Don't let the promise of a new Zelda game distract you from everything else the switch has to offer. Here's why you should be just as interested in Arms.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight Review: Not All That Good
Nippon Ichi Software’s The Witch and the Hundred Knight is pretty rough. It has a lot of issues which bog down what otherwise could be a fun game and suffers because of it. Sometimes a game tries to accomplish something or isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. That’s this game in a nutshell.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is an action role-playing game where we play the role of the Hundred Knight, a legendary demon of diminutive size and proportion who is summoned by the Swamp Witch Metallia to help her in her goal to cover the world in her poisonous swamps, because everyone needs a hobby and apparently Metallia’s is killing everyone. You go about spreading these doom swamps by activating pillars throughout areas in the game. There are two types of pillars: pillars of nonsense, which serve as checkpoints throughout the level, and pillars of temperance, which normally have boss battles.
Combat is the core of what makes up The Witch and The Hundred Knight, which isn’t great since combat can get repetitive quickly. Players can equip up to five different weapons of varying combinations to perform combos. Monsters often have varying weaknesses to the different types of damage (damage is broken up into slashing, blunt, or magic) caused. For example, early in the game you encounter gatekeeper monsters which take little to no damage at all from anything besides the blunt force trauma, which accompanies beating it into the ground with a hammer. Weapons are broken up into rarities like MMOs (common, rare, legendary, etc.) and level up the more you maim the local residents and fauna with rarer items being able to level up further. In addition to weapons, a player can specialize the Hundred Knight a bit more by equipping facets, which allow further customization like being stronger with certain types of weapons or other things such as increased drop rates for items. The camera can fight with you at times as well. The game uses a top-down view similar to the Diablo and Torchlight series, but because of the camera being wonky at times, it can feel like the top-down view almost works against you.
How players interact with the residents of the world is part of the game as well. If a player acts like a general sociopath as the game allows and attacks the many people in the world, then the people will remember what you’ve done, and you’ll eventually have it come back to bite you in the ass with NPCs becoming hostile towards you. Additionally, players can also raid people’s houses as well for the chance at items. If you succeed, you will get an item from the residents of the home, and if you fail, you will often have your health reduced from the ass-whooping you received. You can also revisit homes that you’ve successfully raided and either receive items in tribute or rest and be healed. A balance needs to be found so you can interact with towns, you don’t need to always ruin a family’s home just because they had some gum or cookies you wanted.
One issue is that that certain mechanics of the game just don’t mesh especially well and hurt the experience. Giga Calories or Gcals, basically the Hundred Knights energy, is a example of this, as it puts a timer on how long one can go in a level before they need to stop. If you hate having caps placed on how far you can go in one run of an area, then you are going to hate Gcals with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. Sure, you can continue on when your Gcals reach zero, but the Hundred Knight’s health will begin to drop much faster than normal when moving or performing attacks, and you receive penalties to both your attack and defense. This form of exhaustion on its own can be countered with restorative items, or spending points that you accumulate from horribly murdering monsters and anything else in your way. It’s odd really, considering this is a Nippon Ichi Software game, you’d think we’d be coming in for another entertaining grindfest similar to the Disgaea series, but instead this we have this ceiling put on us and it makes the game less fun for it. Besides items the Hundred Knight can consume monsters to keep Giga Calories up at the cost of them filling up a slot in your item bag. Additionally, if you die while your Giga Calories are at zero, then you will also receive larger penalties for death in the form of losing a percentage of the exp you would have earned for the level you are playing.
Level and graphic design is hit or miss depending on the area you are in. Certain levels are dull as dirt and are boring to the point where the level devolves into hugging the walls until you find the boss. This is doubly bad, considering the first few levels (especially the tutorial level) are guilty of this. Several levels, though are aesthetically pleasing, and these levels can actually be fun to explore, which makes you wonder what the developers were thinking with these other levels.
The tutorial also feels very tacked-on and honestly didn’t explain much, which hurts the game and can leave a bad impression. I was told how to slash, dash, and roll and mess with the camera, and that was about it. Even then, the camera gave me issues at spots during said tutorial. It took me a couple tries to figure out how to quickly access my items after dying like a fool after having my HP reduced by poison. This is bad. Tutorials should not necessarily be all-encompassing, but letting players know how to use mechanics of the game is the point of a tutorial, which Nippon Ichi Software seems to have forgotten.
Characters and dialogue have their charms and help to serve as a reprieve from some of the game’s issues. Metallia is charming in a psychopathic sort of way, along with her servant, Arlecchino, whose snide comments towards her help to create a fun dynamic. We also get some other silly, and they are silly, characters, like a young cursed inquisitor desperate enough to remove her curse to work with witches, and several other characters each with their own agenda who help to give the game some much needed life. The only complaints I have with characters and dialogue is that several character’s voices are pretty cringe-worthy, and sometimes the swearing just feels tacked on.
Special mention should go to boss fights. When you fight bosses, they will have a secondary bar in addition to their health, which measures their guard level. Often when bosses are idle or are moving around, this bar will be full or near full, reducing your damage to them by a lot. This bar will drop whenever bosses commit themselves to attacks, which promotes a bit more of a patient method to the combat, which is one of the only times the combat varies itself up. It may not be ground breaking as a mechanic, but it is one of the few spots that feel fresh.
If we’re being blunt, the problem with The Witch and the Hundred Knight is that it just isn’t that good. Combat can get repetitive, and any add on that you get through the game doesn’t spice the formula up enough to really keep things lively. It can honestly be hard to play the game for long periods of time because of this. Level design has no middle ground and is dull or aesthetically pleasing depending on the level you’re playing. This is especially true in the early levels, which hurts the game’s initial impressions. Gcals feel more like a hindrance then a unique mechanic for measuring stamina, and you have to put in a lot of work to combat them . If you want to play a hack-and-slash action role-playing game, then I would suggest you search elsewhere, as The Witch and The Hundred Knight stumbles right out of the gate and never really picks itself back up. If you’re a huge fan of Nippon Ichi Software games and for some reason feel compelled to purchase this game I would consider waiting until it drops in price as $50 is pretty darn expensive for mediocrity.