Portal Knights Review
I booted up Portal Knights with very little expectation. I had seen some screenshots that looked neat, and a bit of the trailer that promised some interesting combat, so I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. It was clear that there was definitely something worth checking out here. Unfortunately, it’s with a heavy heart that I must report: Portal Knights isn’t that great.
Portal Knights is Keen Games’ attempt to chip off a piece of that humongous gold bar that is Minecraft. And you can’t blame them for it, there are boatloads of money to be had in this genre space, just ask Notch’s Swiss bank account. But that isn’t fair to Keen Games because they clearly put a great deal of effort into Portal Knights. Most aspects of the game have been crafted with care, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t add up to a satisfying package.
“Portal Knights is a kid’s game, and with that come the kid game trappings: Cutesy visuals, minor challenge, whimsical story, and simple design.”
It’s worth mentioning that, yes, Portal Knights is a kid’s game, and with that come the kid game trappings: Cutesy visuals, minor challenge, whimsical story, and simple design. Not that any of those things are inherently negative, but they’re worth underscoring.
The game is broken up into a series of randomly generated levels (or islands) that have been broken off the world in a cataclysmic event called the Fracture. You travel from one level to the next, scavenging materials from enemies and the environment to craft gear, and looting caves and dungeons for treasure. This gameplay loop isn’t very satisfying though, because the combat is flat and simple, and the resource collecting feels more like a hassle than it does rewarding. It’s a damning indictment, and believe me, a part of my soul dies a little every time I have to say a game is either bad or boring. But it is what it is.
Portal Knights does do some things well though, namely the visuals and the music. The game is surprisingly pretty. The starting area was striking in its bold use of color and lighting, which gave off a Viva Pinata vibe. Every subsequent area kept the same level of visual fidelity and was one of the best parts of the game overall. It almost made me want to explore the game world. And it’s all soundtracked by the deliciously whimsical sounds of The Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra who was able to perfectly capture the atmosphere of the game’s world.
Also, the boss fights are quite well done, it’s too bad there are so few of them. They offer the only real challenge when it comes to the combat. Virtually every other encounter in the game is a brainless hack and slash affair where enemies will move towards you in a predictable path and telegraph their attack, leaving a big window of time to roll away. Rinse, repeat. For a kid, this might be enjoyable, but my brain began to shut down after a while.
It takes a long time to do anything in Portal Knights. And when doing things begin to land on the side of tedium rather than fun, it becomes quite difficult to see the silver lining. That being said, Portal Knights surely isn’t bad. It’s just the type of game that appeals to its niche audience; in this case a younger crowd itching for some minecrafty sandbox fun. There’s definitely some to be had, you just might have to do a bit of digging.
***A PS4 code was provided by the publisher***
- Looks gorgeous
- Brilliant soundtrack
- Kid friendly
- Weak Combat