. The game spreads a smooth difficulty curve throughout, keeping you on your toes from start to finish.
There are aids to help you, such as an auto-aim mode that fires off bursts with reduced damage, so you can focus on movement and avoiding attacks and keeping the pressure up. Enemies also drop currency that can be exchanged for temporary armor and rest point upgrades, allowing you to collect perks for difficult battles. Perhaps the most engaging form of advancement comes from increasing your link level, your primary source of character upgrades. You achieve these by saving people out in the world and making certain narrative choices, you can change your approach to these moments accordingly.
This whole package is combined with a pleasing presentation, especially in terms of aesthetics. The many regions in The Knight Witch are all distinct, with bright colors and intricate backgrounds. It’s just a joy to watch. You find this occasionally with indie games, especially, with artists with serious talent like a hip six-shooter. Blam! Eye candy comes straight at you before you know what hit you.
When it comes to negatives though, I ran into a few bugs while playing, including a save file that wouldn’t load after an Alt-F4 in mid-death (I know, I know), as well as my bullet direction briefly locking in one direction. Although I love myself a great game with a short completion time, I beat the game in about 10 hours. Not a bad time at all for a project packed with passion, especially in a year with Signalis (of all games) championing the merits of a fluff-free experiment. But if money is tight at the moment, you might want to keep that in mind.
It’s also worth noting that a console bug found literally the day before launch has caused the launch on that platform to be delayed by an entire week. The game has some problems of this nature, so while nothing like this broken my time with The Knight Witch, maybe prepare to meet someone if you pick it up at launch.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by The Knight Witch. In an age where so many games are vying for your time and attention, a nicely packaged gift from an indie, clearly made by a team that knows what it’s doing, and a quirk that can’t be found anywhere else, is a nice refresher. While I don’t think it quite makes the cut as a classic, nor will it make many game of the year lists, it’s still well worth your time. Personally, I think Super Mega Team is a studio I will keep track of from here on out.