NIS America has mostly been known for a solid line of strategy role-playing and turn-based games, but it's has stepped into action before with the hilariously difficult platformer series, Prinny. Further, it's long been known for a very specific art style. Both patterns break significantly with The Witch and the Hundred Knights, which has been in development for quite some time and was shown, in beta form, behind closed doors during E3 2013.
Surprisingly, almost no emphasis was placed on the story in this preview. The developers only provided the basic setup of the main character being a swamp witch who hires the knights as minions. Instead, we went straight to the gameplay, which oddly reminded me of the console version of Diablo III. The minion runs around 3-D environments with a free camera, beats up monsters and takes their stuff in classic real-time hack-and-loot tradition. While the fundamentals were superficially Diablo-like, there were several differences that reminded more of standards in Japanese action-RPGs, such as large chains in attacks and an emphasis on wide attacks that can hit multiple foes at once. The combos involve no fewer than five weapons, each of which the player equips separately, and each interacts differently in the combo. Players can also equip two defensive and two accessory items.
The game also has a traditional energy-metering mechanic, which limits the player's ability to run, use rapid dodges, and block attacks. If the gauge is drained, your character is stunned. The minion can also carry as many items as he can fit in his stomach, and that's represented in the tradition of a Diablo-style gear grid. The action-RPG norm of R1 targeting is also in place, and it shows the emotions of monsters, but they couldn't go into too much detail yet.
Perhaps most striking is that this is the first time NIS has done a full 3-D game. All characters are in 3-D models in gameplay, producing smooth animations that felt fundamentally different from the NIS norm. Cut scenes, however, will use the same 2-D, talking-still still format that's traditional to the developer, and the series also shares musicians and a musical style with the Disgaea series.
The Witch and the Hundred Knights is planned for next spring, and the hack-and-loot gameplay looks like it will be very familiar to Diablo fans in the best way — though with several tweaks and its own sense of humor.
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