We are crafting our review skills at Game Republic's dark fantasy, Knights Contract, to see if this witchy tale needs to be set free to gaming public, or if this action-adventure needs to be burned at the stake.

'Knights Contract' returns to a time of superstitious paranoia with a twisted tale of an immortal executioner and a resurrected witch. Hunting the antagonist, Dr. Faust, this unlikely duo teams up to save the land from the black death. Battling a list of rampaging supernatural forces, the story unfolds in a bloodbath of gruesome violence and focused aggression. Yes, this one is rated "Mature," and a little different then you're typical "action adventure." This shouldn't be too surprising if you are familiar with the developer, 'Game Republic,' who has tread fantasy grounds in the past with the recent 'Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom' and PS3 ethereal suspense 'Folklore.' Although, those are the good examples, bewared not all 'Game Republic' titles encountered positive fanfare, 'Genji: Days of the Blade,' anyone?

Starting with the presentation, 'Knights Contract' ranges from sharply produced clips to the expected, stereotypical character driven cut-scenes. This one is all over the map with solid level detail and creative character designs glazed in poor quality that is a muddy wash of bland. The audio doesn't help to liven things up, but it is consistent and delivers exactly how you would expect. 'Knights' could have used a little more time in the shop (don't let the screen shots fool you,) but once you come to terms with the production value, you will probably find the whole atmosphere and delivery oddly charming, although not everyone is going to “get it.” Remember 'Bullet Witch?' we're working on similar lines here.

Heads are Going to Role
Thankfully, the storytelling helps hold it all together. The narrative is told with conviction, even if the content doesn't always hold up. Like I mentioned above, 'Knights' is a mature title so heads are going to role. The use of witches, knights, and sorcery is an phenomenal theme for gaming and one that I would like to see more of. The three main characters, Heinrich, the everlasting knight is the brute, complete with the one-liner voice-overs. He meets the alchemist Minukelsus, who is the timed mysterious helper, who bridges the gap between Gretchen, the witch who sets up the unique dynamic playing the guardian. While you won't see too much of Minukelsus, the dynamic between Heinrich and Gretchen matures and plays on the strengths of their current situation and bleak past.


The Formula for Destruction
The idea of having an immortal mixed with a vulnerable character works well to keep the gameplay interesting. Heinrich, the protector cannot die by sickness or injury. However, he can take too much damage and become incapacitated, not good when you have to protect Gretchen, who uses her magic to soften up your enemies. The duality in combat is fun, and though it gets a little tiresome playing the babysitter, it's not overly irritating. All this is built around a beat em' up mechanic where you follow a linear path (for the most part) and kill spawning enemies. For a comparison any medieval sensed beat em' up will do, like 'Ninety-Nine Nights,' or a poor mans 'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.'

For a few more twists in this formula, Heinrich can pick up Gretchen to move her to safety or to accelerate the healing of wounds. Heinrich also has to stay close to Gretchen for her powers to work, not to mention keep her alive. In small battles, this formula works flawlessly, but bigger battles don't fare as well, and can become a big mess. Tilting towards the good, 'Knights' makes good use of combos, accented by Gretchen, 's magic that are fun to activate, not to mention, bloody and overly violent. Added all up 'Knights Contract' is far more interesting then your average 'Dynasty Warriors,' which should please fans of the genre.


Double Edged Sword named Frustration
The boss battles are the most fun. However, they are a double edged sword. On one side the bosses are epically huge, anarchistic in design and fun to take on, but 'Knights' makes use of quick-time-events (QTE) as part of the process to take them down. Of course we're not stranger to the QTE, and in the right game they can work (God of War,) but here they are tenaciously inhumane with only a split second to make you button press before the whole process starts over. This means you need to be on the ball if you don’t want to be cursing at your TV as you replay seconds of boss fights over-and-over. Frustrating, hell yes! The only atoning quality is that they are not random, so eventually you will learn the pattern. Words really can't describe the frustration here, funny how a few more seconds could have changed the complete dynamic of the game.

Adding onto this frustration are sections where you have to find your next objective without any direction. Aimlessly wandering and lurking through tunnels just hoping to trigger the next event is not fun, actually its even more frustrating then not hitting a button on time. For a game that is mainly linear, these little “confusing diversions” only drag the game down. Another mark towards its pacing, something that the game is already struggling with thanks to its load times and numerous interrupting cut-scenes.

The Extra's
Beyond this you will unlock new witchcraft updates that flows through three phases. These can be attached to your directional pad for use in battle. New equipment and weapons will also be found and be used for upgrading your characters. Things never gets too deep with customization, yet the little bit that has been added, helps. Secondary, you can find unlockables during your travels and try to best your level-to-level score on the international leaderboards. Rankings are based on time, combos, finishers, kills and retries. It's fairly simple to rank up the A's and an extra incentive for all those who love a little competition.

'Knights Contract' is a serviceable alternative to the common beat-em up. Pushed forward by its refreshing narrative and interesting combat mechanics, 'Knight Contract' can be spellbinding. However, you will a great deal of patience to make it through all the episodes. At times, 'Knights Contract' can be “controller-throwing” frustrating thanks it to unforgiving QTE and an utter lack of direction. While not entirely bad, 'Knights Contract' feels like another missed opportunity to capitalize on a good concept, something 'Game Republic' is sadly perfecting. A rental is probably the best way to go here or maybe we should just let this one burn.

  • interesting combat dynamics between knight and witch
  • if you like violent games, you'll enjoy this
  • some of the enemy designs are cool
  • engaging storyline
  • unforgiving quick-time-events are frustrating
  • aimless wandering without direction is a drag
  • muddy under-performing graphics
  • lots of loading, might want to instal this one
  • pacing is all over the map
Quote: "While not entirely bad, 'Knights Contract' feels like another missed opportunity to capitalize on a good concept, something 'Game Republic' is sadly perfecting."
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 03.24.11

Similar Games: Bullet Witch (7.0) | Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom (7.0) | Folklore (8.5)


Knights Contract

Namco Bandai

Game Republic

Action Adventure

US Release
February 2011


PS3, X360

Players 1
HD 720p-1080p
5.1 surround