Knights Contract fails. If you want to know why, then keep reading. While I could list the game’s vast array of problems in bullet point fashion, I’d rather not give you the impression that the game deserves a mini-dissertation. The fact is, people make bad games, and it’s not always personal faults that create problems in any given title. For Knights Contract however, I can’t help but wonder if someone at Namco Bandai had a great idea for a new game, but too many board-meeting style alterations changed that original concept into the tired and frustrating experience we've been lumbered with.
That great original idea I speak of is as follows. Imagine a time in history when witches performed magic and were executed in masses by a scared and angry public. Now fast forward a hundred years to a time when the deceased spell casters return to get their revenge on humanity. You play as Heinrich, a former executioner that was cursed with immortality by a witch. That witch, Gretchen, rises from the dead and now inhabits a goddess-like body. She joins up with Heinrich, who is now a hulking killer with a giant scythe, to put an end to all the witches who are ruthlessly massacring folk across the land.
Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the concept means nothing when the actual game is a heaping pile of frustration. The first and most noticeable flaw with Knights Contract (other than the grammatically incorrect title) is the fact it plays out like an enormous escort mission. Just about the entire game involves you playing Heinrich and leading Gretchen through the land. We’ve all played buddy games that worked; I think Enslaved had it down pretty well, for instance. Here though, and leaving aside the dreadful dialogue and the fact the pair shares no chemistry, the technical side of protecting Gretchen is one of the most irritating aspects of any game I’ve played in recent history.
Gretchen is a worthless companion through 90 percent of the game. She occasionally helps out by throwing up a spell or two, but for the most part she just stands there and takes a beating. I mentioned earlier that Heinrich is immortal and therefore invincible -- that is, until he receives too much of a pounding. When this happens players have to mash the X button to bring him back to life. While you are working hard to get Heinrich to stand up, however, Gretchen decides to run around, usually sprinting in circles directly front of marauding enemies.
To put it mildly, the AI in Knights Contract is terrible. This is really too bad because both characters have clear strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Gretchen has some awesome spells. Among these include spells and abilities that boost Heinrich’s attacks, some of which throw a bit of sexual connotation into the mix. Meanwhile, Heinrich’s giant scythe can grow even bigger when augmented with a certain ability, dealing out some real punishment to nearby enemies. Gretchen can also throw up a giant Venus flytrap to hold foes in place while Heinrich chops them down with his massive scythe. Cool, right?
The combat system is pulled directly from God of War (there are plenty of other similarities, but I give up believing Kratos is the only one who should be blessed with a fun and engaging combat experience), except you can’t jump, you move terribly slowly, and you don’t have much reach with your scythe. In terms of overall repertoire, Heinrich has the typical grab, weak and strong attacks, and finishing moves. Unfortunately, the problems with combat and AI are greatly exaggerated during boss battles. During these epic moments (and some of them are actually quite enjoyable), the camera moves into a fixed position and there are several random instant death features. Bosses have enormous layers in their health bar and once you figure out the pattern and wear them down, you’ll get a God of War-like quick time event. If you fail to land these calculated button presses and analog stick movements, the boss will regenerate a substantial amount of their health back.
The level designs are adequate but repetitive (just like the enemies). The actual design of the game is pretty decent, while monsters and bosses are also fairly aesthetically pleasing. Even the two protagonists are quite detailed. Still, I stopped caring about this game pretty quickly though, thanks in no small part to the deluge of loading screens and cinematic sequences it churns out in rapid succession. You will literally get through one load screen and small cinematic, get control of your character, and move a few steps before entering yet another load screen and cinematic. This slows the game down something terrible and has you mashing buttons out of frustration. It’s agonizing.
The camera frequently glitches, the graphics are decent at best, and the sound is passable. Really, there are just too many things wrong and frustrating with Knights Contract to warrant writing anything else about it. Don’t buy this game unless for whatever reason you desire to get your hands on a generic button masher. There are so many better games available on the PlayStation 3 that spending any amount of money on failures like this is simply inexcusable.
-The Final Word-
Knights Contract is essentially one, giant escort mission plagued by a myriad of gripes including horrendous AI. and repetitive combat. Despite its interesting concept, there is not enough on offer to salvage the game from the sheer magnitude of problems encountered throughout.