Knights in the Nightmare

Knights in the Nightmare is a Gothic mystery of an RPG, with the game's plot focused round a Valkyrie princess named Maria

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Atlus Knights in the Nightmare
  • Atlus Knights in the Nightmare
  • Atlus Knights in the Nightmare
  • Atlus Knights in the Nightmare

Pros

  • Gorgeous artwork, excellent graphics, unique battle system

Cons

  • Ridiculously steep learning curve is sure to crush mere mortals

Bottom Line

Knights in the Nightmare is quite solid: the artwork is downright gorgeous, the music's pleasantly chilling and even the somewhat convoluted story has solid legs to stand on. Sadly, the gameplay suffers from one of the most ridiculous and unrelenting learning curves I've ever seen in any modern tactical role-playing title.

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Sigh. Knights in the Nightmare is one difficult game to review. Honestly, I'm a huge fan of Altus's RPG brand games, but this tactical title almost lost me from the very start, which didn't help as I struggled through hours of complicated missions and intimidating tutorials. Everything about KITN is very solid, though: the artwork is downright gorgeous, the music's pleasantly chilling and even the somewhat convoluted story has solid legs to stand on. Sadly, the gameplay suffers from one of the most ridiculous and unrelenting learning curves I've ever seen in any modern tactical role-playing title.

Have you ever been the kind of person who learns how to swim by flinging yourself into open water? That's kind of what Knights in the Nightmare is like. Imagine jumping into a deep, colourful ocean, only to discover that you've hit the water with two gigantic boulders chained to your ankles. And unless you're one heck of a swimmer, you're probably going to drown. That's the game's combat system in a nutshell.

Dementedly Deep

Knights in the Nightmare is a Gothic mystery of an RPG, with the game's plot focused round a Valkyrie princess named Maria who resurrects a deceased line of Aventeim knights to defeat various monsters haunting the kingdom. At least, I think that's what the story's about. It's kind of complicated, and not always in the good sense, with multiple backstories for several characters revealed as you progress through the 10 to 20-hour storyline. Essentially, you're controlling the aforementioned groups of deceased knights (and there's a lot of them), each of whom have unique item-related abilities and attacks to use in battle. Getting though the game's tutorial will take the better part of an hour, and unlike most tactical RPGs, this game won't make any attempt to "teach as you play," which can easily deter all but the most patient players.

Knights in the Nightmare does get slightly easier to manage the more time you spend with it, though. The complicated combat system is a heavy mix of Yggrda Union, Ikaruga, and a little bit of chess, as you're tasked with controlling a spirit called "The Wisp," which will be your DS stylus-related tool for directing the attacks of your resurrected knights. Enemies on the battlefield can only attack the Wisp, so it's up to the player to dodge incoming attacks and magic while simultaneously conducting the knights' battle actions. What can make the game frustrating is that you're always trying to do five things at once: select battle items, target enemies, maintain a proper field zone, avoid damage and collect items. On the DS's touch screen, you'll need Yoga-level concentration and incredible focus to clear the several missions in the game, especially when the game starts to ramp up the difficulty. The amount of time you spend studying the game (outside of actually playing it) is directly proportional to how well you'll fare on the battlefield, so if you're not the kind of person who likes deep commitments, be cautious.

Despite my love-hate relationship with Knights in the Nightmare, I know that I'm going to be playing it again, and probably even a third time. There's plenty of incentive for replaying the game, since you can access hundreds of fallen knights, unlock content via the Game Boy Advance slot (sorry, DSi users) and replay the main mode with different main characters. But that's because I'm crazy about Altus games in general. Casual players and even tactical RPG fans may have a hard time getting used to Knights in the Nightmare, and I can't guarantee that the effort to learn the battle system will be worth it in the long run.

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