The Knight Witch Review (PS5)
Time to shake off the old dust and finally become a knight witch!
There seems to be some interesting genre hybrids lately, and The Knight Witch is a recent one. This is a combination of a bullet hell and a deckbuilder, with a hint of metroidvania. Plus the title of the game and the team you’re on are called the knight witches. Considering that I enjoyed games that had unlikely genre combinations and that The Knight Witch did seem to be fun, I decided to pick it up. The question now is how did that go.
The Knight Witch starts with you getting some history so you have some backstory before starting the game plus getting in the tutorial. After resources started to run low on their planet, the Daigadai family started to leech off the planet, destroying it to substain the quality of life to the point where the sky itself cracked. There were rebels that grouped to stop them, but the Daigadei created a golem army. All were lost until a group of Knight Witches rose up, who got their strength people trusting them. You play as their leader, Robyn, on the day the war ended. The Knight Witches were successful, but with the planet already destroyed, everyone instead went to live underground, through a hole that was discovered after everything settled.
Jump to 14 years into the future and life underground is good enough. Everyone seems to be doing well, as everyone has their own home, there’s a nice community, and even a marketplace for everyone to sell their wares or food they grew, made, or foraged. This is where we take control of the protagonist, a woman named Rayne on the day the war ended which has been named Robyn Day. Rayne has the ability to fly and you learn that she was actually the fifth Knight Witch, however she wasn’t exactly battle ready. It does get kinda muddled on why Rayne wasn’t a part of the fight, but it seems that Rayne couldn’t fly until recently. Anyway, the anniversary of winning the war, and having to live underground, has been renamed Robyn Day and there’s a celebration.
However, this day of celebration is soured when everyone is suddenly attacked and captured by golems. At first, it seems maybe they’re just leftover golems, but then it’s revealed that the son of the man Robyn killed is taking his revenge. This time, it seems the Knight Witches are a bit tied up, so it’s Rayne’s time to shine! She luckily remembers her training and after saving some people and making her way to the castle, she is finally given the title of being a Knight Witch! It’s up to you to fight against the various golems, save those that were taken prisoner, find the other Knight Witches, and find out the truth that was hidden from the public.
Getting the hang of The Knight Witch is pretty easy, though actually surviving is another. This is mainly a bullet hell, but with the added addition of a deckbuilder. Throughout the game, you’ll be exploring various areas, with Rayne being able to fly around instead of having to do any platforming. Of course, most rooms will have enemies and this is where the combat comes in. Your basic weapon has you shoot bullets at your enemies either by using the auto aim or by aiming it yourself. Manual aiming does do more damage, but auto aiming does let you focus on dodging enemy bullets and looking at your cards. Talking about your cards, you start out being able to equip six cards with it increasing as you upgrade Rayne.
Each card requires mana, which occasionally drops from enemies, and you always have three randomly drawn for you to use. You’ll discover more cards as you explore and progress, but you have cards that just act as damage dealers, cards that change up your weapon for a short amount of time, cards that conjures something into existence, or trick cards. You can build your deck to whatever you want it to have, but you do need to keep in mind of the rng as you can easily be stuck with cards you don’t need or too high of a mana cost. Cards will also randomly be put on a button, so you will need to take your eyes off of the action to see what cards you have, what button to press for them, and how much mana you have…which can cause you to be hit. Part of me did like this system, but it didn’t quite work as well combined with a bullet hell.
The enemies, of course, will bombard you with bullets of their own. The enemy variety is impressive, though it does make the game harder especially early on. Each enemy type does have their own bullet types and patterns, but combined with the tight quarters, cards taking your attention away, and the amount of enemies that spawns in, it can be too frustrating. It doesn’t help that it also kind of feels like your hitbox is a tad too big to slip through bullets (which often are packed together) and I had a fair amount of moments where I had no idea what hit me. It’s even worse when you get into a room with an ambush.
There is no penalty for dying other than going back to a rest point, but it also means either going through with defeating the respawned enemies or taking damage as you try to fly through everyone. It can be especially annoying when you don’t have much health (trust me, the first time you find an upgrade seed take the health upgrade not mana). Granted, there is a system to buy armor hearts, but you can only have one at a time and that’s assuming it’s not out of the way.
I personally don’t see The Knight Witch as a metroidvania, but it does have elements of one weaved in. The map and the way you need to go is quite linear, with some rooms reserved for secrets or items. The map is designed to look like maps you’ll find them have, but also you’ll see areas that you can’t quite get to at that time. As you continue through the game, you’ll unlock abilities that will let you have more freedom in exploring. Of course, since there are areas you can’t get into, with some having prisoners or coins for you to get, you might find it worthwhile to backtrack back. Although, while there is teleport system for you to go back to previous areas, but it can still feel like a chore both with your movement speed, enemies, and if you need to go back to the beginning to get to the area you actually need to go to.
While I did enjoy The Knight Witch during the first couple hours, it turned out to be more frustrating, and almost unfair at times, than fun. I feel this is due to some key aspects of the game. One is the deckbuilding card system. With how it is, you’re attention is constantly being pulled between the enemy bullets, how much mana you have, and what cards are drawn as either you look to know which cards you have or blindly pressing a button hoping it’s a card you needed. I almost think the deckbuilding aspect isn’t as needed and it would be the same if you just equip three spells that you find or learn throughout the game. Or maybe, to keep the deckbuilding in, have it be more visible without looking away or more reliable. Like have the card art float transparently around Rayne and have mana be represented somehow (though it also calls into question if it’ll block your view too much). Or maybe have the card types be tied to their own button so even if you don’t look to see what cards you have, you know triangle will always have, say, conjurer cards. Or maybe it would be a bit better if mana recharged through hitting enemies (manual aimed hits recharging it more than auto aimed) rather than picking up the mana drops and risking getting hit.
You also don’t start out with a dodge when you play as Rayne, which is strange as you do have one in the prologue. This makes the game unnecessarily harder than it should be until you hit the point where you get a flash dash (which is about a quarter of the way through). I don’t know why we couldn’t just have a basic dash that serves as just a way to dodge away or into bullets and having the flash dash be an upgrade to it cause honestly my enjoyment tanked hard leading up to you getting the flash dash and it gets more chaotic and frustrating from there.
The Knight Witch also screams needing health drops. Yes there are health crates and there is a cheat that gives you health with the mana drop, but it needs actual health drops and I’d rather not activate cheats. The health crates feel too spread apart for the combat you’ll be engaged in and it would help if health had a chance of dropping from enemies.
To end this off positively, I do have to say that I do like the music and the art style. In fact, the art style was one aspect that made me want to play.
Maybe it’s because I don’t play many bullet hell games. Maybe it’s because I was just decent at The Knight Witch. Maybe it’s because of how the game was designed. Or maybe it’s all three. Either way, I didn’t have fun playing The Knight Witch, which is a shame as I did quite enjoy the game during the first hour or two. I did think the story was interesting enough, but the gameplay just frustrated me to the point that I just didn’t want to play anymore. I know others like this game, and I do see a good game underneath, but I just didn’t find enjoyment in playing it.
Since the demo is still up on Steam, I recommend going through the whole demo to see if you like it or not (as you do get a feel on how unfair and frustrating it can get during the prologue). And if you think it’ll be something you like, I would wait for a discount.