Knights Contract Playtest: Bodyguard Of War

By Spencer . February 24, 2011 . 12:33am

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When we last left Heinrich, the executioner cursed with immortality, and Gretchen, a reincarnated witch Heinrich killed, they just defeated the skeleton-like witch Straeggele… for the first time. She comes back with a vengeance in the next episode where you have to run from a monstrous dog.

 

Leave Gretchen on her own and the beast will maul her. While Heinrich can survive, the game ends if Gretchen dies. If you want to complete the level you have to pick Gretchen up and literally carry her out of harms way. Holding Gretchen restores her life and Heinrich’s endurance faster than if they were alone. Like a scene from an 80s action movie, you have to run towards camera carrying the leading lady, darting through allies, and dodging the occasional wooden wheelbarrow in the street. You’re not safe yet, though. A boss fight begins and this is where Gretchen comes in handy.

 

Hold down the right trigger (presumably R2 on PS3) and you can command Gretchen to cast spells. Over the course of the game she learns how to create a bear trap, knock flying enemies to the ground by dropping a hammer from the sky, and make a phantom lance for Heinrich to lob. Gretchen is a bit like a fragile Bayonetta sans guns. Spells have cooldown times, but they recover so rapidly you can fire all of them at once. Each monstrosity Heinrich kills grants him souls. Tear them apart by using a spell as violent finisher and you’re rewarded with more souls. Similar to other brutal action games, spending souls unlocks more powerful spells for Gretchen. While summoning five ethereal spears sounds better than one, stronger spells have longer cooldown times. Since spells can act as connecters for combos low level magic remains useful throughout the game.

 

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Game Republic also designed spells so they make enemies more vulnerable by stealing shields or, like the fight with the demon dog, tie a boss down. Once chained to the ground, Heinrich can mix up light and heavy scythe swings to whittle away the monster’s long life bar at the bottom of the screen. Hit it enough and you’ll start a gory quick time event sequence where you need to press buttons and wiggle the analog stick in time to keep the beast at bay while Gretchen creates a guillotine out of thin air. Miss even one of these cues and you’re kicked back into the fight. The boss recovers a fair amount of life, which makes QTE event mistakes almost as punishing watching a monster impale Gretchen.

 

She’s your sentient weakness in Knights Contract. Early on it seemed like the computer tried to move her out of harms way, but in later levels Gretchen has a tendency to walk right up to demonic hordes in futile attempt to cast spells. Like an indentured bodyguard, Heinrich is forced to come to her rescue. Being immortal has its benefits (you can stand in lava for long periods of time!), but Heinrich is not invulnerable. Reminiscent of Bushido Blade, Heinrich crawls on the ground after absorbing a couple of hits. In this state he can only swing his scythe like a hammer or recover if a player repeatedly presses the A button. Continue to take damage and Heinrich explodes in a bloody mess. The only thing you can do is mash the A button to come back to life. Meanwhile, all of the monsters close in on Gretchen and grab her.

 

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Aside from Gretchen, Heinrich’s other weakness… are ledges. Game Republic designed levels with flying banshees and elevated ground Heinrich can slip off of. If Heinrich could jump this wouldn’t be an issue, but he can’t. This means players have to climb up wherever Heinrich was before and in a maze-y cave level this was at times disorienting. Falling often separates Heinrich from Gretchen, which means she’s monster food.

 

While a twist on witch hunt story ties the episodes together, I think Namco Bandai haven’t mentioned Knights Contract is actually a brutal bodyguard score attack game. You’re given a grade, unlockable artwork, and most importantly a score at the end of a level. If your console is connected online it’s immediately uploaded to online leaderboards. Each difficulty and episode has its own tiers to climb. Knights Contract scores players based on their combo length, so spamming weak magic spells at living suits of armor is one way to inflate your score. Not getting Heinrich killed give you a big boost, as well. Actually, your score (if you care about that kind of thing) is probably the number one reason to try to avoid attacks. Dying is otherwise a small penalty and that’s not because Heinrich is immortal. Game Republic is forgiving with the number of checkpoints in Knights Contract. Now if only they were more forgiving during QTEs…


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  • malek86

    Uhm, much as I like Game Republic, these kind of defense games don’t exactly tickle my fancy.

  • Feynman

    Game developers of the world, please top trying to force CPU allies onto players. Escort missions are miserable, soul-sucking experiences that rarely offer even a modicum of entertainment. Entire games based on the concept? Not a good idea!

    (Okay, Ico was pretty good, but that game is very much the exception to the rule.)

    • badmoogle

      I think this is more co-op style than escort mission…There is a difference.

      • Feynman

        Co-op style with an AI partner *is* an escort mission, because partner AI is inevitably completely retarded. Heck, let’s quote the article itself:

        “She’s your sentient weakness in Knights Contract. Early on it seemed like the computer tried to move her out of harms way, but in later levels Gretchen has a tendency to walk right up to demonic hordes in futile attempt to cast spells. Like an indentured bodyguard, Heinrich is forced to come to her rescue.”

        That, my friends, is an escort mission.

        • badmoogle

          I think Game Republic’s intention is to make this game’s playstyle more like RE5 and less like RE4.I agree that whether they succeed or not is a different thing and it remains to be seen,but still technically the game is co-op.

          • Feynman

            For what it’s worth, I hated having a partner in RE5 too. I just don’t like AI co-op, because an AI partner can never be as skilled or intelligent as a human player, and in the end it always feels like I have to babysit them.

            That’s where my “escort mission” comment comes from. It’s *supposed* to be AI co-op, but the way partner AI behaves, the player will always have to babysit them. These games aren’t intended to play like escort missions, but that’s inevitably what they end up being.

          • badmoogle

            I don’t know,i always thought that watching your partner’s back (as he/she watches yours) is an important part of co-op gameplay and is a “rule” that i always accept upon buying a game of this kind.If the AI character was omnipotent and could destroy anything by herself then she wouldn’t have a purpose in the game imo.

            And personally i never had a problem with the AI in RE5…Actually now that i think of it i had more problems with dumb online players than the game’s AI.

    • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

      Just like what badmoogle says, it’s more co-op style than escort. Your partner is like another tool you can use in battle. You do have to protect her, but that’s not the bulk of the experience

  • http://twitter.com/gabriel_may_uk Gabriel May

    (cracks knuckles)…right lets see what we got here in the game developing kitchen…Ah lets take some God of War, combine that with Bayonetta…Chop some Dante’s Inferno, a dash of Ico and sprinkle some Devil May Cry. Now mix the crap out of them, shake for good measure, bake and there we go :D

    Even with the QTE being harsh and the not being able to jump syndrome, I’ms till excited for this game :D

  • landlock

    I have abit of a soft spot for Game Republic games had a goodtime playing Clash Of The Titans. I’ll be getting this for sure.

  • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

    So, I’m not entirely sure about your final thoughts, Spencer. Did you feel the good outweighed the bad to make this a game you recommend or was the partner AI a major game-breaker?

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      I don’t really recommend games though. Telling you how you should spend your money or not isn’t my thing. You and the readers here are smart enough to figure that out without me there whispering “buy” in their minds, you know?

      But, I am happy to answer questions so you are better informed! Regarding the AI, Gretchen may be gifted in magic, but she likes to run into enemies hahahaha. You have to get used to carrying her. It reminded me of the dreaded water bucket from Crystal Chronicles. When its time to fight you put her down, but all other times I just got used to holding her. That negates the partner AI problem most of the time.

  • amagidyne

    Loved Folklore; really, really hope this will turn out to be fun. This does sound somewhat infuriating, though.

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