If the point of a video game is to have fun, then Knights Contract can barely be described as such. It's an exhausting exercise in frustration and a tremendous waste of an excellent story. Former executioner Heinrich, cursed with immortality, just wants to die. He's teamed with the resurrected Gretchen, the witch that cursed him just before Heinrich killed her. Together, they must slice and spell-cast through a murderer's row of witches also back from the grave in order to stop the puppet-master Faust.
The idea is not without merit. The brutish Heinrich is invincible, but he cannot leave Gretchen's side because she can be killed. He dishes out death with his massive scythe, but sometimes the situation calls for magic, which is Gretchen's specialty. Gretchen has a host of cool spells, including an angry bramble that snares multiple enemies and a magical bear trap that holds monsters in place. She can also juice Heinrich's skills, such as giving him an electrical lance that shocks an entire room's worth of enemies or ghosts of his scythe that temporarily triple his melee power.
Using their strengths in tandem could have been an enjoyable experience, as both are thoughtful characters. But because you only control Heinrich, you are left at the mercy of Gretchen's AI. And her AI is pathetic. She stands in front of incoming attacks. She rushes headlong into combat with only a sliver of health. You can carry her to what seems like safety, but the moment you set her down, she runs right back into the thick of it seemingly (or cruelly on purpose) forgetful that she doesn't share Heinrich's immortality.
Bosses look cool, but the QTEs are just awful.
But the thing that will leave you screaming at your television is when Heinrich is ripped limb from limb. He doesn't die, but he's totally immobile while you pound on a button to pull his meat and bones back together. It's during these awful moments (who likes button-mashing anyway?) that Gretchen particularly loves to throw caution to the wind and run in circles right in front of an enemy, begging to be killed. Enemies oblige, time after time, leaving you to restart entire scenes.
Every terrible design decision and technical bugaboo is magnified when you reach one of Knights Contract's several boss battles. Gretchen's former allies, the witches, take on monstrous forms. The camera then becomes locked on to these creatures to your detriment; somebody decided they must always take center stage, but because they are so large, your heroes are often forced to the sidelines and even completely off-screen. In the periphery, you suffer hits you cannot avoid (Gretchen's lobotomized AI is of no help, as you can imagine), or worse, falls you cannot recover from that result instant death. And Knights Contract loves to dole out an insta-kill when you are very close to defeating a boss.
However, that's the least of your woes in a Knights Contract boss battle. Every boss battle follows the exact same formula. After chiseling away at several life bars, the battle culminates in a quick time event (QTE). Each is lengthy and requires no fewer than four button and stick inputs. If you miss the narrow window of any input, the QTE ends and you're thrown back into the fight. However, the boss has recovered at least a third of its health. You enjoy no such benefit. Your magic has not recharged at all either. This can lead to a deadly cycle as the boss manages to recover its strength again and again while yours dwindles to nothing. Fortunately, the QTE inputs don't change, so after three or four tries, you'll have the patterns down. But your appreciation of a cool boss design or spectacular magic attack has long worn off by that point.
In its penultimate chapter, Knights Contract does the worst thing imaginable: it splits the heroes so that you may endure the weaknesses of each without any benefits of their mutual powers. Gretchen, without her knight, must slog through grueling boxed-in encounters that only highlight her slowness and sad melee skills. In the absence of Gretchen, Heinrich must work with a new tag-along that is surprisingly capable of defeating enemies, only serving to underline that fact that you are primarily in control of a clumsy hero. This chapter goes on entirely too long, adding false longevity through mindless challenges and recycled architecture. It almost acts as a dare to finish the game rather than build excitement for the coming climax.
There is much else I want to warn you about with Knights Contract, such as poor level design that makes it easy to get lost, camera freak-outs when you employ some of Gretchen's big spells in smaller areas, excessive loading screens (some happen only seconds apart, triggered by walking only six or seven steps), and numbing inanity of its God of War-esque button-mashing. Hopefully, though, what I've described above should be enough to prevent you from making the mistake of spending time and money on Knights Contract.
Knights Contract is a miserable game that I hope you do not have the misfortune to play. It completely blows up a cool premise with maddeningly stupid AI (a death sentence in a game that’s a glorified escort mission), a terrible camera that enables its unfair (and un-fun) instant kills, and a boss battle formula that should have never made past the first month of development. If you manage to run the gauntlet and make it to the end of Knights Contract, you will have undoubtedly let loose a string of paint-peeling curse words not only at the screen, but also at your wallet, which is now sixty bucks lighter with nothing remotely fun to show for it.