Portal Knights (Switch eShop) Review
When Portal Knights was first announced, my first reaction was something along the lines of it being another Minecraft wanna-be. However, after exploring the worlds and defeating hordes of monsters and more, Portal Knights offers up something more.
Portal Knights lets you create your own character and assign them one of three different classes — Warrior, Mage or Archer — and once created, you can venture out to discover the world after the fracture. What caused the fracture is something you will discover as you play but is how you discover it that is important, each world has varying levels of things to do, some worlds are lush with greenery and life, perfect for obtaining much-needed supplies, others are barren and full of dangers, but provide some valuable ore. Each world you visit will have some form of history about it from before the Fracture, sometimes other people will be living in the world as well, letting you have small discussions with the people there. Story-wise, the game is not strong, it’s a basic story, with hardly any progression, and what characters you do meet with, usually only say the same line, unless they give you a quest, so don’t come in expecting anything to grand.
Gameplay is where Portal Knights shines, at least some of the time, as the gameplay is split equally between mining and exploring and the combat it offers, which again changes depending on your character class. When you start out, the worlds look small, they are not that large, but given that you can dig down a fair way, they actually offer a lot to discover, with each world having one or two buried secrets. The game mixes the exploration and combat quite well, but only if you swap viewpoints a lot, which is the games biggest issue, at least playing it wisely, when you are building or mining you can do so from either a third person or first person perspective. The problem is the controls are way too finicky in their default for a third person view to be a viable option. First person, however, works almost the same as Minecraft. The problem comes from when you are mining and discover an enemy, apart from when you are an Archer, any form of combat in first person is very hard to do.
The game offers you a lock on system, that when engaged, targets a specific character, your character, however, runs around completely free of that lock, so its nothing like the Zelda games. In first person, you can lock onto a character that is behind you and then if you move around, you can lose their position, it does not track, in third person though it at least keeps your targeted enemy on the screen. The game even has an option to swap you to a third person view once you enter combat, so it knows that the preferred way to fight is in the third person view. Once your combatting is complete, you will need to manually swap back to the first person if you need it — it does not automatically do that — which is just a slight inconvenience really. Each of the games view modes works perfectly for one type of the gameplay on offer, but not the other and while I can appreciate they offer the option for players, it’s a shame that you can’t just enjoy one type of viewpoint.
Once you have established your preferred viewpoint, of course, you will need to get out there and explore the world and doing so is important. As you explore, you will discover many items and mineral that you can use to upgrade your gear and prepare for some the combat that lies ahead. Crafting a new weapon, however, will require you to obtain ore, then smelt it, which needs a furnace and coal, then you need the appropriate level of the worktable to build your weapon, so the simple construction requires many steps and many worlds to visit. That is where the fun will come from, for a lot of people at least, having a goal in mind and then heading out to achieve it, is a welcome thing, the only concern to it, is that some worlds feel quite empty compared to others, but with random events that appear, there is usually something to appeal to all.
Portal Knights also suffers from a strange visual look, the characters look like they were pulled from the MySims series which, while not an issue, does not blend with the more grounded look that everything else has. Each enemy design looks more Dragon Quest-esque, with lots of skeletons, bats and what-not to fight. While some of the designs are quite basic, there are a lot of them that do offer some fun looks, though most of these come out at night. The worlds themselves sadly never really vary past the standard, grass plains, desert, jungle, etc; with each location theme repeating many times over the course of the adventure. Where the game struggles with the presentation however, is that each location is filled to the brim with pointless decoration. While playing docked it does lag from time to time, but when on the go, it does it a lot; thankfully the studio seemed to have noticed this and added a way to turn all that pointless stuff off, which is honestly the best way to view it. Sound-wise, the game is fine, creatures all have distinct sounds and they are easy enough to make out over the world audio and the game’s music, no character really speaks, except in the gibberish speak that games like to use, and even then it’s only done when you interact with a character.
Portal Knights on Nintendo Switch is a great little game — it offers a lot more to the experience than Minecraft does, but does not throw you in the deep end like Dragon Quest Builders does, which is coming to Switch in 2018 as well. Players will likely find more appeal when they play with friends, because on your own, the adventure does not seem so grand. That said, given the number of options that you can employ to customise your experience to your choosing, there is plenty to keep solo adventurers coming back.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Fun and explorable worlds ripe for discovery
- Simple yet powerful crafting takes the drag out of it
- You can choose which direction you head off in as you explore more
- Can't really be played in one view point exclusively
- Game struggles to run with all the visual options on, even worse in handheld
- Load times fall to the long side, even when going to basic worlds