The title really makes it seem like they are warriors who can teleport doesn’t it?
So finally I get onto reviewing my first Early Access game. Of course I have played plenty of Early Access games before but this one really caught my eye. Portal Knights, being a mix of a variety of games such as the combat of Zelda, the blocky landscape and building of Minecraft and the visual style of Mysims seemed like it could bring a great set of gameplay features to the world of the procedurally generated adventure game. How does it really stack up though? Read on to find out! Keep in mind that due to this being an Early Access game that I am only reviewing the game in its current state and that the problems I speak of and gameplay mechanics are all subject to change.
The story of Portal Knights is a fairly simple one as you might expect. A great evil has split the once peaceful lands of the world you are a part of into various floating islands that are interconnected via giant portals who are guarded by monsters and beasts. It’s up to you as a new adventurer in these lands to stop the monsters that plague the land and discover what the ancient evil really is. The story is barebones but it helps to at least bring the narrative together and gives you a tangible goal. You should focus more on the development of your own character as your story as that is what the game is truly about. Saying that however I believe this game would have benefited HUGELY from having some kind of questing system as I felt that as I went on in the game that the goal of just getting to the end levels seemed more and more drab, having even some NPC’s or towns would allow me to feel as though this world felt more alive and would give me more activities to do rather than just get to the next level and make my character stronger.
The game itself looks absolutely gorgeous. Despite having a blocky landscape the rest of the game does not follow the voxel based art style and it really helps to make it look outstanding. The lighting is top notch, the landscape is colourful and full of life and the models on everything is highly detailed and looks like they fit right in with the landscape even with its vastly different architecture style. The music too is incredibly nice with a good mix of orchestrated pieces that help to create a feeling of you being in a fantasy world. I did find that combat music would be greatly appreciated (as in something like how Zelda manages it) as it would help make fights feel more intense. I also felt that despite the environments looking amazing and the overall visual presentation to be fantastic I would have liked to see a bit more variety when it came to the lands in which you visit. All too often I saw the repeating environments of field world, jungle world, desert world etc and it made each new world I visited feel less important and just like another stepping stone to get onto the next part of the game. Adding stuff like unique architecture to different worlds or even things such as Dungeon only worlds or a giant tower world would really help to shake up the repetitiveness of the environments and help to provide a new challenge as you progress through the game. The aforementioned NPC towns could also serve as another type of world which could help give the game some more variety.
The gameplay centres around the steady progression of defeating monsters to get portal pieces which you can then craft into portal blocks and using those you can progress onto the next world. Every so often there is a world in which you must fight a boss and I found each of the bosses to be unique and provide a challenge while still not proving to be frustrating. The combat system in the game is extremely similar to the Zelda type of combat in which you lock onto an enemy and focus upon slashes, arrow shots, dodging etc in order to take your enemy down. While I love this system in theory the problem occurs from when you and your enemy are at different elevations. You can’t jump in combat and so due to the nature of the terrain generation you will often find yourself stuck on a lower ledge while an enemy above attacks you from afar and you have nothing you can do if you don’t have a ranged attack. This leaves you having to forcefully break off the lock on camera and find your way back up and all the while the enemy will have most likely recovered all of their health. Allowing us to jump in combat may help to alleviate this a bit, or even just making the terrain a little bit smoother which would make the combat much more manageable.
You can choose one of three standard classes being the knight, mage and ranger and while they all have their own skills and abilities you can still use whatever equipment and items you wish on each character, which is a nice touch. However I chose to play as the Knight and I found myself hugely underpowered compared to that of the other characters. I was forced into using a bow as the knight even though I didnt want to as melee combat in this game isn’t nearly as strong as it should be and when I was faced with flying enemies even though I was at the same elevation as them I couldn’t even hit them! A lot of balancing will need to go into the classes in order to make each one feel more like a personal choice rather than just picking ones which give a gameplay advantage. Finally the crafting and building system is fairly similar to Minecraft’s standard systems. You can select a world to be your Home world and you can then teleport back and forth to it freely. From there you can build your home/castle and craft resources and better equipment. I didn’t see much point in building anything outside of my home world as I would just leave that world and go onto the next one eventually meaning that building things in other worlds had no real purpose. I would prefer that building features were disabled in worlds outside of your home world so that controls can be freed up for use in other things such as having a dedicated sprint/dodge button and a jump button as different keys. I did like how the crafting system worked allowing you various different sets of armor or robes to be used despite whatever class you were and I also enjoyed the magic creation systems.
All in all then I found this game to look fantastic and was fun for a while but it has some work to do. Luckily with it being in Early Access there will be plenty of time for improvement and if the game implemented some of the changes I mentioned then this game could truly be something special. When the game comes out fully maybe I will do another quick look over the game, see if the developers have listened. Until then buy this game if you want a quick fun romp with your friends, just don’t expect to be playing this for months on end.