The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 26.03.2018 1

Review for The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 on PlayStation 4

How much does a game's gameplay to story ratio really matter? Like with most cases, it depends on the context. A compelling narrative can get away with lengthier cut-scenes so long as the story remains engaging. It is unlikely Metal Gear Solid would have taken off as a franchise if its story was poor, after all. On the other hand, a good narrative can still be bogged by cut-scenes if an emphasis on story feels out of place. Max Payne 3 isn't a poorly told story by any means, but most fans didn't come into it looking for a plot heavy experience. The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 is quite story-driven, as is expected from a NIS title, but whether it's compelling is another matter entirely.

The original release of The Witch and the Hundred Knight was by no means perfect, but it was still able to hold itself up on the strengths of its mature script, an endearingly unapologetic protagonist, and dark humour. Naturally, it would make sense for The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 to follow in its predecessors' footsteps and establish a tone for the series. Unfortunately, Hundred Knight 2's script feels like a poor attempt at recreating what came before. The script is not mature, the protagonists are not endearing, and humour, while dark at times, lacks the cleverness necessary to come off as anything but lowbrow.

Screenshot for The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 on PlayStation 4

NIS' scripts aren't always gold, especially as of late, so it isn't particularly surprising for the narrative to be such a dud, but it's still disappointing coming off the goodwill of the first game. What's worse, the less than lacklustre writing is only further muddied by an atrocious gameplay to story ratio that puts other narrative driven games to shame. Cut-scenes aren't just long, they are often derivative; when the story is actually trying to progress, the script runs around in circles hammering in plot details with an overreliance on exposition. When the story is slowing down for levity, the humour is quickly lost as most jokes play out for far too long. More importantly, the jokes come off as unrelated skits. Comedy is a great way of developing a bond between the cast and audience, but it means nothing if the characters don't influence the humour themselves. The main cast is sorely lacking in any semblance of nuance. This keeps them blank enough to spout off whatever joke makes sense at the moment, but it also keeps them from feeling human.

Thankfully, the gameplay tends to last a while when control is given back to Hundred Knight, and there's a fair amount of exploration to be had at any given time. There are always objectives for Hundred Knight to complete, but there's nothing to discourage him from straying off. Except for the GigaCalories mechanic, that is. During the course of gameplay, Hundred Knight's GigaCalories will gradually decrease. Once they reach zero, he will enter a weakened state where his damage output will drop to pitiful levels and just about any attack will end up immensely punishing. Since dodging consumes GC, it's especially critical to keep an active eye on the meter. As it would result in a needlessly frustrating experience, otherwise, there are ways of circumventing the loss of GC. After pulling off a five-hit combo, Hundred Knight can trigger a move with L1 where he lunges at and consumes a dying enemy. The technique only works if the enemy attacked is already on the verge of death, but pulling it off restores GigaCalories and AP.

Screenshot for The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 on PlayStation 4

AP, as perhaps expected, is Hundred Knight's main method of using skills. Skills can be used by holding down R1 and pressing the face button to which the skill is assigned to. At first glance, it seems as if Hundred Knight can only have four skills equipped at a time, but that misconception is cleared up fast enough with the introduction of Facets. Facets are almost like builds for Hundred Knight. He can have three equipped at one time and can shuffle between them during combat. Each Facet has its own set of skills, attributes, and weaknesses that add a fair amount of variety to the gameplay at any given moment. Since the five-hit combos are fully customisable, with each Facet having its own set of equipment independent of the others, there is a more than generous amount of customisation at play during combat.

With five different weapons to experiment with, gameplay ends up being quite addictive. Playing around with combo orders by placing different weapons in different spots allows for there to always be a different approach to battle. This becomes especially useful during boss fights when, if stuck, Hundred Knight can simply equip weapons the boss is weak to, thus giving himself an advantage. The loot system also helps to keep combat fresh, as weapons are really no more than just flavour text with a few bonuses at times. Weak weapons can be upgraded in the Atelier with random material drops, so it's unlikely many play-throughs will feel unfair. With so many ways to tackle the main game, there's seldom a moment that feels too overwhelming to overcome.

Screenshot for The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 on PlayStation 4

Perhaps the most important mechanic is Hundred Knight's stomach stock. During gameplay, Hundred Knight can pick up items and store them in his stomach. Unfortunately, he can't use these items until his objective is either complete or he warps back to the home base. Dying causes items to randomly drop from the stomach stock, along with eating away at HK's GigaCalories. This is a nice alternative to the "lose everything upon death" methodology that roguelikes tend to abide by quite heavily, but it does lose some of its urgency considering Hundred Knight can just warp back to the home base at a save point. It really is a mixed bag. The convenience is nice, but at the cost of some extra tension.

As varied as the core gameplay is, it does suffer from its repetitive nature and an overabundance of cut-scenes. Besides a Witch Time-esque dodge system, there really isn't much depth to the combat underneath the surface. There's a lot to play around with, and that can be enough for short play-throughs, but The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 is not a short game, especially considering how much play time the story eats up. As a shorter, more focused loot-based action RPG, Hundred Knight 2 could have really excelled. Unfortunately, this is a game that is trying to tell a long story with mechanics that lend themselves better to a short main game. Toss in one of the worst gaming scripts all year and a truly exhaustive narrative, and it gets hard to see the merits of the gameplay in a cloud of mediocrity.

Screenshot for The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 might scratch that action RPG itch for anyone desperately craving more from the genre, but casual fans might struggle to find much lasting power in NIS' latest endeavour. Poorly written, with a horrendous story to gameplay ratio, it's hard not to see Hundred Knight 2 as more visual novel/button masher than action RPG. It's a shame considering the combat can be genuinely great at times. Hundred Knight has full customisation over his combos, GigaCalories keep stages tense, and the core gameplay loop sets itself up to be fairly addictive. Unfortunately, the script isn't compelling enough to justify the long stretches of story before gameplay picks back up. When the game is actually allowed to be a game, though, The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 offers enough combat variety to keep hacking and slashing serviceable.

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Great review Renan! 

The game looks interesting enough for me to dip my toes into at some stage though, as I quite prefer the visual novel approach of games - however as you stated, those games live or die by the story and the quality of the writing, which this game seems to suffer from unfortunately. I might see if there is a demo I can try out.

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