Game: Portal Knights
Developer: Keen Games
Publisher: 505 Games
Console: PS4 (Reviewed on PS4 and PS4 Pro), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: May 18, 2017
It’s a bit hard to define what exactly Portal Knights is. It feels like Dragon Quest Builders, but not to the same degree. It also has some Minecraft elements, but again, not quite to the same degree of the game it takes inspiration from.
The basics of it all are that you’ll take on the role of one of three classes: Warrior, Mage, or Ranger. You’ll start the game by building a character with one of those three classes, with a few customization options to make your character your own. The customization options are super basic, but the result is always a cutesy character that you’ll be proud to call your own.
The three class types play wildly differently, with the warrior slashing up foes with a sword, the Ranger shooting arrows, and the Mage slinging spells at enemies. Each class will require more of certain resources to craft their unique armor sets, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to play co-op with a friend. Because if you’re both a Warrior and you’re looking for ore to smelt, you might have trouble finding enough for the both of you.
You’ll then take your character into various randomly generated 3D sandbox worlds, starting at a tutorial world of sorts. It’ll walk you through the game’s basics, including combat, crafting, and creating portals.
The majority of the worlds you’ll travel to afterward will have one or two portals for you to find, and in order to progress through the game, you will have to find, activate, and walk through these portals (you can also just activate the portals and then go to the new world in the menus). In order to be able to find these portals that are randomly scattered about these worlds, you’ll have to level up and gear your character properly so that you can take on the challenging enemies of those worlds. Each of the new worlds you’ll visit has its own vibe to it, displaying a unique aesthetic and containing a handful of resources.
One of Portal Knights‘ most appreciated features is that it runs incredibly well on the PS4, without any graphical hiccups whatsoever. It’s all beautifully rendered, too, and runs at a smooth 60fps. Getting into a game world with your friend is quick and easy, and although traveling between worlds has slightly longer load times than you’ll find on PC, it’s generally a great technical experience.
As far as enemies are concerned, you’ll find varying types, ranging from Slimes, orc-looking Grunts and Roarcs, dragons, skeletal humanoids (Bones), fire-spitting maggots and more — each of which is beautifully drawn, colorful, and have slight variations (depending on if they have any elemental properties or not). These enemies will drop portal pieces that you’ll use to build your portal blocks once you find the portals in that world. So, expect to kill, kill, and kill some more.
There are also a few tough bosses in the game which players will come across at every 10 levels. Once defeating these bosses on Normal Mode, you’ll get a recipe for a crafted relic that will allow you to play the boss in Hard Mode, making that boss much tougher. After defeating the tougher boss (which I promise you won’t do on your first try), you’ll get higher quality drops like Titanium Ore, Plate, Magic Fleece Cloth, and high-quality weapons.
But there’s more to Portal Knights than just killing enemies and building portals. There’s a crafting element to it that gives it its Dragon Quest Builders flavor. You’ll start by crafting a Workbench, then using that Workbench to build items you’ll use to craft potions, new spells, armor, and weapons. The Workbench tells you how many of which resources you’ll need to build the item you want to build, and you’ll try to find those resources on every new world you visit. On the world select screen, you’ll find details of every world you’ve previously visited and discovered. So, if you know you’ll need Pumpkins for some potion, you’ll go to the Autumn-themed world that lists pumpkins under its available resources. After getting the pumpkins you need, you’ll venture to other worlds to get the other materials needed for that potion.
Of course, the resources you need will level up with the new worlds you’ll visit, meaning you won’t find copper ore on new planets when you’re a level 18 Mage and you’re visiting a level 18 world. No, if you need to build a new furnace (which requires copper ore), you’ll have to venture back to one of your old worlds to gather that ore and bring it with you. Luckily, each of the stations you’ll use (Workbench, Furnace, Altar, etc) can be easily broken down in one world, thrown in your backpack and taken with you to your next adventure. You’re also able to set up a home world and just keep all that stuff on your home world if you prefer.
Not everything you’re able to craft serves a purpose, though. Like in Minecraft, you’re able to build purely cosmetic items including gear and things to put in your home. This, of course, gives the game its replayability after you’ve completed all of the worlds. And, if you’re like us, you’ll spend tons of time on your home world after you’ve beaten the final boss.
There are only a couple of minor annoyances with Portal Knights‘ final release. The first, and most offensive, is that when you’re playing co-op with a buddy, you both have to be in the same world at all times. This means that if you’re with someone who is collecting a certain resource, and you need to venture to another world to gather another resource, you’re pretty much stuck waiting on your friend to finish in order to move on to go get what you need. At times, this will leave you finding trash mobs to level up as your friend finishes their task, instead of being able to both gather what you need at the same time. It’s by no means a dealbreaker, as gathering resources is mostly a quick task, but there are moments where you’ll feel like you could be doing something much more productive than killing trash mobs for XP. The second annoyance in Portal Knights is that you can’t actually swim in water. Instead, you’ll sink to the bottom, only being able to jump out of the water if you can find land underneath the surface that’s high enough to allow you to do so. With randomly generated worlds, it can be tough, and you’ll likely drown one or two times because of it.
If you love to gather up resources, craft things, gather more resources, and craft better things, Portal Knights is definitely for you. It’s a good mix of Minecraftian adventure and RPG. It’s delightfully whimsical, and the vibes it puts out are simply charming. While we might prefer for Portal Knights to be much more complicated and intricate than it is, what’s there is good, and it’s sure to provide more than enough hours of fun gameplay.