In this age of sequels and spinoffs and remakes, it's always interesting when a new franchise rears its unique and original head. In this case, I'm talking about Knights Contract, the latest offering from Game Republic and Namco Bandai.
Knights Contract is a fantasy adventure with axes and sorcery, with which players can commit acts of violence against creatures of the supernatural/medieval persuasion. And that, my friends, never gets old.
Knights Contract (Playstation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: Games Republic
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
To Be Released: February 22, 2011
In Knights Contract, you play primarily as Heinrich, an immortal executioner who runs around with a giant glowing axe-scythe. You are accompanied by Gretchen, who is a resurrected witch. Coincidentally, Heinrich was the one who executed Gretchen, and that’s why he’s cursed with immortality. The whole execution was Dr. Faust’s idea in the first place, and Gretchen wants revenge on him, and since Heinrich’s trying to get Gretchen’s curse lifted, he’s playing bodyguard. Boom. Medieval buddy-system revenge action.
At first glance, this looked like a less X-rated version of Dante’s Inferno, since you mostly go around hitting monsters with a scythe, but after getting the chance to play it a bit myself, there’s a lot more going on. See, since Heinrich is immortal, so he can’t really die, he just gets tired out. Gretchen, however, is more prone to death, and it’s Heinrich’s job to protect her.
It’s a little like the Rocko’s Modern Life game for SNES, except if Rocko was a musclebound executioner carrying a massive glowing halberd and Spunky was a total babe who could do magic.
When you control Heinrich, you can smash guys up real good with your giant scythe, and doing that has a nice beat-em up feel to it. But, if you get overwhelmed by bad guys, you can switch over to Gretchen and really mess ‘em up with some witchcraft. If Heinrich gets tired out, you can tap a button, and he’ll pick up Gretchen and her magic will rejuvenate him.
I tend to be sort of a button-masher, so most of my time playing was spent swinging Heinrich’s scythe at flaming lava zombies (probably not what they’re actually called, excuse me) which was plenty of fun, except then Gretchen and I caught fire. There’s a lock-on feature, which is helpful, because it shows how much life each enemy has left.
Gretchen’s magic includes twelve different spells, six of which are upgradeable. There are also items to collect. I didn’t run across any items, but I did play with some of the spells. One of them causes Heinrich to turn into what I can only describe as a blue, glowing, demonic Incredible Hulk. Others include various types of energy blasts.
In addition to Gretchen, there are six other witches. I’m not sure if they’re bosses or not, but that would make sense. While watching other people playing, I saw a couple of cutscenes, which may or may not have involved a witch-like lady consuming a small child in an alleyway, which (witch?) was awesome. When I played the game myself, I fought a boss, and it was a big gross monster. That's how bosses should be, so I'm happy.
From a stylistic standpoint, Knights Contract has a look similar to Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, but in a medieval fantasy setting. I’m not personally a huge fan of the aesthetic, but I’m fully aware how badass it is. It's sort of how I imagine a video game would be if Heironymus Bosch collaborated with the guys who designed Battle Arena Toshinden.
Knights Contract be out on February 22nd for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and it’s going for $59.99.