Portal Knights is yet another drop in the bucket of Minecraft-like RPG’s that have been hitting the marketplace in recent years. My last experience with this type of game was Trove, which left a sour aftertaste in my mouth due to its poor optimization and restrictive build mechanics. The difference with Portal Knights however, is that it’s quickly apparent Keen Games has put effort into developing a worthwhile experience for its players, who won’t be left feeling disappointed after only a few hours of play.
Portal Knights begins by introducing some light exposition. After a catastrophic event, known as the Fracture, the Peaceful Realm has shattered and ripped apart into a world of floating islands. With the world plunged into darkness, the player must traverse the ancient portals to unite the lands together again and become the ultimate Portal Knight. What’s disappointing with many of these Minecraft RPG’s is that this is the full extent of the story. While there’s no meaningful NPC’s to find or Quests to embark on in Portal Knights, there are some fun arena styled boss battles set up to make the player want to progress and find new worlds rather than just staying in one spot. The game also features co-op for up to 4 players online and even features split screen if the user prefers an offline experience at home.
RPG lovers who jump into Portal Knights will find a great deal of character customization options, but a weak selection of classes and skills. Portal Knights launched out of Early Access with only the bare necessity of classes to choose from; warrior, archer and mage. While not as expansive in choice as I expected, the real weakness is levelling up and obtaining new skills, which are just a mix of passive abilities instead of an in depth move set. This makes fighting enemies feel like a grind, which is a shame because Portal Knights has a decent combat system at its core. The easiest way to describe the combat is by comparing it to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Players have access to dodges and rolls when they lock onto an enemy, but attacking them can feel lacklustre rather quickly because there are no unique techniques to learn and spice up the action. The real variety of the game comes from loot, which both regular mobs and bosses drop as crafting recipes to expand the player’s arsenal of weapons and gear.
What Keen Games accomplished immediately with Portal Knights is giving the player a quality toolbox of building mechanics and the freedom to craft wherever their heart desires. The beginning tutorial is smartly designed and introduces every gameplay mechanic within the first half hour, letting the players hand go immediately so they can experiment crafting new things through trial and error. Living off the land and building an expansive mansion is still a fun experience, but in order to gain access to new materials and more powerful weapons, players must build new portals to other worlds. Thankfully, players can transport back to any world they previously visited so there’s no fear of losing any materials or worthwhile creations as they progress further.
Portal Knights feels like a barebones experience. While the foundation Keen Games created is solid, there is so much more that could be expanded on and fleshed out to create an even better experience for its players. Portal Knights may not have hooked me in, but I believe that with a dedicated fan base, the game can grow into something bigger and more elaborate. In its current state, however, Portal Knights lacks depth, especially when it comes to its RPG classes and skills.