A while back I reviewed Minecraft: Wii U Edition which was my first foray into the world of Minecraft. Little did I know that it would prepare me for a preview of Portal Knights, a game that mixes fantasy role-playing game elements with bits and pieces of Minecraft. You might be asking yourself how that’s possible? I recently got the opportunity to find out. I checked out Portal Knights on Steam Early Access. Let’s take a look at how one of my favorite genres—RPGs—mixes with something I’ve only just recently gotten into.
When you start, you’ll create a character from one of three classes: Warrior, Ranger, and Mage. Each class has their own specialties, which I'll cover in a bit. Once you create a character, you’re dropped into the first level. You see a few glowing orbs in the sky. Going up to one of these gives you a tutorial mission that teaches you the gameplay mechanics. Namely, how to craft items and progress through the game. The goal is to get through each level and each one contains at least one portal. The portals are easy to identify, as they’re in little constructs and have some faded-colored blocks. To activate the portal you fill in those holes with their respective colored blocks.
Crafting is where the Minecraft aspect comes into play. Just about everything you find that’s not able to attack you can be mined, gathered, collected, whatever. Everything from blocks of dirt to portal block shards to crop seeds to other random ingredients. Most of these can be crafted in various components. Some can be crafted on the spot while others require something like a workbench or a furnace. Items you can craft include armor and weapons as well as furniture. It may sound weird that you can build shelters similar to Minecraft, but it’s not like you have to worry about getting attacked randomly at night by creatures—at least to the point where I played. It is nice, though, to have a decent-sized shelter in some areas where you can set up a crafting station.
As you progress through the various levels you’ll find more materials and components you can use to craft better items and upgrade a few things as well. For instance, one of the first things I did was upgrade my workbench so I can craft better weapons and armor, because the weapons you can craft from the start will only last so long before they become basically ineffective. I also ended up crafting a chest once I realized they existed as your backpack will fill up rather quickly and if you’re like me, you end up hoarding everything you find and don’t want to toss anything.
When you defeat enemies they’ll drop small yellow cubes which will give you experience points when picked up. Once you gain enough experience you’ll level up which has its ups and downs. The positive is that your stats will go up and at certain levels you can pick a bonus such as better gathering abilities or improved durability. You might also gain a new skill or have a choice between skills at certain levels (and don’t worry about choosing the wrong skill as you can change your choice at any time). However, there’s not much customization in that regards. When you gain a level you gain a couple of points in each of the three attributes: strength, agility, and intelligence. Depending on which class you choose from the three when you started, you’ll get more points towards a certain attribute than the other two. In other words, you can’t choose which stats the points go into, but it kind of balances out in that any class can use any armor or weapon, at least from what I’ve played so far. Still, having the ability to place your own skill points would be a nice idea to try.
The game also has multiplayer, but it has to be locally or with friends. You can’t just join a random game online. Sadly I don’t have any friends who play this yet so I’m not able to check out the multiplayer. When you start a session you can choose to start the game either privately or allow friends or local players to jump in at any time. Again though, I have no way of checking this out to see how stable it is or how it even works.
As I play through the game I do enjoy a lot of it, but there are also things that tend to annoy me to an extent. Keep in mind that this game is still in Early Access so some of this may change between now and the final release. The first thing that most people will notice is the large amount of plant life on each level. Not just grass and flowers but trees…lots and lots of trees. I say this because they get in the way quite a bit when trying to move the camera around and will easily block your vision. Another thing is that a lot of items have durability, similar to Diablo II. You can still use an item once the durability runs out but it’s only half as effective, including weapons. That’s fine, but I have a hard time trying to figure out how wands lose durability when all you do is wave them around and fire magic out of them. Still, that’s only a minor nitpick.
In the grand scheme of things, Portal Knights is a fun game as it stands now. From what I’ve played so far it seems to be coming along nicely. My only other complaint is that you sometimes have to travel a few levels ahead to find components to upgrade your armor or weapons, but your current weapon is nearly ineffective against what you’ll find on that level. Thankfully when you warp to another level from the world map you’ll get some info on what enemies and items you’ll find as well as what components you can gather. While not perfect and could use a few improvements, Portal Knights is a fun game and I do plan to put more time into it. After all, it does take some time to get through forty-four levels when the camera angles want to keep reminding you of all of the lovely trees you can chop down.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.