The Knight Witch Review: Firing on All Cylinders

The Knight Witch is a whip-smart, beautifully hand-drawn bullet-hell Metroidvania.

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The Knight Witch
Photo: Team17

Super Mega Team’s The Knight Witch begins on an apocalyptic note, with the world on the brink of environmental collapse. The tyrannical Emperor Erebus labels Robyn, leader of the Knight Witches, an eco-terrorist fueled by “social engineering,” to which she notes that the greatest achievements of his people, the Daigadai, are ruining the planet. The battle between the emperor and Robyn causes the world to suffer, as it unleashes an ecological incident that causes the planet’s surface to become irradiated. The remnants of both sides flee into a conveniently discovered city, Dungeonidas, which hangs above the planet’s core.

A whip-smart, beautifully hand-drawn bullet-hell Metroidvania, The Knight Witch does an exceptional job of conveying the difficulties of saving the planet via the pointed and topical analogies that are brought to the fore throughout the campaign. After its opening stretch, the game picks up 14 years later, with players assuming the role of the least powerful would-be Knight Witch, Rayne, as she seeks to prevent a second apocalypse. In the process, she realizes that she may be wrong about who the heroes and villains of her world truly are.

The Knight Witch’s missions, while fairly straightforward, are never dull, with Rayne flying and shooting her way through enemy ambushes in the maze-like biomes of the Giga Tree, Mirror Lake, and Forge Fields to repair the complex machinery that sustains Dungeonidas. Each zone introduces a new concept, like dashing through walls, operating a submersible, or summoning an ally to complete electrical circuits, and provides Rayne with an increasing number of Spell Cards from which she can draw a magical deck of three secondary skills that let her shoot through barriers, reflect projectiles, or conjure up more powerful bullets.

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When The Knight Witch is firing on all cylinders, the screen is a flurry of brightly colored bullets and monstrous mechs, with Rayne at the heart of it all, sending out death spirals, dropping bombs, and calling down lightning. Tricky environmental puzzles break the fast-twitch tension between these sequences, allowing players to figure out how to maneuver homing mines to weakened walls, or to juggle a sequence of switches in order to bypass a warren of locked doors.

The Knight Witch is a combination deck-builder, action game, and puzzler, but its inventive hybrid of gameplay styles isn’t its biggest draw. Rather, it’s how it handles the aftermath of each mission. Rayne doesn’t level up, but she can grow the Link—or support—that she has with citizens by finding and freeing them from each region and completing their optional sidequests. The more she’s liked, the more powerful her knight and witch abilities become, which makes the dialogue choices in her post-mission pressers genuinely difficult. Telling people the terrifying truth leaves Rayne under-leveled, and that may be why talk about the environment so often takes a backseat to cheerier small talk, misrepresentations of data, and outright lies.

The game’s eeriest moment is attuned to the politics of denial and unresolved emotions. The final boss, a manifestation of the existential crisis that faces the planet, is extremely hard. It’s far easier to accept The Knight Witch’s offer for Rayne to just walk away from this battle and enjoy the next few years, hoping that maybe one of her allies can stop the world from ending. But that leads to an unsatisfying ending, with Rayne haunted by the question: “Was there more that I could have done?” This narrative beat is a bleak and brutal reminder that if we all keep blithely enjoying our lives instead of fighting the toughest of battles, we may come to regret it.

This game was reviewed with code provided by Team17.

Score: 
 Developer: Super Mega Team  Publisher: Team17  Platform: PC  Release Date: November 29, 2022  ESRB: E10+  ESRB Descriptions: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language  Buy: Game

Aaron Riccio

Aaron has been playing games since the late ’80s and writing about them since the early ’00s. He also obsessively writes about crossword clues at The Crossword Scholar.

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