Knights Contract is the latest game from Game Republic, maker of such games as Folklore and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. Yet again, they have come up with an original and compelling story, unfortunately, it is once again marred with flawed execution.
In Knights Contract, you’ll play as Heinrich, a former executioner cursed with immortality by a witch he was ordered to execute. In the hundred years since he became immortal, he’s been searching the world for a witch willing to remove the curse and allow him to finally die. Enter your ‘co-op’ partner, Gretchen. She’s the witch who originally cursed him all those years ago. Reincarnated, she offers to remove the curse if Heinrich will help her kill all her fellow witches who are attempting to exterminate the human race by spreading the Black Death everywhere as retribution for hunting them down and killing them. Oh yeah, even though she’s a reincarnated witch, she is still very mortal. While you can’t die, though you can be smashed into dozens of pieces, if she dies, it’s game over.
The story is wonderfully compelling, as you’ll want to stick out the gameplay much longer than you would otherwise, just to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, some of the same complaints I had with Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom rear their heads once again in Knights Contract. Namely, the bad co-op AI and pointless backtracking.
The combat in Knights Contract is better than many hack ‘n slash games, thanks to the addition of rechargeable, and upgradeable, witch powers that Gretchen lends to the combat. They add variety and a slight amount of strategy to what would otherwise be a very boring control scheme. The very visceral feel of the combat also adds to the feel of being an immortal, scythe/sword wielding knight. The one problem I have with the combat is how often Gretchen will place herself in harm’s way for no apparent reason at all. You’ll be happily slashing through a mob of enemies, and she’ll run right into the crowd, causing you to have to chase after her to protect her. This is generally not much of a problem, as most standard enemies are easy to defeat; however, the same problem comes up during boss battles, which is a serious problem.
Outside of the combat, the two major problems are a horrible checkpoint system and a lack of any kind of map or directional system for the game. The majority of the backtracking in the game would be avoided if you had any indications whatsoever of where to go in each area. Add to this a sparse checkpoint system, and you’ll spend almost as much time backtracking or retreading areas you’ve already visited as you do actually making progress in Knights Contract.
The graphics are nice, as all the characters look good and are interesting, though this is offset somewhat by the unimaginative level designs. The audio is simply adequate. It won’t grate on your ears, but it won’t endear you to the game at all either.
In the end, Knights Contract is yet another promising game from Game Republic that is done in by poor design decisions. This is very disappointing because the narrative is the most intriguing one they’ve come up with yet. If you can live with the level design though, you’ll find a story that is well worth the time you put into it.
Pros: Interesting premise and story; nice, varied combat for a hack and slash game
Cons: Level design ruined the game for me; Gretchen’s AI lacks self-preservation