For the most part, when someone thinks of a Soulslike it’s some kind of third-person action game. It doesn’t matter if it’s Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, or Lost Epic, that is just how these games are. Little Witch Nobeta wants to change this by applying the concept to a third-person shooter. With this potentially being the next big thing, similar to how RPG mechanics eventually became a mainstay, it offers an interesting change of pace. However, given early titles are often rough, and lack the refinement players expect, is Little Witch Nobeta the next big thing, or does it show why others didn’t try this concept?
Little Witch Nobeta starts with a straightforward premise. You play as a little witch named Nobeta, who enters a dungeon to find a throne. Unfortunately, Nobeta remembers very little of her past. After saving a cat, you learn there is more to your mission, missing memories, and the dungeon you’ve entered than initially thought.
As for the narrative itself, there are elements of an interesting story, but it doesn’t do a good job of gripping you. Instead of wanting to know more, something Labyrinth of Galleria did a great job at, there are exchanges like the cat questioning literally any detour from the main goal. Hearing how honoring a bosses final wish is a waste of time, or how I just mindlessly follow them, doesn’t leave me interested in discovering the mysteries behind. It eventually gets better, but it’s a rough introduction. Similar problems appear with gameplay as well.
For the most part, gameplay is extremely straightforward. Enemies appear, you can either shoot with the standard aim/shoot inputs, or melee them if they get too close. For more powerful foes, or certain puzzles, there is a charged attack that does a devastating amount of damage. There is some depth to the mechanics as well.
While charging your spell you can still dodge incoming attacks. It will not charge during the dodge animation, though you’ll keep any progress you made. A big mechanic to staying alive is to defeat enemies, and then charge when their essence is drawn to you. Timing this right can charge your spell in a second. There are also different types of magic, a small variety of enemies to overcome, with each mechanic having their own advantage/disadvantage.
To be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure what makes this a soulslike title. There is some difficulty, bosses require a fair amount of dodging, and environmental storytelling is present, but most of these have disclaimers. Another easier mode is present, you shouldn’t be able to beat any boss without some defense/tactic, with there being dialogue exchanges at key points. Other elements typical of the genre are not present, to the point where I don’t think soulslike would come to mind if it wasn’t marketed as such. In fact, I would think of Hogwarts Legacy long before even considering Elden Ring.
Exactly How I Imagine A Dungeon Looking
Level design is also not a strong suit in Little Witch Nobeta. Most areas are linear, with the only detours being used for shortcuts. The actual design is a rather generic, and empty looking dungeon. Some later sections add different visual elements. Lava, glowing mushrooms, ice, are present, they just have their own version of bland. Enemies also don’t have much in this regard either. There are enemies that look like the player character in Moss, two types of dolls, another black blob, making everything short of the bosses forgettable.
At least boss battles stand out in their own way. Most bosses have a wide range of attacks, which generally disrupt how you approach a situation. There might be a long ranged attack that needs to be avoided, or an unexpected rush that can deal devastating damage. They also have some rough timing, at times harder than something like Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, just lack the punishment for repeated failure.
Combat can also be a rather mixed bag. Even if enemies were not particularly difficult to defeat, the shooting controls are rough. Part of this is constantly having to adjust for recoil, with the other being a lack of snappiness. It’s hard to explain, largely because I am not particularly sure why things feel off. I mean, I’ve literally beat Destiny 2 raids on day one, platinumed Vanquish/Returnal, yet struggled a bit with aiming here. Adjusting the settings does help, it just wasn’t enough to mitigate the effect.
Another unusual design choice is Little Witch Nobeta‘s approach to tutorials. Items on the floor will explain certain mechanics, as will the cat, they just feel incomplete. Two great examples of this occur when you gain ice magic.
The tutorial says ice magic can lock onto multiple targets, with various flaming rocks that regenerate in a second or so surrounding it. To progress forward, all three need to be destroyed at relatively the same time. Despite informing you of a lock on mechanic, it’s actually separate from the literal lock-on command. To use it you need to charge it, aim, and look at multiple targets.
Walking through flames approaches this problem the same way. You’re told the ice powers are needed, but I only realized you needed to charge your magic and simply walk through it by trial and error. In both cases it would make more sense to give no clues, or the full clue, instead of a weird half clue. Especially when anyone even vaguely familiar with game design will realize your new power is needed to solve new problems.
Little Witch Nobeta Review Verdict
While I wouldn’t call Little Witch Nobeta a bad game, it just doesn’t have much going for it. Aiming is notably weaker than a wide variety of shooters out there, along with me questioning what exactly makes this a soulslike game. There is a somewhat interesting narrative that is hidden behind unenjoyable interactions. Add in a rather empty world, and even if the experience isn’t outright terrible, there are better options out there.
[Editor’s Note: Little Witch Nobeta was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]