Ever since the first version of Minecraft came out in 2009 many different games have tried to emulate it’s blocky, creative, open-ended style. Most, however, have failed to get the formula right, and have flopped at release. Though Minecraft might be simple in concept, it has proven tricky to recreate. Out this week, Portal Knights, a new title from Keen Games and 505 Games, seeks not to recreate Minecraft, but instead to build upon the concept and add something new to the mix. Both Portal Knights and Minecraft share similar voxel-based graphics and open, sandbox style gameplay — that, however, is where the similarities end. At its’ core Portal Knights is an RPG. It has all the right elements to really represent something new in today’s video game market. Like any classic RPG, Portal Knights has character progression (including upgrades, levels, appearance, etc), story, a combat system, and a large world with plenty of places to visit.
As soon as you start the game it immediately takes you to a character creation screen where you get to design your character and choose which class you want to play as: Warrior, Ranger, or Mage. After you finalize your character the game rapidly spawns you into a new world where you get to start playing. Due to the lack of tutorials not being included (just like another voxel sandbox game that comes to mind), the first few minutes of the game can be confusing as you try and get your grip on the controls and gameplay mechanics. Once you start to figure things out, maybe after dying a few times, is when the game truly opens up. Once you figure out the crafting mechanics the possibilities for what can be done in this game readily become apparent, and even more so when you realize just how many worlds there are to explore. Another interesting feature of the game is the developer’s inclusion of a co-op mode that allows multiple players to journey through the same worlds together. While this might be an expected feature for games in this category, it makes a big difference in this game because of how difficult it is normally. Online co-op supports up to 4 people at a time and local co-op supports 2 player splitscreen.
Unfortunately, however, some of these features fall flat due not only to the steep learning curve of this game but also the cluttered and unruly UI that is encountered throughout the game. Additionally, along with the aforementioned problems, the low resolution of the graphics has a tendency to make the game look and feel clunky in a way that negatively impacts how enjoyable the game actually is. This ultimately leaves the impression that the game is unfinished and not ready for release. Another large problem we found with the game is the crafting system. In a game like this crafting should be fairly straightforward and not leave the player feeling exasperated. The frustrations we experienced with the crafting definitely hurt the overall feel of the game. All in all, we thought that Portal Knights was an interesting take on a genre that is already crowded, but we are not sure that it is unique enough to stand out amongst the many other Minecraft-esque games already on the market.
- New take on the Minecraft genre
- Engaging RPG elements
- Entertaining character creation
- More depth than the average sandbox game
- Difficult learning curve
- Clunky UI
- Weird controls
- Similar to games that already exist
For $20 it is not a terrible deal, and if you are looking for something new to play in this genre with a friend then we believe it is worth taking a look at. Portal Knights is currently available on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC.