Review: Portal Knights
Developer: Keen Games
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch (coming soon)
There was a time in my life where I was undeniably addicted to Minecraft. I had bought it in its Alpha, and played it daily for a number of years upon its release. Eventually, Terraria would release and draw me into its gorgeous 2D world, and I found that the combination of world-building and adventuring was too good to resist. After completing Terraria, I was left wondering world-building/RPG would become my next obsession. What game could offer me the addictive exploration and combat of Terraria, but in a gorgeous 3-D world?
The answer might very well be ‘Portal Knights‘, from Keen Games and 505 Games, an ambitious title that looks to combine the best parts of previously established world-building games, but with more solid RPG mechanics, a chibi-esque art style and an overarching narrative. The game released in Early Access on Steam in February 2016, and while it was fun, the busy games journalist life kept me from giving it the attention it deserved. In early May of this year, however, Portal Knights left Early Access and launched the completed build of the game. I dove back into the game and am stoked to say that it is almost a perfect game.
I’ve played quite a bit of Portal Knights, and while there isn’t a massive amount of narrative to experience, the story sets up the gameplay rather well. Eons ago, a once peaceful world was torn apart by “The Fracture”, which sent it plummeting into darkness. The world was shattered into multiple worlds, which are connected by portals. Only the bravest of the brave can become a Portal Knight and reunite the worlds.
Portal Knights do this by defeating monsters to gather portal shards, which can be used to repair the portals connecting each world to another. The more worlds you travel, the harder the enemies you face. Repairing the universe is going to be tough.
The game opens with players creating their own character. The art style is extremely cute, with characters seeming almost chibi-like in appearance. There are a number of customisation options available, including a number of different haircuts, facial hair or make-up options, facial features and more. Other games always seem to lack in the character customisation department but Portal Knightsmanages to deliver a healthy amount of options to satisfy a number of people – as long as they want something cute, that is.
Arguably, the most important part of creating your character is choosing which vocation you want to be. There’s the Warrior, Archer and Wizard classes. Warriors are best suited to close-range combat with melee weapons. They can take more damage than other classes and are therefore best at being the first line of offense in a dangerous world. Archers fight from a distance, and while weaker than fighters are generally quicker. Their agility and long range attacks make them ideal at guarding other classes as well as chasing down fleeing enemies. The Wizard is able to cast spells at enemies from a distance, using magic that harnesses the elements of fire, water and thunder.
When you’re finished creating a character, you jump in to the first world, which acts as a tutorial. Here you’ll learn how to move, fight, and defend yourself, as well as how to harness different elements and blocks. You’ll also learn how to repair portals, which lead to other worlds. Each world has a different feel to it, whether its in an arid desert, forest or grassland, or set in a decrepit fortress. These worlds also have different monsters and enemies that inhabit them, with each of them dropping a number of different crafting ingredients.
After you complete the tutorial, it’s up to you on how you next proceed. You can go exploring or monster hunting on a world’s surface, or explore subterranean dungeons and mines in search of treasure or minerals. The more worlds you visit though, the harder the enemies, which means you’ll need to upgrade your equipment. Upgrading is easy, simply collect recipes and crafting elements from defeated enemies and then use crafting tables and similar items to make better gear. You will also need to upgrade your workbenches, which is great as it means you can’t max out your character too quickly.
In addition to the ability to simply roam around different worlds, players will also encounter different NPCs who have quests to offer. Completing these quests offers experience and rewards, though it is rather disappointing that most NPCs are simply standing there, not going about their daily lives. Even having them wander around a certain area or structure would be better than finding someone standing outside a dungeon with only one sentence of dialogue. Still, these were a late addition to the game (they were absent from my Early Access experiences) so they might be updated to be a little more lively soon.
Speaking of experience, like any good RPG, Portal Knights allows players to earn experience by defeating monsters and completing quests, though mining offers experience on occasion as well. Gaining experience levels and attribute points is essential to progressing through the game, as is knowing which attributes are the most important to each class. Warriors need strength and fortitude, wizards need wisdom and intelligence, etc.
Visually, Portal Knights doesn’t disappoint. The art design is bright and pleasant, with fantastic use of colour. The environments are populated with a variety of flora (sometimes a little too densely) and the character/monster design is very cute. Since leaving Early Access, the game has also been sufficiently optimised, meaning it runs at an extremely smooth pace.
The beauty of Portal Knights is in how versatile its gameplay is. Players can simply choose to go from world to world, fighting monsters and crafting better gear, or they can choose to build complicated structures and bases. They can also go mining or completing quests. There’s a surprising amount of content on offer here compared to other world-building RPGs. Better yet, it can all be experienced in single-player, local co-op (hooray for splitscreen!) and online co-op. Get some friends together and become Portal Knights!
|Portal Knights takes the world building of Minecraft and injects it with a hefty dose of RPG goodness. It's addictive, fantastic fun in co-op, and it has a terrific art direction. A game fans of the genre simply must check out.||4.1 4.1 ( on 5 rating)|