If you happen to be a fan of knights, witches, demons or...well...contracts then we suppose you'll want to check up on the progress of Knights Contract, the upcoming offering from Namco Bandai. We took a look at the title at this year's Gamescom and came back to offer you our impressions thusfar...
What We Know
Announced in May, there were very few details surrounding Knights Contract. The 2011 action game sees the hero, Heinrich, protecting a witch named Gretchen from gruesome enemies. After having seen the game in action at Gamescom, some more gameplay and story details have now been revealed.
What We're Seeing Now
My biggest problem with Knights Contract currently lies with the name. Call me a stickler for grammar if you like, but it feels that if the title of a game is so badly localized, that can't bode well for the game itself, right? What a difference an apostrophe makes!
Knights Contract is aiming for a Spring 2011 release, which is also troubling considering how much of the game we've seen. What was demonstrated at Gamescom looked passable at best. The cutscenes were a mess of untextured placeholder objects, but obviously that will all be finished (and hopefully polished) before release. The developers were admittedly pressed for time to create a demo build of the game, but it still felt odd seeing such rough, unfinished pieces, culminating in the kind of demonstration you wouldn't want to show off to media unless you're certain that the gameplay can stand up on its own.
Unfortunately, it doesn't. Immediately, the game reminded me of Tecmo Koei's Quantum Theory, thanks in part to the gruff main character and his agile female sidekick. Knights Contract looks to be a better game than Quantum Theory, but it still has that generic, Japanese action patina about it. At least the characters are more interesting than Quantum Theory's Gears Of War rejects with Gretchen appearing as the reincarnation of a witch executed by Heinrich himself. To punish Heinrich, Gretchen curses him with immortality and Heinrich is tasked with protecting her from the encroaching evil in hopes of her lifting the curse. The overall style is very European-gothic in terms of setting, seemingly influenced by the Germanic Faust legends.
The gameplay looks quite similar to Darksiders. Heinrich's attacks carry a lot of weight and he wields a large bladed weapon. There's some variety in the moves that he performs and hints of Bayonetta in Gretchen's moveset. There's no co-op in the game, but you have limited control over Gretchen's abilities to support your own attacks.
As an immortal, you obviously cannot die, so the health bar at the top of the screen belongs to Gretchen. Heinrich can, however, be incapacitated, giving the monsters free reign to start chomping on his witch friend without consequence. Gretchen can be picked up and carried to safety in order to make sure she doesn't come to harm. There are also a few RPG elements featured in the game, including leveling up for improvements to your combos and witchcraft abilities. The developers didn't go into specifics here, but it's clear that you character will be at least modestly customizable.
At times, Knights Contract looked like like a cross between Devil May Cry and Resident Evil 5. You may have noticed that a lot number of other games have been mentioned in this preview, a testament to how generic this title feels.
While we'll need to go deeper into the full game before judgement can be passed, Knights Contract felt lacking next to Namco Bandai's substantially better-looking games like Enslaved and Majin. Knights Contract feels like it isn't offering anything particularly exciting, and certainly nothing new, but perhaps something will change our view before its release next year.