It’s really easy to look at crafting games and roll your eyes. In a way, it is inevitable. The ultimate crafting game, Minecraft, sold over 100 million copies over all platforms. That is an insane number! So of course, there is a part of my brain that looks at other crafting games and thinks, “well, I wonder if this is a crappy knockoff of Minecraft.” As I started playing Portal Knights, I realized that they did something that Minecraft misses. Portal Knights gives you crafting with a purpose.
First, there is an actual story! Granted, it is not the strongest story, but at least you get a purpose to your adventures. The world has been split apart by the Fracture. Because of this, the world has been split apart in to islands. Throughout the world, you will challenge countless enemies and eventually Portal Guardians – big, bad monsters that will stop at nothing to destroy you. You task is simple enough – built and fight your way through these Portal Guardians and reunite the world.
Portal Knights isn’t a simple crafting game. It’s true form is an action RPG with crafting elements. You start the game by choosing three different classes: Warrior, Ranger, and Mage. Each have their pros and cons as you start the game, but in true RPG form, you can level up and upgrade you character throughout the game to create a powerful Knight. I personally enjoyed my time with the Ranger. The ranged attacks were very powerful and it was easy to dodge with the increased movement speed. This was beneficial in the early parts of the game as I came across some powerful enemies. I think the Mage is a close second because of the variety of spells and things you can do with him/her. The Warrior is pretty standard. After you create your character, you can change their facial features, hair, etc, and give them a fitting name. This is a simple character design, so don’t expect Skyrim levels of customization. However, the facial features and hair design fit nicely with the fantasy vibe and cartoon like art design.
I really enjoyed my Ranger, but I would definitely recommend making multiple characters. That way, you will be prepared for the many islands in your adventure. The islands are randomly generated, so you won’t find the same layout. There are some things that stay the same no matter how the island generates. You can expect enemies to defeat, mines to explore, and crafting materials to collect. The worlds vary a great deal, and with that comes long loading times to generate the worlds. It takes about a minute or two to load the islands when you go through portals or fast travel. Now there is a chance that maybe it was just my Xbox that was having a hard time handling it. During my playthrough, my Xbox One S sounded like an airplane taking off on several occasions. I don’t know if it is an isolated thing, so I just wanted to mention it as a warning.
I wanted to take a minute to talk about the crafting. Again, it is easy to say that this is a knockoff of Minecraft. And in a small way, it is. There are a variety of ores to mine and use to create all kinds of buildings and accessories for your home. You will use workbenches, furnaces, etc to make items for your home. I didn’t find as many items as you would in Minecraft, but I was ok with that. To me, Minecraft is solely for building and with some combat. Portal Knights offers a good mix of both. You have a lot of options to create on your island. I let my young sons (8 and 4) play some of Portal Knights and they had a great time. At no time, did they complain about lack of options. They still made big houses and attempted to make castles.
Besides the crafting, we have a lot of combat. The enemies drop money and items that are necessary to not only survive, but to create more portals to different islands. Each island has a stone structure with a certain number of portal blocks. As you kill enemies or mine, you will get shards that will be used to create the rest of the portal blocks you need. It is vital to kill the enemies on the island. Not only do you get items, but you get XP to level up your stats and make your knight very powerful.
Combat can be challenging. It was very challenging for my young kids, but they got used to it after a while. When you engage an enemy, you will lock on with the camera which will allow you to roll in all kinds of directions to avoid getting hit. Your beginning weapons are not very durable, so be prepared to make new weapons or make sharpening tools to fix your weapons and tools. One thing that bugged me was the camera angle in 3rd person mode. It felt a little off and made crafting and combat difficult. However, there is a first person mode that works very well.
I played most of my playthrough in single player mode. Portal Knights does offer split screen multiplayer, which was a lot of fun with my kids. Much like Minecraft, it is a ton of fun working with others in combat and crafting. You can trade items and help each other make the best island possible. As a quick note, Portal Knights offers up to 4 player co-op online. Unfortunately, I was unable to find anyone online to play, so I will make sure to update this article with my thoughts. But if my time on split screen is any indication about the quality of the 4 player co-op, then I am pretty confident that it will be an enjoyable experience.
The art design and graphics are cartoon like, but it fits really well with what Portal Knights is trying to accomplish. In a way, Portal Knights is geared towards children, so the cartoon characters and animation fit well with the theme. The music fits nicely with the game. It’s nothing extraordinary, but it works. My only complaint about the graphics is how pitch black it is at night. You can barely see in front of you, especially if you are in a cave. Make sure to craft some torches for the nighttime.
Portal Knights doesn’t really break any new ground in the genre. Some will still see the crafting and immediately think about Minecraft. But personally, I don’t have a problem with that. The game is really fun, and that’s what’s important. Portal Knights may not have been the first of it’s kind, but it does a lot of great things. The enemies are challenging, you can craft a lot of items, and it is really fun with friends. Some may be turned off by the long loading times and the grind to level up. But at $19.99, there is a ton of value in this game and it is very entertaining. I was honestly surprised with how quickly my young kids wanted to drop Minecraft and play Portal Knights. But in a way, it makes sense. Portal Knights gives you something that is lacking in Minecraft – it gives you a clear purpose and goal as you play.
Portal Knights is available May 19th in Europe and May 23rd in North America for $19.99. It will be available on Steam, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.
Let us know in the comments if you are planning on picking up Portal Knights!
Note: GameOctane Editor Ryan Welch received a code for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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Randomly generated islands
Crafting allows a lot of creativity
Long loading times
Combat a little too challenging for young gamers
3rd person camera is a little off