Based on the recent manga and anime series, Black Clover: Quartet Knights is a high-octane action game with an original story based on the original characters and setting. In addition to its single-player storyline, Quartet Knights also contains a 4 vs. 4 multiplayer mode with seventeen different characters.
Of course, a robust feature set is meaningless without entertaining gameplay mechanics, and this is where Black Clover falters. Despite presenting a fun universe, the actual combat fails to impress, and multiplayer matches become a chaotic mess of button mashing and screen-filling particle effects.
After a brief opening narration, the player is thrown into the world of Black Clover with little context beyond "These are the main characters, everyone can use magic. This is Asta. He cannot use magic. Go fight." There's nothing inherently wrong with throwing players right into the action without an entire manga's worth of exposition, but the initial story set-up feels clunky and halfhearted.
Once the story mode properly begins, things don't improve. The tale is presented through chapters, each of which consists of just one battle which can last between two and ten minutes. Usually, the story interludes which bookend each chapter are longer than the chapters themselves... But the story breaks aren't very long, either.
At least the story isn't a complete waste of time. While most of the characters are mere cutouts with one-dimensional personalities (Vanessa is hot, Charmy likes to eat, Mimosa has a crush on Asta, etc), the two leads, student Asta and Captain Yami, are actually quite entertaining. Asta's voice actor makes the character's over-the-top and excitable nature surprisingly appealing, when it could have come across as extremely annoying. Meanwhile, Captain Yami undergoes compelling character development and is a great anchor for the admittedly anemic story.
The story interludes consist of either fully realized anime cutscenes or more economic text boxes in which still images of the characters speak to each other. At least they're still fully voice acted (in Japanese). Overall, the single player story mode isn't terrible, but it has little to offer to anyone outside of die-hard Black Clover fans. Unfortunately, the multiplayer doesn't fare much better.
In theory, the 4 vs. 4 arena matches should make up for the shortcomings of the story mode, which often comes across as a glorified tutorial for the online offerings. Sadly, even this early in the game's lifespan, it's hard to find full matches; once, we were pitted against a full team of human players with nothing but A.I. companions on our side. In another match, it was just us and one other human player against a full roster of computer-controlled adversaries.
Even then, once a reasonably populated match gets off the ground, the game's inherent lack of balance reveals itself. Support characters are nigh-useless against a team of heavy-hitting Fighter-class brutes, who can just wipe the floor with their opponents. Ultimately, the matches just turn into button-mashing slogs with little skill or strategy beyond keeping track of the cooldowns on heavy attacks. The different characters present a lot of variety, but it's all wasted potential. Perhaps the game would have benefited from a co-op horde mode which rewarded more varied play styles.
Visually, Quartet Knights captures the look of an anime, with emotive characters, bright-colors, and sharp, black outlines on character models adding visual flair. Unfortunately, the environments are full of drab textures, rudimentary geometry, and bothersome jaggies. The frame rate targets 60 FPS, but experiences brutal drops whenever the action gets intense, which is often.
Black Clover: Quartet Knights isn't a complete disaster, but it doesn't do nearly enough to justify its existence as a full-priced title. Were it a budget-priced downloadable game, it would be easy to recommend to fans of the anime as a fun way to blow an afternoon or two, but as it is, Quartet Knights is a second-rate licensed tie-tin with some good ideas which fails to capitalize on any of them.
Black Clover: Quartet Knights is currently available on PlayStation 4 for $59.99 and PC for $49.99. Screen Rant was provided a PlayStation 4 copy for review.