Review: Black Clover Quartet Knights – Like Shonen, High Potential

Black Clover came to us as what some might see as the next popular shonen series, though we have at least one other contender for that crown, it’s game isn’t out yet. Anyway, Black Clover – Quartet Knights gives us a good enough glimpse of what the show is about for the uninitiated. Bandai Namco is at it again with their tie ups, but I have to hand it to them for finding ways to innovate making games for things some of us have seen too much of by now. Hot blooded youngsters gunning for the top spot, particularly with a spiky-haired, sword-wielding teenager. With many interesting individuals with diverse skills, creating a MOBA seems to be an ideal format. A lot closer to what we would think as Battleborn or Overwatch compared to Shinobi Strikers.

Particularly interesting would be how there’s a single player story mode that has an actual original story in it, and even involves the actual author of the series, so it feels like it can stand on its own and they even use it quite effectively, more on that later.

 

Production (3.5 / 5)

This series has a particular art style to it that I would say is quite unique in the manga world, so expressing it effectively in 3D would be a new challenge. Fortunately the team behind it was up to the challenge and had more or less created them convincingly, in fact, since they’re 3D models they come out more consistently than their artist actually draws them. The effects they’re paired with, however are what I would say on the minimalist side, fire is generally a glowing fog, particles are really simple, but for some reason other effects go out of their way to look actually impressive. I’m not sure what the rule is here, but I would guess that it was to favor smoother gameplay as I hardly experienced any framerate jittering through my time playing it. If anything, there would be some minor errors with model collisions like hair going through bodies or clothes or people running into walls or each other. Perhaps some of these errors could be attributed to the lag, which I wasn’t too happy about. Another part of the visuals I’m not too happy with would be the map, they’re generally uninteresting to look at, but they generally accomplish the job of being recognizable terrain.

Sound and music are pretty okay for the most part, if you can handle Asta screaming all the time. Voice overs are clear and can help you contextualize your situation because there’s no real effective way to check what you can’t see. Of course, this doesn’t help if you can’t understand the slightest of Japanese, there are no English dubs here. Also, there seems to be a technical issue with certain TVs, having the image stretch beyond the screen by a small margin. It doesn’t get in the way of play but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen with these tie-up games.

 

Mechanics (4 / 5)

If I were to compare this and Shinobi Strikers, I’d have to easily say that this title feels a lot tighter, diverse, and polished.

Multiplayer mode, this game’s focus, has you play in a team of 4 members against another team. Each of you picking a character from the series with their own unique role. They’re categorized into Attack, Defense, Support, and Healer. Yep, a lot like Overwatch (or at least how it used to be). Each of these characters have their own unique traits and functions. They all have 4 active spells or skills mapped to each of your shoulder buttons.

You go into matches with objectives depending on the map, and thanks to map indicators navigating these maps is rather easy. You can either go straight to the game-winning objective, or search for things on the side that would help your chances of winning that much better. Abilities are kept in check by having their own cooldowns or ammo limit, and getting killed in battle leaves you out of the game until your respawn timer runs out. Pretty standard fare stuff.

Black Clover – Quartet Knights gives you an option to customize builds for your choice of character by allowing you to form ‘Magic Decks’ which can enhance a character’s stats or abilities, depending on what you pick. You can’t enable all of them at the same time so you’ll have to think about which you. While you can’t switch out which character you’re using in the middle of a game, it’s possible to switch preset decks which you setup beforehand.

Yep, it doesn’t sound that special on paper, but considering the kind of content they’ve paired up with these mechanics, there’s quite a bit to explore about this title. Though it does leave the question of balance up in the air.

 

Content (4.5 / 5)

This multiplayer game presents you with 14 characters from the get-go. It’s entirely possible that there will be more available through DLC, now what I’d like to point out is how much of these characters feel like something between Battleborn and Overwatch then painted with anime. Your initial character, Asta, is capable of traversing and even running on walls, and even has passive health regen but doesn’t have a natural shield. This aligns with how he is in the story, with amazing (or annoying) perseverance and impressive physical ability. Noelle in the other hand can heal people’s shields, charge more powerful shots and place a barrier around allies. Luck is basically Tracer with some extra abilities and a way cooler ultimate.

The developers really did their homework on how these characters would play out, as their spells and special attributes properly align with how they are portrayed in the series. All of the 14 are pretty unique in their own rights, allowing them to fulfill one of the four general roles in their own way, so it’s pretty exciting to explore and combat different combinations and situations with all the possibilities they present.

A surprising plus is the rather simple campaign. It’s actually an original story involving the author which was a pleasant surprise. While the story itself isn’t really all that much, they add replay value by adding different character challenges and giving an alternate side with a different character. This makes the story not get in the way of gameplay while giving you some level of engagement with it, especially if you want to get the ‘true ending.’ They had effectively used the story mode to help pace new players into how the game works as well, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wasting time. Though honestly, they could have done better than walls of text for explanations.

 

Features (2.5 / 5)

Black Clover – Quartet Knights offers some custom colors and probably DLC costumes for characters down the line, but it’ll probably be quite limited.

So far online matching has been a long wait, but I can probably attribute that to the number of people playing this game. There’s also some noticeable latency issues every now and then and that really hurts the online experience.

It also features a challenge mode and a training mode if you want to refine your character knowledge offline. Which I think is a fair consideration given for players who might want to be able to have access to some form of offline experimnetation.

Oh, and AI seem to just automatically lock onto you when you’re visible. That’s really annoying.

 

Overall

While this is an obvious tie up game, I really like it better than Shinobi Striker. You’re immediately given access to a huge variety of play-styles that are locked into characters. I personally found myself playing Luck a lot because of the great high-risk-high-reward style you’re forced to play with him. Making aim partially assisted but with no lock-on makes the game feel responsive and natural on PlayStation 4.

It does have its own shortcomings especially in giving you information about your opponents around you, which makes it frustrating when you have to deal with AI opponents because they see everything. And this was pretty common in my sessions as they have to be used to make the game 4v4. And having them be the highest performing in the game was something you’ll have to get used to. Though that’s not to say Black Clover – Quartet Knights didn’t do a lot of things right, if you wanted to try an anime style Overwatch this is probably your best bet at the moment. If it got you a little curious, I’d recommend a fair try at the game.

In the end, I would describe this title to be a lot like a shonen protagonist. Easy to underestimate, but has quite a few aces under its sleeve. But really, if it had an actual player base, this would have fared a lot better.

Black Clover – Quartet Knights works a bit of magic and conjures up a 3.6 / 5.

Available on PS4 and PC.

A big thank you to Bandai Namco Entertainment Asia for letting us review the game.

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