If there’s seven things I’ve learned, it’s that the mortal sins make for fun character archetypes. Not always as literal as the particular example soon to be delved, but even a glancing connection to the listed weaknesses of humanity is discernible. Is wrath entirely evil? Is greed perpetually consuming? Is lust destructive, or just really fun? It is these questions that intrigue and cause us all to ponder this veritable rainbow of corruption and how damning its light doth shine. Either that, or what dots must’ve connected to transform envy into a tsundere giant what swings a giant hammer.
To put all my cards on the table, as one does in poker or something, I am quite a fan of The Seven Deadly Sins. I also like the series. But enough terrible jokes, The Seven Deadly Sins is a property that appeals to my personal style, with plot points generally unravelling in-line with my own ideas. That is to say, incredibly over-the-top and stupid moments that are more often than less often than not actually smart moments in disguise. My go to example being the moment a main character was able to deduce that two seemingly innocent travellers were actually disguised enemies, utilising the ringing of a small bell to manipulate the minds of those around them. Though fairly obvious to the audience, any anime goer will know the extended lengths a series will go to draw out conflict, usually at the expense of intelligent characters ignoring the obvious. And though this moment has little to do with Knights of Britannia, I feel it is a fair set-up for my opinions before playing it and the excitement with which I took to a game focused on this series. It’ll help you sympathise when I reveal that said expectations weren’t really met.
Technically covering the events of the first season, including the aforementioned bell incident, Knights of Britannia holds little regard for storytelling. From the moment you boot up Adventure, the game blasts through every moment with such a blistering pace that knowledge of the series beforehand is almost a necessity. Yes, one could gather the bare bones tale from the game itself, but those bones are rather fragile and fairly bereft of marrow, calcium and other bone-like things. Imagine reading a summary, the information is passed on, however, no emotion survives the retelling. Meliodas reveals his identity around three text boxes into the story and agrees to aid Elizabeth by the fourth. Blinking will then carry you through Diane joining the group and the halfway mark of your next will send you past Meliodas’ injury and the entirety of Doctor Dana. Though one may certainly argue that story isn’t the central focus of a game such as this, probably successfully, the ludicrously broad strokes with which it even attempted stands out regardless. Perhaps my thoughts merely do come from enjoying the story so much in its fullest form and place unrealistic expectations upon a game simply trying to tie its battles together, but it is the way I feel nonetheless. Especially when Ban appeared as stone for literally one frame in the Necropolis. For those who know the story, it was woefully brief and for those who don’t, spontaneously confusing.
Adaptation aside, as a game, Knights of Britannia’s true mettle is tested in its gameplay mechanics, what with it being a game and all. On this front…my opinions continue to be less than fantastic. Simply put, this is one of those games where you are keenly aware of every moment a character is not fighting. Though there are three forms of regular attacks (Weak, Heavy, Ranged), three forms of magically imbued assault (same three, but stronger) and one cutscene charged finisher to keep you busy, the seconds after a combo is completed can drag on for what seems like…even more seconds. Now, adding a disclaimer that I hold no misconceptions about my own gaming prowess, battles tend to fall into a monotonous metronome after a time. Weak, Weak, Heavy, wait for opponent to complete standing animations, Weak, Weak, Heavy, wait for opponent to complete standing animation and so on and so forth. Could you simply change up your attacks to escape this dull pattern? Of course, however doing so tends to throw one off their balance and allow the AI to commence their ceaseless, aggravating assault upon whomever you are embodying at the time. Said retribution is multiplied during two on two fights, as your AI partner is roughly as useful as a bag of rocks lying in a quarry of much better rocks. Bar one example where a partner actually used their special move (which had been ready three minutes prior), allied AI is nothing short of a detriment. Though some may argue that their sporadic ability to overpower the enemy AI’s desire to double team you is useful, considering one health bar is shared between members of a team, this can still lead to more harm than good. I’m looking at you, Howzer.
The Equipment system also possesses some negative elements, beyond being locked behind the aforementioned combat. Located within a singular web, Magical Items are unlocked outwardly from a central point, forcing you to build your way up through weaker buffs before being able to max out a character. Tried and true in theory, however each unlock also requires a certain amount of Magic Crystals and, barring a few early options, a specific item. What this means is that, occasionally, you will be unable to unlock several Magical Items, due to you lacking the requirements for an earlier unlock. A nitpick to be sure, but it is one I found occurring more frequently than was fun. Then again, this is exacerbated by those who attempt to play through the Main Quests, as they seldom reward you with needed items, therefore throwing the definition of Side Quest into question. In the proper (arguably negative) light, this system forces you to trudge through fight after fight, simply to acquire buffs necessary to win, whether it be making your character hit harder, or extending the clock in ridiculously close Timed Missions. Am I essentially arguing how a video game works? Yes, but something about it this time around just rubbed me the wrong way. Probably the frustrating combat, or how overworld movement speed is limited until you purchase an upgrade for no discernible reason.
To its credit, Knights of Britannia attempts to add its own flair to these gameplay elements and thematically tie them into the world. Upon completing a mission, a Gossip Gauge will fill, indicating how well known the Sins are in a particular region of Liones. Said gauge will also unlock additional missions, through patrons of the Boar Hat rambling on about that guy who escaped from prison, or the mysterious figure who wields an axe the size of most men. It’s a cute system that drives a sense of accomplishment and makes sense within the narrative of the Sins themselves. As gossip is tied to combat, performance becomes somewhat central to strategy. The Appeal Gauge notes how spectacular a particular battle is and pop-up dialogue boxes note the exclamations of the nearby public. It’s essentially an excuse to be as anime as you can, which is not something anime fans need to be told twice. The message can become a little muddied, however, when taking a ludicrous amount of damage and barely winning within the time limit still result in an S Rank, because you manage to trash five houses when taking on Guila. Honestly, avoiding the enemy in favour of smashing boxes an innocent civilian’s fences is one of the dominant strategies to gaining a solid rank. Either that, or spam quick, weak attacks to keep the Combo Chain high. Again, not very anime, but moreso than the box thing. Unless you’re aware of a box smashing anime, in which case, hook me up.
For the reasons so personally laid out before you, The Seven Deadly Sins: Knights of Britannia is a game of great potential and less-than-stellar execution. With mechanics designed to invoke the feeling of its source material, the relatively clunky combat (aided by a camera that somehow avoided lambasting) and supremely watered down story leave it a shell of what it wishes to be. However, I believe this to be a game of expectation above all. When first playing, I enjoyed the fairly quick battle format and the story did not truly bother me. The problems arose the longer I continued to play and, after taking a break, I found this cycle of emotions reset. So maybe that’s the key, playing in smaller bursts, not trying for a marathon session of sin. Still, that is a hefty disclaimer to put on a game and a continuing reminder of how upset I am that I didn’t enjoy this game more. But whether you share my feelings or not, I wish to leave you with a little trick I discovered about fighting the enemies called Hide and Seek. The game never outright tells you this, but to survive those battles intact, you need only press one button: Mute.