Breaker of Critics
HIGH The ‘bad’ ending.
LOW The ‘true’ ending.
WTF There’s a plotline about playing Pygmalion for an insect in love with a prince.
In what may be a first for Gamecritics, The Witch and the Hundred Knight defeated two different reviewers.
I took the first crack at it, but begged off after three hours when it became clear that I wasn’t up to spending time with the most loathsome main character in ages. Then Tayo took a shot but couldn’t get past the frustrating, repetitive gameplay and quit long before the credits rolled. With the game now on PS4, I thought it best if I took a second stab at it.
I beat it this time, but profoundly wish that I hadn’t.
This game centers around a homunculus that the titular Witch (named Metallia) summons to do her bidding. Said bidding generally involves ruining lives, torturing innocent people, and plenty of backtracking.
Levels are shown from a top-down perspective. The player will run around killing the same handful of enemies over and over again using a shockingly restrictive series of moves. Tayo nailed the treadmill feeling of play—every level has the player wander around, unlocking some special pillars to expand Metallia’s reach, and then fighting a boss. Other than a few mazes with doors that need to be unlocked in sequence, things never get better.
Witch is riddled with bad design choices, and the biggest is a reliance on an awful loot system. Even playing on Easy (which the PS4 version mercifully adds) enemies scale upwards rapidly, and the player can only hope to survive by completely replacing every weapon in their loadout every half-hour or so.
Players also need to use each type of weapon because enemies are weak to either slashing, blunt, or magic, so they’re not free to stick with a favorite weapon or weapon type. No matter how much they may prefer big slow hammers over quick slashing weapons, if the player finds an enemy immune to everything but cutting, they’d better have a powerful set of blades ready to go. Worse, the weapons don’t increase in power meaningfully, which forces the player to constantly worry about swapping out different attack-buffing items to keep pace.
I can’t imagine who thought this was a good way for the player to spend their time—sifting through menus and comparing weapon stats added up to a big chunk of my total playtime, which is just crazy. Given how generic the gear is, Witch should have offered an ‘auto-equip’ to let players immediately have the most powerful weapons of each category.
The story is as bad as the combat. I slogged through hour after hour of swearing and cruelty and nihilism, only to wind up at an ending where every person in the game is slaughtered, except for one person who’s raped to death. It’s disgusting and disturbing, and a sadistic punishment levied against the player by developers who’ve shown contempt for their audience in every sprawling, empty levels and pointlessly drawn-out boss fights.
There is a silver lining, though. While the middle finger to the audience is billed as the ‘True Ending’ by the Trophies list, it isn’t the way the game is meant to end. If the player keeps their karma low by never attacking civilians or stealing, and then does some additional tasks that are so obtuse that they require a trip to the internet to even know they exist, a new set of missions open up where the actual stakes of the story are revealed.
Although it pains me to say it, the story in the ‘bad ending’ actually redeems a lot of what came before because the context of the characters changes, making some newly-sympathetic and others newly-loathsome. I wouldn’t say that it redeems the game since it does nothing to change how terrible the core play is, but by the end there really is an affecting tale being told. I was happy to see that all of the darkness served a purpose and led to something interesting, rather than just being the product of sociopathic storytelling as Tayo feared.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight isn’t a good game by any means. It has an impenetrable equipment system, lackluster combat with no other gameplay mechanics, and a story that only gets good if players consult an FAQ. I can’t call it a complete disaster since I’ve seen what good it has to offer, but I can’t recommend anyone play it, either. The destination was a relief after suffering through the journey, but it isn’t good enough to make the trip worthwhile.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 30 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 2 times).
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, crude humor, language, partial nudity, sexual themes, violence. Keep your kids as far from this as you possibly can. I have no idea how this got a T rating rather than an M. Maybe the ESRB doesn’t parse the dialogue of these games, so the fact that the game’s various rapes happen off-camera somehow makes it okay for teens? Well, it isn’t. At all.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are no audio cues I encountered, and all dialogue is subtitled.
Remappable Controls: The game’s controls cannot be remapped.
Colorblind Modes: The game has no colorblind modes.