Version tested: Xbox 360
Great ties are made up of great separations. Even in Germany in the 700s. But the executioner Heinrich still could not know, especially when he lowered the heavy ax on the neck of Gretchen, accused of witchcraft on a sad gallows. But this is the past, now reduced to an obsessive burst of flashbacks useful only to feed the feelings of guilt. A few years have passed, we are still in a dark and menacing medieval universe, populated by demonic creatures, magic and twilight landscapes. We find the beefy Heinrich, but he is very different from how we knew him. Not very reassuring complexion, scars everywhere and a monstrous scythe reaching out to the bad guys. We soon discover that our not very delicate hero cannot die, even if completely torn apart by the enemies, it is enough to press frantically the A key to make him stand up again. As if that were not enough we find a revived Gretchen, on the other hand with a witch everything is possible. The paths of this unlikely couple come together for a dual purpose, Heinrich is the victim of a curse and must find a way to become mortal again, Gretchen has some unfinished business to solve. From here on, each goal will be achieved in four hands.
Because I have you
This in a nutshell is the preamble of Knights Contract, already guessed from the title itself, is an action adventure based entirely on cooperation, whose ferocity is bizarrely mitigated by an atypical sentimentality. The Japanese software house Game Republic, formerly author of folklore, is certainly not new to experiments, and from the first minutes of the game breaks a heavy taboo, putting an invincible protagonist in the player's hand. The sense of omnipotence is short, however, the punitive side, and essentially what offers challenge, is Gretchen's vulnerability. Our task is therefore to safeguard her safety, just like an efficient bodyguard would do, and if necessary restore her health bar by picking her up.
In this situation it is impossible to carry out any offensive action, the only thing to do therefore is to flee from dangerous situations. Gretchen is not exactly a fool, her nature as a witch allows her to perform a varied series of elemental spells, but her true offensive power comes from the combination with Heinrich's scythe. With this unusual fusion, the classic special moves are justified, which the protagonist would not be able to launch, but by recalling a specific magic with the back keys, a series of combinations with devastating effects are activated. You go from ice traps, picturesque beheadings or savage rip-offs, and the same thing goes for the protagonist. It is not uncommon to see Heinrich completely torn to pieces during a fight, not before ending up in a state of daze that can be mitigated with the usual die, or the wild pressure of the keys of the pad (unnerving in the long run). The downside is that in this condition it is not possible to protect Gretchen, and the poor artificial intelligence that manages her leads too easily to her death, and consequent Game Over.
Xbox 360 achievements
1000 Player Points divided across 50 achievements are waiting to be earned. We have a little bit of everything, from collecting a certain number of souls, from 10.000 up to 100.000, to those related to completing the main story. The most challenging and full-bodied is the one that requires the completion of the game in the Witchslayer difficulty level, you will be rewarded with 40 points. Good hunting immortals!
I would like, I would not like ...
The game continually tries to mix the cards on the table, placing enemies able to parry any frontal blow, and which require elusive maneuvers very similar to what has already been seen in the combat system of Bayonetta, although much less refined. Added to this is a non-linear level structure, played on counter-timing. It is not uncommon to find yourself in boss fights in the middle of a chapter, like running into real labyrinths, where a somewhat confusing exploration structure is proposed. The inventory features timid RPG elements, with the ability to invest the souls of downed enemies to upgrade spells and unlock new ones, nothing that hasn't already been seen in similar and better products. Each chapter ends with a clash with mighty enemies, which require in the final part the overcoming of sequences based on specific keys of the pad. In short, the infamous quick time events of the typically Japanese school, even these poorly implemented since failure to pass leads the player into inconvenient situations, with the boss who has recovered a large part of his energy and the obligation to repeat the sequence.
An extremely frustrating routine, even if partially reduced by the fact that the keys to be pressed are always the same. Knights Contract it demonstrates an undoubtedly troubled gestation starting from the suffocating presence of films, functional to the narration, but really excessive in length and frequency, of extremely embarrassing quality and grafted into moments that violently interrupt the fluidity of the action. All in all, the technical sector is passable, with a good use of effects, normal mapping and pleasant textures, despite some drops in the framerate and an artistic direction that is certainly not inspired. It is a mystery how the cutscenes are so poor in comparison. A pity, since the story is also pleasant to follow, in some ways original and with characters that let themselves be appreciated.
Almost nothing works in Knights Contract, a product that suffers from a clearly problematic gestation and not in step with the many cornerstones of an extremely inflated genre. It is surprising that a studio like Game Republic presents itself with such a limping title, even if not without a strange fascination for how it tries to present Western clichés, but interpreted with a different and magnetic sensibility. The idea of the protagonist and his relationship with Gretchen is original and fascinating, but good intentions collapse in the face of the frustration arising from the confusing game system, not very refined, mortified by poor artificial intelligence, and which systematically refuses to enter harmony with the player. They do not help the asphyxiating cutscenes of really bad quality, grafted in the wrong times and that put even more difficulty those who want to follow the adventures of this bizarre couple. Those who want to trust Namco Bandai production must arm themselves with a lot of patience, all the others can easily pass on.
- Original idea
- Pleasant story and curious protagonists
- Acceptable in-game graphics ...
- ... atrocious that of the cutscenes
- Poorly refined combat system
- Confusing and downright frustrating to play