Before I was given a code for Portal Knights, I had seen it in the “Games coming soon” section of the Xbox Store. When I looked at it there, I was sure it was going to be some low budget game that couldn’t hope to meet the expectations its description had laid out for it. There are many things I’d like to talk about, but I’ll start when I first booted the game up. Once the title screen loaded and I started to explore the settings (old habit that helps me better understand what I’m getting into), I made a note about how cartoony and bright each menu was. I also noticed some options that allow players to customize how the game deals with combat and even FOV sliders for both first-person and third-person views. This level of detail surprised me and was the first moment my optimism for this lovely title started to grow.
Once I was done exploring, I clicked “Play Game” and was brought to a screen telling me to make a character. Immediately, I’m blown away by just how many options I had for what I thought was going to be a Minecraft clone. The first choice to make was what class this character would be. I’ll go over the classes more later, but for now I had to pick from Warrior, Ranger, or Mage. This choice makes a huge impact on the character and even helped me design my character once I had chosen Ranger. Knowing my character was going to use a bow, bombs, and potentially other tools, I decided a smug looking character was in order. I gave my character long, red hair with bright green eyes that combined with the mouth to make a very ‘I know I’m better than you’ look. Adding on a beard, changing my skin color, and changing my voice were all additions that made my character that much more personal.
Next I had to select what ‘World’ I wanted to play in. I created a new one (named it Lordran) and took note of the fact that I had five character slots available and three world slots available. While this may not be as many as other games, being able to change characters and worlds is generally useful. Either way, I enter Lordran and I’m greeted with a tutorial, teaching me the ins and outs of the game. With the basics covered (walking, jumping, fighting, switching perspective,etc.), I noticed that the structures in the surrounding area had orange orbs over them. Upon closer inspection, it turns out these areas with the orbs are tutorial areas as well and teach players about things such as crafting, farming, mines, dungeons, and portals.
Although I was given a short tutorial on crafting, I decided to learn more about how it worked and exactly what I could make. Without going into too much detail, players can only make certain items without any kind of station to help them, for everything else, the proper crafting station will allow players to use the recipes associated with that station. For instance, an anvil makes armour and weapons for the Warrior along with all the rings while the altar makes robes and magic items for the Mage and the Archer Station makes clothes and weapons for the Ranger (also able to make bombs). Besides the class specific stations, there is also the Workbench, Furnace, and Drafting Table. The most important has to be the Workbench, this station allows players to create all the other stations along with tools and a variety of other useful items such as new Landing Pads (spawn point), Ward of Protection (stops monster from spawning), and chests to store all your stuff in.
Most of the supplies these chests hold will be building materials such as various types of stone, carpet, wood, metal, and crystal blocks that can be used to build any structure your imagination can come up with. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many block styles as a certain other blocky building game, but Portal Knights makes up for this with quality of life things such as having characters walk over one block inclines as if they were stairs. On top of this, there are a plethora of decorative things players can use to really spruce up whatever they’re building. From tables to statues, bookshelves to braziers, doors to dungeon cages, there is simply a lot to decorate with. Building various houses and structures is plenty of fun but is held back by the slightly awkward build guide, or the cursor that shows where you’ll place the next block.
To put it simply, this cursor seems to jump all over the place and not be where you expect it to be based on where you’re looking. Besides building, this issue can really mess you up if you’re attempting to farm any of the games various resources. Whether planting or harvesting, if the cursor is on the wrong area, you can potentially waste items. I actually found myself crafting armour that was less useful simply because I liked how it looked more, so I would put it in the vanity slots in my equipment screen. To add to my look, I also really enjoy the pets that can be equipped on the same menu (love my widdle Princess of Fire).
Armour isn’t just for looks though, every piece has defense, special resistances, and even unique abilities. Weapons are similar as they come with different damage values, elemental effects, and bonuses (such as critical chance or mana regeneration). Weapons are a little different to armour though, armour can be worn by every class while weapons can only be used by their respective class. These classes are the strong and hardy Warrior, the swift and agile Ranger, and the mystical and squishy Mage. Each of these classes have two stats that relate specifically to them.
The six attributes players will level up are constitution (total health), strength (melee damage), agility (movement speed), dexterity (ranged damage), wisdom (total mana), and intelligence (magic damage). Beyond these, each class has special talents that they can unlock at various level milestones (5, 10, 15 and so on). These unlock in groups and can be toggled at will, making them wonderfully useful in any situation. Most times, these talents help players when they are fighting monsters. As much as I would love to go into exactly why I love the combat in this title, let me just say that Portal Knights handles combat in such a way that it always feels engaging with players zipping in and out dealing their class’ type of damage. Many fights end up feeling like a dance when there are high level monsters involved.
Surprisingly, there are quite a few different types of monsters to be found and fought. Just to name a few, there are slimes, parrots, hollow knights, grunts, roarcs, maggots, gazers, and utans (mages). Several of these monsters vary from island to island and plenty of them can be different when elemental damage is introduced. These small fry have nothing on the bosses however. In an attempt to stay spoiler free, I will simply say that fighting the bosses requires patience and quick reflexes. Trying to take down these biggies is more of a process than a fight. The bosses I fought required me to perform one action before they were vulnerable, then my party and I could wail on them. The patience part comes in when you realize that the bosses will throw out countless attacks until you make them open up to damage. Avoiding these attacks is key during these fights as one of my friends could tell you. While helping me take down the second boss, he (a mage with very little health) would die if he got hit by a direct attack from the boss. Because of this, there were several times that he would walk up onto the boss arena and instantly die because he didn’t see the incoming doom.
In fact, me and this friend played together an awful lot. Thanks to the local and online co-op, I was able to show him the game a day or two before it came out and he pre-ordered it to help me test the online play. Portal Knights’ multiplayer works well enough in most cases but there are a few instances that I need to bring up. First up, while the game can have four players in a game at once, I noticed far more lag spikes and small glitches with more players. These issues are easy enough to overlook as they usually only last a short time. There are some strange design choices related to co-op that I will address as they come up. One of the best things about co-op has to be how much easier it makes quests. These quests ask players to find so much of a certain item or kill so much of a certain monster type or even to create a specific item and bring it back to them. That last quest type is the worst just because it means you will more than likely have to travel to a different island before you can complete it.
Now finding the portals to move from island to island isn’t that hard and is actually rather fun most times. It’s the load times when traveling between islands. While I understand that loading screens are necessary, the load times in Portal Knights simply feels absurd for how quickly you may travel to an island only to leave it again. Either way, the process of using these portals is actually a neat idea and caught me off guard when I first encountered it. Put simply, in order to move onto a new island, players have to get enough of these portal stones together to repair the portal. Once it’s repaired, players can use it to move onto the next island. Traveling to an island can be started by anyone in a co-op session and all players must follow them for whatever reason. These islands are increasingly difficult and all have different enemies, plants, and resources to match their various biomes. For instance, there are grassy islands that have lots of trees, cotton, stone and other similar stuff while the desert islands will have completely different plants and resources including sand, cactus, flame rubies, and even ores such as copper. These islands are all separated but can be accessed from the world map once visited via a portal.
This separation of the islands is explained in an opening cutscene, but isn’t referred to again unless there is an ending cutscene or something similar. I cannot say I finished the game as I got far too caught up in the deep crafting system and satisfying combat. Even if there is some sort of closure or final cutscene, I feel it will still be a little underwhelming since there aren’t references to the story throughout the main portion of the game. Since the story was so absent, I almost forgot what I was supposed to be doing. As I said before, I encountered some glitches during my time with the game. Some of these were minor (not being able to do anything after closing a menu until I paused the game), while other forced me to reload my game entirely (all my items showing as berries instead of the correct item). Besides these, the game runs fairly well and is far more than fun enough to look past these inconveniences. I believe the best way to explain my feelings about Portal Knights is to say I now agree with it’s Wikipedia entry. For reference, Portal Knights’ Wikipedia page claims that the game takes inspiration from Minecraft, Terraria, The Legend of Zelda, and Dark Souls. After spending hours and hours with the game, I can say that I see it now.
Portal Knights (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Portals Knights manages to capture the best qualities of the building of Minecraft while also maintaining a combat style that can be as difficult as Dark Souls if you're not prepared. Be ready to spend many, many hours in this charming game.