The original The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 was a hidden gem of sorts. Yes, it had its issues, but overall it was one enjoyable romp. With the sequel The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 upon us, does it have the same magic as the original or is it hexed to fall into obscurity?
The story follows a brand-new cast of characters and hooks players from the get-go. In the world of Kevala witches are evil beings of tremendous power, who everyone fears. The story opens with the kind yet naïve Amalie in search of her missing sister Milm. Her younger sister returns, but to everyone’s shock she is marked by the third eye, an indicator that she is infected by the deadly witch disease AKA the hexensyndrome. A year passes and Milm undergoes a surgery. However, the surgery is a failure and her third eye opens awakening the which Chelka in her body.
You play as the Hundred Knight, Milm’s animated doll, and you are tasked to keep the witch Chelka who is inhabiting Milm’s body from going haywire, while assisting Amalie in search for the cure.
While like in the original it doesn’t shy away from touchy topics, the main focus is on comedy. This is a Nippon Ichi Software game through and through. Any story that has a drag queen raven butler, a loli who wields a coffin hammer and magical surgeons with holy water infused scalpels is one worth following.
The gameplay is a whole different beast. This is a top-down hack-and-slash, with lots and lots of loot. Smashing the through the shell of giant thunder snails or quickly cutting the hopping demon pumpkins feels as rewarding as it sounds.
There are five types of weapons; Swords, Hammers, Staffs, Spears, and Lances, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Enemies might be particularly weak to a specific type of attack, so you have to vary up your weapons if you want to stand a chance.
Amongst the more interesting systems is the way that the game lets you equip up to five weapons, each corresponding to one attack in the combo. Meaning you can start off with a sword slash, fire off a magic orb, follow up with a lance trust and end with a powerful hammer strike.
When you are not dealing damage, you will be dodging out of the way of powerful attacks. Timing the dodge at just the right moment activates the Mystical Dodge. This slows everything down for a few seconds, giving you an edge during the more hectic battles.
Like before, whenever you pick up a non-healable item you stuff it in your stomach where it will remain until you return to the Durga Castle which serves as your home base. But now, you no longer need to painstakingly decide when to head back since you can now consume anything in your stomach, freeing up space for more powerful items.
You won’t be paying attention to just your HP, but to your GigaCalories as well. This is a kind of hunger meter, which is consumed by running, dodging and even standing still. When these drop to 0, The Hundred Knight’s powers will be greatly reduced, and he will lose his passive healing ability, forcing you to grab a snack to recover. However, this system isn’t as punishing as it was before. Completing a full combo lets you execute the so-called Depletura move which lets you restore some of your GigaCalories and AP. Unlike the consume ability from its predecessor, you no longer fill your stomach with garbage by doing it, so you will rarely run out of GigaCalories except during the lengthy boss battles.
As the game progresses you will unlock different Facets which give you unique abilities and stats. You can choose up to three which you can easily swap between with the L2 and R2 buttons, each letting you carry a different assortment of weapons, giving you a lot of much-needed flexibility in battles. Your initial Wonder Knight facet allows for swift sword and lance strikes. While later on, you will unlock ones which increase your defense, or even magic power.
You have the ability to open your third eye which restores your AP gauge and gives you increased stats. It’s unfortunate that this technique is placed on the triangle button making it a bit too easy to accidentally push when you least need it.
With all that said The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 feels more like one step forward and two steps back. Evidently, a lot of systems that were carefully crafted for the original have just been reused here with little consideration of the way they interact together.
The beautifully interconnected world from the original, which had you exploring new areas and backtracking to find hidden paths once you gain a new ability, has been completely stripped down. The whole experience feels kind of cheap. Even though there are numerous branching paths they are all blocked off by a purple fog until the game decides that it is time to go to that location.
The handcrafted levels, with meticulous enemy placement, also made a turn for the worse. Enemies are now found in groups of five and sometimes tens, making The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 feel more like a Musou clone than the Diablo-inspired hack-and-slash that was the original. Because of this, battles can get painfully repetitive really fast. You can easily run past almost every enemy. However, battling the health sponge bosses can be a tedious affair so you will need to make sure to grind hard before heading out.
Enemy levels are directly linked to your own, so even if you return to an already cleared section you will be now greeted with leveled up enemies. This kind of downplays the feeling of accomplishment you get when you slowly level up and return to earlier areas giving you the feeling of progress.
Exploring the map isn’t as enjoyable as it was since the areas are now procedurally generated; it’s not uncommon to encounter the same locations over and over again in just a single area. The beautiful fairytale inspired stages with their breathtaking lighting start to wear thin after seeing the same randomly placed segments one after another. Areas become hard to tell apart without any noteworthy landmarks, so you will be relying on the map. Talking about the map, even the fog of war which made the whole world feel mysterious and encouraged exploration has also been cut. Even the previously half-baked town raiding mechanic is nowhere to be seen.
Pillars, which previously let you use level specific grade points to customize The Hundred Knight from one area to the next, are now little more than glorified save and quick travel points.
The more I played The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 the more it was apparent how meticulously crafted its predecessor was. You can still find a few things that made the original so memorable, such as the innovative combat system, charming visuals, and bonkers storyline. But these aside, the rest feels like a stripped-down version. The once detailed levels with well-placed enemies are now just procedurally generated areas, the tense yet intriguing hunger system is now little more than an afterthought. The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 is little more than a shell of its former self which is a shame since the series showed so much potential.