Since the dawn of the Minecraft-era, there have been a number of similar voxel-based adventure games released. Whilst, not direct copies of, these titles all bear similarities to Notch’s brainchild but have built on the idea and have since formed their own class of games.
Developed by Keen Games, Portal Knights was built with the idea in mind that games like Minecraft should have fantasy-RPG elements included. In similar fashion to Trion Worlds’ recent release, Trove, Portal Knights offers a class system with unlockable skills, perks and abilities, a crafting system (what would a game like Minecraft do without one!?), a surprisingly extensive customisation menu and online multiplayer options, perfect for inviting your pals to take part in slaying some beasts.
You start life as one of the traditional three classes; Ranger, the games typical rogue-like bow-and-arrow wielding adventurer, Mage, the ranged-favouring mana-lobbing wizard and of course, the boots on the ground run-of-the-mill Warrior, hulking great dullards, with the strength and health bonuses of an ox. The perk tree points your class in the general direction traditional class systems would like to pigeonhole you in, however, the game does give you an element of freedom to level as you please. With each level increase, as well as unlocking a skill every 5 levels, you’ll also be granted 3 attribute points to allocate in the perk tree. This means that you can absolutely play as a bench-pressing Mage. The possibilities!
The attributes, albeit in concrete once applied, can be altered once you’ve developed the skill to craft a stat-resetting potion, allowing you to restart the build however you see fit. Alongside this, at levels 5, 10, 15 and so on, you’ll unlock class specific abilities, which, unlike most RPG titles, are not locked, enabling you to switch on the fly.
The tutorial system is made up of small “tasks”, each pointing you to the next stage of your engagement in Portal Knights. First, it tells you to “Look around” and fifteen minutes later you’re crafting specific potions from the reagents you’ve gathered in the field you conveniently had planted, prior to you dropping into the game. It’s a steady and gradual climb but after a short while you’re set free, into the open, perhaps a little too soon. It’s one thing Portal Knights certainly could do with, a little more direction.
Whilst I didn’t expect it to have the multi-ending epic seen in games like Mass Effect, Portal Knights‘ storyline and motives fell short, falling into exactly the same spot as Minecraft and Trove.
Alongside the lack of apparent drive or storyline, the game does also seem to have a few stability issues. In a session lasting at least a few hours, I counted five game-ending crashes. Albeit frustrating, the game does have a handy auto-save feature that kicks in every few moments, so the crashes seemed to be only minor setbacks, rather than campaign ending freezes. Upon launching the game, the title screen displays the game’s version number, currently at 1.0.0. Not that it is necessarily acceptable, but I would hope to see future updates clean up this issue.
Overall, Portal Knights is surprisingly addictive. Its lack of a solid storyline is a shame, and the occasional crash is certainly something that can’t be overlooked, but having played a few of similar titles, I found it surprisingly enjoyable and full of action and adventure. It’s the best-looking title of the genre by a country mile and the skills and abilities all feel unique and equally useful. The crafting system takes time to master but with a bit of get up and go, any wide-eyed explorer can find the materials they need to progress. I’d recommend Portal Knights to fans of Minecraft and Trove, naturally, but also to the traditional fantasy RPG fan who fancies something ever so slightly different.