Portal Knights is an Sandbox/Action-Adventure Game developed by Keen Games and published by 505-Games (known for publishing Sniper Elite 3 and Payday 2). A first look at the Game makes it look like a mixture of Minecraft and MySims. It tackles the very popularized Sandbox genre as an Action-Adventure Game, but the question is: Do these two mix well? Let’s take a look at the gameplay:
You start off by creating your Character , the choices of appearance you make here do not matter in the rest of the game, but you do have to choose one trivial thing: your Class. So its either Melee, Archery or Magics: each offering individual perks you can choose from by leveling up.
Now you get to create a “Universe” for your Character to play in. This is done by just typing in a Universe name and pressing go. Characters are not exclusive to one Universe, you can always create additional ones and select between them.
Now lets talk about the World you play in. A Universe is a Hub of multiple “Worlds” that are connected to one-another via broken portals. Fixing those is your job. A World is usually a randomly generated small floating island, with thematically fitting resources and enemy monsters on it. Aside from the stunning rim-lit graphics you will notice that there is no real goal in these Worlds, and by having enough resources to fix up the portals you can skip them altogehter, granted you found the portals first.
But there are more interesting Worlds : Bossworlds! These worlds are usually marked by a Skull on your Universe-Map and there is only few of them in a Universe to begin with. These bosses are an awesome challenge and remind me of Zelda bosses in many ways. There is always some kind of pattern you have to get used too first, and even then there is a slight ammount of skill included in the very smooth third person combat system that Portal Knights offers. Dodging projectiles and attacks feels good and all enemies are (once you fought them a couple of times) predictable and have dodgeable attacks. This means you can theoretically battle them without getting hit once. The Boss faints after you hit his weakpoint (or whatever mechanic is involved in beating it) and gives you a timeframe to damage it.
Beating the boss on the other hand brings me to one of my biggest problems with Portal Knights: Items and Loot. Or rather rewarding in general. It might be just me, but after clearing out a Dungeon or a Boss i expect something that games like Diablo and Borderlands have manifested in my head: Loot. I expected the boss to explode in a fountain of items, just like i expected a chest at the end of a dungeon to contain something of value, for the time i spent beating it.
But here’s what happens: you get some random resource that you can use for sandboxing or crafting, that you can find like any other resource in the regular Worlds. Not once did i get a Weapon or cool Equipment, because the game wants me to craft it. Now here is the problem: without having to craft your equipment yourself, the sandboxy/minecraft mechanics of the game would be completely pointless. Building a house or a base in this game is already absolutely irrelevant. The only use i had for the beginning House that you have to repair during the tutorial is to place chests so i could get rid of all the resources that got thrown at me, which i have absolutely no need or use for. Instead of just giving me a weapon as loot, i get resources so i can upgrade my workbench so i can upgrade my furnace so i can craft a weapon. I think personally that the sandbox mining and crafting aspect are poorly integrated into the core gameplay, and honestly think the game would do better as a fully fledged adventure game, then a mixture of these genre.
Many developers nowadays try to cash in on the minecraft phenomenon, and i think it is kind of understandable that many try to take the recipe, and make it better. But including these gameplay mechanics just for them to be there is just wrong, and shows in this case that it could’ve been something better without it.
Then again Portal Knights is early access and still in the Alpha, so alot might still get changed so check out the game if you think its interesting and stay tuned!