The Knight Witch Tries to Bullet Hell Its Way to Success

Decks and Dodging

The Knight Witch Tries to Bullet Hell Its Way to Success
Source: Steam.

The Knight Witch is the latest game from Super Mega Team, whose previous game Rise & Shine was a beautiful experience built on some serious themes. Now, they're taking things further with a shoot-em-up Metroidvania that may not hit every target but is still a great game for fans looking for a challenge.

The Price of Fame

Ten years prior to the events of the game, there was a civil war that left the surface of the planet permanently destroyed. the war was won by the knight witches: beings who gain their power by forming emotional links with the people they're defending. Players step into the boots of Rayne, a knight witch trainee who did not participate in the great war. But when an uprising happens during the anniversary of the final battle, it's up to her to figure out what's going on and learn some very painful history about the people she's fighting for and against.

Just as they did with Rise & Shine, Super Mega Team builds around some deeper themes in the game. In this one, it's the potential addiction and toxicity of fame. With the knight witch powers coming directly from the people trusting her, Rayne, and by extension, the player, will have to decide how to respond at certain points -- do you tell a lie to keep people happy, or tell a depressing or dark truth? The price of fame and power weighs heavily on the various main characters that you run across. As you rescue people and give interviews, your "link level" will grow. At every level up, you can decide to upgrade either your shooting or magic powers (more on that in a second).

The story goes to a lot of different places than you might expect from screenshots. Source: Author.

While the world is gorgeous to look at, you probably won't be able to focus on it as much as you might like owing to the dozens of bullets coming your way.

Spell-em-Up

While The Knight Witch is described as a Metroidvania with shmup aspects, I would say that description should be reversed. As the game goes on, the number of bullets thrown at you at one time escalates to the level of screen-filling bullet hell. Each area does reward you with a new power or ability, but the only one that really matters is getting an I-frame dash to have any chance of surviving.

As you explore, you'll be able to find and buy spell cards that can be equipped into a mini deck. These cards can do everything from giving you a new weapon for a limited time to releasing a bullet-killing spell blast, and much more. You are limited based on your mana supply, but upgrades will allow you to build mana more quickly from shooting enemies. Even though the spells don't seem as useful initially, you will eventually get some potent cards that can make even the hardest encounters trivial if you play your cards right (pun intended).

Everything feels balanced in the beginning, but as the game goes on, and especially in the final quarter, the mix of Metroidvania, bullet hell, and deck building starts to show some issues.

Metroidvania Multitasking

The problem with The Knight Witch's gameplay is that its three main systems don't hold up as well as they should when the difficulty escalates. With the Metroidvania side, dashing notwithstanding, you're just not given a lot of new upgrades that change how you can approach the various combat encounters. In one section, you unlock a heavy sword that can destroy enemy bullets, but its use is too slow in a game that is about constantly moving and shooting, and thus is relegated to simple puzzle solving. The game is also in desperate need of more fast travel points when you're trying to clean up each area at the end. Each one of the game's major areas only has one travel point, which hurts pacing late in the stage.

The bullet hell escalates quite a bit into the final quarter. Source: Author.

The bullet-hell gameplay takes center stage and is more important than the other two systems. The bullet patterns and the sheer number of projectiles to dodge escalates as the game goes on. The final boss is just horrible to fight against given the limited range of your shots and the number of projectiles it can spawn at once, and the only way you will have a slim chance of winning is to completely max out your links.

The deck design is also limited once you realize just how useless a lot of the cards are. When you're busy dodging for dear life, you're not going to be able to stop and properly plan where to shoot a spell off. Instead, cards that give you a new gun, restore mana or destroy enemy bullets are the most important. Because you can't pre-lock cards to slots, it can lead to a situation where you're trying to hit the right spell card key or button, but you can't take your eyes off the bullets to actually see what card you're hitting.

Overall, The Knight Witch is a good game with a beautiful aesthetic. It's not going to wow you if you're a hardcore fan of Metroidvanias, deck builders, or shmups, but the combination does show some promise. I would like to see this idea iterated upon, with the goal of finding a better link between all three systems.

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This game was reviewed with a press key supplied by the developer

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