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Old 06-18-2011, 01:33 PM   #1
Eric Bowman
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Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

***6/23: Fourth Draft. Addressed Sparky's additional criticisms.

**6/22: Third Draft. Addressed Sparky's criticisms.

*6/19: Second Draft. Addressed feedback.

Knights Contract Second Opinion

This Room Looks Familiar...


HIGH: Ripping through Rapunzel with Maar's Lance.

LOW: Finding out I lose auto-save data when I turn off my console.

WTF: Climbing a ladder and climbing vines is the same animation.


A rebellious witch joins forces with an immortal executioner to stop her sisters from taking revenge on humanity for their own executions centuries ago... a unique idea, for sure. In an industry dominated by sequels, new ideas always excite me, and I do my best to give them fair attention. It's a huge risk to make a game entirely about escorting someone, and this game isn't shy of doing so. Knights Contract deserves a great deal of credit for finding a way to make itself stand out from the crowd.

Despite its creativity, Knights Contract is an absolute mess. With the game being entirely an escort mission, it seems the most important aspect to focus on, even before the combat, would be the artificial intelligence of the person being escorted. While Trent's review indicates that he didn't have much of an issue with how Gretchen handled herself, I found the AI to be absolutely horrendous, bordering on non-existent. The witch, Gretchen, has no issue standing still in lava as her health drains to nothing, which is an especially big problem considering the fact that this game has a lava obsession. It'd be one thing if the executioner (Heinrich) could tell her to hide when things got rough like in Resident Evil 4, but instead I had to endure watching this brain-dead girl burn to death, get choked to death, or fall to her death from beginning to end.

Picking up Gretchen is a good way to keep her out of trouble, but this is undermined by the player losing the ability to dodge roll, attack, or use witchcraft. It's a shame Gretchen couldn't just piggy back on Heinrich instead, leaving his arms free for some slicing and dicing. Instead, I just found myself running in circles with her, hoping I didn't get knocked off a cliff.

The immortality mechanic had great potential, but it doesn't change the game much. Heinrich still needs to avoid incoming attacks like the plague, or else he'll be forced to lie on the ground for ten long seconds while Gretchen is forced to fend for herself. If anything, it improves combat, since it allows player to take a very aggressive approach. It's just a shame the mechanic is also the reason there's a witch that needs escorting in the first place.

To give the game some credit, the witchcraft the player can use during combat can be very enjoyable to use. They can end battles quickly, and have a balanced amount of incremental effectiveness as they get leveled up. The final version of Maar's Lance is a powerful electric lance that bounces between enemies and can finish off bosses in no time. If the actual hacking and slashing of combat was more varied and enjoyable, it might have actually made the combat great. Unfortunately, since the stale and shallow hacking and slashing is so prominent in Knights Contract, the cool witchcraft spells don't get to shine as much as they deserve to.

One of the things that drew me to Knights Contract in the first place was the clear focus on telling a story about two people, and only two people, going on a journey together. With a story that doesn't have to focus on pointless side characters, building a strong connection between Heinrich and Gretchen seems like it would've been a natural progression of the story, but apparently the writers disagreed. Whenever there was a scene where something emotional happened to one of the characters, I really thought we'd see a bond form between them. Instead, these scenes almost always immediately ended with Gretchen saying something along the lines of “There's no time to waste. We need to keep moving.” Between Gretchen's frigid personality and Heinrich's Master Chief-esque blankness, I have no idea why the writers thought anyone would care about them.

If story and combat were the only places to find issues in Knights Contract, it could have gotten away with it due to the enjoyable witchcraft and unique concept. That's not the case, however, as the game is also poisoned with levels that are pretty much impossible to not get lost in. They love to loop back to earlier parts of the area for no reason other than to confuse the player. Unlike Trent, I felt that the environments looked rather bland, with repetitive rock and building formations that didn't grab my attention in the slightest. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Uncharted 2, but the environments just felt barren to me, and it didn't help that they stayed the same for long stretches of time. There's little in the way of puzzles or platforming, you simply run from one room to the next. The only area that had a cool look was Rapunzel's castle, simply because it was covered in massive strands of hair.

There's a point about halfway through the game that Heinrich utters the line “You've got a lot of nerve... but you've got a lot of heart.” I like this line because to a degree, it expresses how I feel about this game. For the developers to have the nerve to release a game with these completely stupid design decisions is pretty bewildering to me. Even so, the boldness of the concept combined with the creative and overall great ending made me somewhat warm to the game as an actual attempt at doing something new, rather than a soulless cash-in that I've come to expect from modern gaming.

There's a laundry list of additional problems that could be talked about, but Trent summed the rest of them up well in his review, particularly the tedious boss fights. If the game had been half as long, had no QTEs, let the player use fully-upgraded witchcraft from the start, given Gretchen a braincell or two, and gotten actual writers to handle key story moments, it could have been so much more. As it stands, Knights Contract isn't worth anyone's time.


3.5 out of 10


Disclosures: This game was rented via GameFly for the Xbox 360. Approximately 27 hours were put into the single player, and it was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: This game is rated M for Mature by the ESRB for blood, gore, intense violence, language and nudity. It's far from being the most violent game I've played, but this is undoubtedly a game aimed at adults. In terms of sexual content, there's basically none other than the suggestive and revealing “Witch's Embrace” technique. There is no drug or alcohol use, and I don't recall any strong language.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Subtitles are available for both cutscenes and general speaking. I noticed a couple typos in the subtitles, but nothing serious. The lack of an audio indicator of the QTEs could make them more annoying, but I used a QTE guide because they were tough even with the audio indicator, so you might as well do the same from the start.
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Last edited by Eric Bowman; 06-24-2011 at 06:04 PM.
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Old 06-18-2011, 03:12 PM   #2
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Hi Decabo,

Before jumping in to point out that KC is a bad game, I feel that you need give more background and explain what the game is about. Otherwise people will be reading that second paragraph with not the slightest idea of the background story. Personally I would elaborate on the first sentence - taking revenge on humanity for what? How do the witch and the executioner team up? What genre of game is it? What does the gameplay consist of? etc.

I'd replace this sentence - "a unique idea, for sure. In an industry dominated by sequels, new ideas always excite me, and I do my best to give them fair attention." - with a precis of the game. Then carry on as normal with the rest.

"the AI is absolutely nonexistent" - you could say the AI is broken. There is also some redundancy there - absolutely nonexistent, the spells aren't incredibly unique, Boss battles feel incredibly sloppy - which I would remove.

I would maybe put the semi-positive paragraph which includes the references to Enslaved as the second paragraph here, leading on from an extended and re-written first paragraph in which you explain genre and plot. Good to get the positive stuff at the start - then you can tear it apart below.
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Old 06-18-2011, 06:35 PM   #3
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedro View Post
Hi Decabo,

Before jumping in to point out that KC is a bad game, I feel that you need give more background and explain what the game is about. Otherwise people will be reading that second paragraph with not the slightest idea of the background story. Personally I would elaborate on the first sentence - taking revenge on humanity for what? How do the witch and the executioner team up? What genre of game is it? What does the gameplay consist of? etc.

I'd replace this sentence - "a unique idea, for sure. In an industry dominated by sequels, new ideas always excite me, and I do my best to give them fair attention." - with a precis of the game. Then carry on as normal with the rest.

"the AI is absolutely nonexistent" - you could say the AI is broken. There is also some redundancy there - absolutely nonexistent, the spells aren't incredibly unique, Boss battles feel incredibly sloppy - which I would remove.

I would maybe put the semi-positive paragraph which includes the references to Enslaved as the second paragraph here, leading on from an extended and re-written first paragraph in which you explain genre and plot. Good to get the positive stuff at the start - then you can tear it apart below.
Hi Pedro, thanks for the comment!

I agree with some of your points, and disagree with some others. As suggested, I expanded on the introductory paragraph to better explain why the witches want revenge, and what genre this game is. I also mixed up some of the adverbs, so I wasn't using "incredibly" multiple times.

I somewhat disagree about putting the positive paragraph right after the introduction, simply because at the end of my intro I establish that Knights Contract is "an absolute mess", it would seem weird to go from that to a more positive paragraph, so I have one paragraph elaborating on why it's a mess, and THEN I go into a more positive side of it. I guess it's just a question of preference.

I'd rather not replace the sentence about me being excited for new ideas in games because that's central to why I played the game in the first place, and its risk-taking is one of the few things I like about it. Going too deep into the shallow story of this game doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

I have to admit, I'm a little confused about what you mean when you ask "what does the gameplay consist of?" I feel I explain the escort mission style, the hack n' slash, the witchcraft, the level design, and the boss battles all to the extent that they deserved to be talked about. If you could expand on that question I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks for the feedback, Pedro. You've been a BIG help to my review writing!
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:40 AM   #4
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Hi Decabo,

Cheers, obviously any suggestions I make are from my own subjective view so it's up to you whether to incorporate them or not!

What I meant about your introduction was that I'm used to getting the game overview\background story - for example "Knight's Contract is an action-adventure in which you escort a companion through several levels of.." - in the first paragraph, so that I can make a judgement about whether I should read on based on my taste in games.

So while your conceit is nice, sometimes it has to be subservient to the utility of the review. I found that by the second or third paragraph, I knew it was a new IP, and that it was a mess, but didn't know what it was, or whether I should be interested. What I'm trying to say is that you've built the start of the review around the idea that you'll praise the original idea, and then continue by saying how badly it's been implemented. My own choice would be to go the more traditional route and either dump that conceit, or write it in a different way further down the article. It would require reworking the first half of the review though, so feel free to ignore!

Regarding changing the order of the paragraphs, that's fine. I thought it would be better to have a general introduction, actually get rid of the sentence "I wanted to get that out right at the beginning, because the rest of this review will be me explaining why this game is an absolute mess" and then move that paragraph up. Basically leave the 'bad game' stuff for later. But again that may be a matter of personal taste.

When I talk about gameplay, I'm only talking about getting a basic sense of the game and how you progress through the world. Is it a platformer, a series of linked open levels, or what. I guess I would have liked that info encapsulated in a couple of sentences at the start rather than distributed throughout the review.

Nice reviews so far. It's very apparent that you have the skill to succeed at this, so best of luck!

Last edited by Pedro; 06-19-2011 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 06-19-2011, 09:57 AM   #5
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Quote:
Originally Posted by Decabo View Post
I wanted to get that out right at the beginning, because the rest of this review will be me explaining why this game is an absolute mess.
Get rid of this sentence, maybe reword it. You don't need to tell the reader that you are getting it out of the way, there are other ways to phrase it and not lose your meaning. Maybe something along the lines of, "Unfortunately, that's about all the game has going for it." I would probably expand a little, but that's the basic gist.
Quote:
Knight's Contract is a bad game, but what makes it stand out to me is how truly blatant the flaws are.
I would get rid of this sentence as well. Once again, let your points and paragraphs back up what you are saying in this sentence, which I think you do in the paragraph that follows the above sentence.

One last item, I find this review too long (even if it fits in GameCritics.com's word limit). In part this is because of the fact that you dislike the game. No problems if a game is not a positive experience, but I would focus on two, three negatives max. Maybe throw in one positive, then close it off. As of right now, it just reads too long for my tastes.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:36 AM   #6
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

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Originally Posted by frogofdeath View Post
Get rid of this sentence, maybe reword it. You don't need to tell the reader that you are getting it out of the way, there are other ways to phrase it and not lose your meaning. Maybe something along the lines of, "Unfortunately, that's about all the game has going for it." I would probably expand a little, but that's the basic gist.

I would get rid of this sentence as well. Once again, let your points and paragraphs back up what you are saying in this sentence, which I think you do in the paragraph that follows the above sentence.

One last item, I find this review too long (even if it fits in GameCritics.com's word limit). In part this is because of the fact that you dislike the game. No problems if a game is not a positive experience, but I would focus on two, three negatives max. Maybe throw in one positive, then close it off. As of right now, it just reads too long for my tastes.
Hey frog, thanks for the feedback!

I moved the "mess" line to the second paragraph, leaving the introduction with only the praise for the game's uniqueness. I still want to use the "mess" line, though, as there is no better word to explain what Knights Contract is. It is a complete mess of a game.

I agree with you on the second line you quoted, it seems kind of unnecessary. I think the new version of that paragraph has a much better flow to it.

I shortened the review so that it's right around 1,000 words. That's much shorter than my L.A. Noire review, which was around 1,200 words.

I appreciate the comment!
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:43 AM   #7
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Hey Pedro, I appreciate the kind and respectful advice. I reviewed your and frogofdeath's feedback, and I think I see what you mean about the "mess" line. I moved it to the second paragraph, leaving the introduction with praise for the game's unique idea. I think this creates a less abrupt juxtaposition between praising and bashing.

As for progressing through the world, I'll add a sentence or two to the level design paragraph about that. Good call!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedro View Post


Nice reviews so far. It's very apparent that you have the skill to succeed at this, so best of luck!
That means a lot Pedro, thanks
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Old 06-19-2011, 03:28 PM   #8
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Ive never heard of this game, but I like the review.
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Old 06-22-2011, 10:13 PM   #9
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

This comes across as a pretty personal review, by which I mean that you show up a lot in it. I think it could do with a little less of the signposting ("...I've established...") and a little stronger orientation towards the game.

For the most part, you do a good job of laying out the core concepts of the design and showing how each one fails, but you don't really go into any depth about the immortality mechanic. Which character is immortal? Does that impact the gameplay positively or negatively?

In terms of this site, this would be a "second opinion" review. The editors generally prefer for these to engage in at least some dialogue with the initial review (here's Trent's). Trent seems to have felt that the witch wasn't too much trouble, but he hated the QTEs. So, perhaps you should focus on the shortcomings of the co-op (disputing his take) and leave off commenting on the boss fights, since he covered that in much the same way you did. You both seem to think that the spells are overpowered, but he appreciated the aesthetic while you did not; that's worth exploring some.
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Old 06-22-2011, 11:23 PM   #10
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Quote:
Originally Posted by SparkyClarkson View Post
This comes across as a pretty personal review, by which I mean that you show up a lot in it. I think it could do with a little less of the signposting ("...I've established...") and a little stronger orientation towards the game.

For the most part, you do a good job of laying out the core concepts of the design and showing how each one fails, but you don't really go into any depth about the immortality mechanic. Which character is immortal? Does that impact the gameplay positively or negatively?

In terms of this site, this would be a "second opinion" review. The editors generally prefer for these to engage in at least some dialogue with the initial review (here's Trent's). Trent seems to have felt that the witch wasn't too much trouble, but he hated the QTEs. So, perhaps you should focus on the shortcomings of the co-op (disputing his take) and leave off commenting on the boss fights, since he covered that in much the same way you did. You both seem to think that the spells are overpowered, but he appreciated the aesthetic while you did not; that's worth exploring some.
Thanks for the feedback, Sparky. I've made the following adjustments:
  • I completely removed the paragraph about the boss battles, and instead added a sentence to the last paragraph referencing Trent's review.
  • I relate my review to Trent's three times, in the sections about Gretchen's AI, the environments, and the bosses.
  • To address your question about how the immortality affects the gameplay, I added a small paragraph discussing just that.
  • I changed the OP title to "Knights Contract Second Opinion." I don't think I can change the actual thread title, unless there's something I'm missing.
  • I expanded on my issues with the environments, and why they feel so bleak to me.
  • I removed a lot of the signposting that you mention, primarily both of the "I've established" lines.

Thanks for the advice, please let me know if you have anything to add.
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Old 06-23-2011, 12:06 AM   #11
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

I like the changes; this is getting pretty close, imo.

One thing you should clarify: Trent indicated that you could pick Gretchen up and carry her around without penalty. Was this not true for you, or was it something that wasn't clearly explained in the game? Also, when she's being carried, can Gretchen cast spells? I'm still not clear on what the set of trade-offs around this mechanic is, and it seems like it's important for understanding how the game plays.

The piece might be a bit long. Think about what you can trim to make it a bit leaner without discarding the important points about the game.

Nit note: you didn't spell Rapunzel correctly in the High.
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:30 AM   #12
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Quote:
Originally Posted by SparkyClarkson View Post
I like the changes; this is getting pretty close, imo.

One thing you should clarify: Trent indicated that you could pick Gretchen up and carry her around without penalty. Was this not true for you, or was it something that wasn't clearly explained in the game? Also, when she's being carried, can Gretchen cast spells? I'm still not clear on what the set of trade-offs around this mechanic is, and it seems like it's important for understanding how the game plays.

The piece might be a bit long. Think about what you can trim to make it a bit leaner without discarding the important points about the game.

Nit note: you didn't spell Rapunzel correctly in the High.
Thanks Sparky, I've made the following changes:
  • I've added a paragraph directly after the one about the broken AI concerning the act of picking up Gretchen, and how it affects the game.
  • I've reduced the word count from 1177 words to 990 words.
  • I corrected the misspelling of Rapunzel that you mentioned.

I appreciate the feedback!
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Old 06-23-2011, 06:56 PM   #13
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Looks good, Decabo. I give it a green light.
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Old 06-24-2011, 12:34 AM   #14
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

I likey. Green light. I'll get this off into the queue.
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Old 06-24-2011, 06:04 PM   #15
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Knights Contract

Thanks, guys.
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