For being one of the most popular games in the world, Minecraft is one that I’ve never been able to get into. Part of it is the blocky graphics, which I’ve never found to be that endearing, the other part is not being interested in building things. Portal Knights is a game that at its base is a Minecraft-type game with farming materials and building things, but is a bit more adventurous. Portal Knights came out earlier this year on other consoles, but has brought some great co-op building and questing action to the Nintendo Switch.
There is a bit of a story to the game set in a world which was once whole, and then it was magically separated and all the realms split apart. The basis of the game is questing to find or craft pieces of portal stones to open up portals to move on to the next realm. You’ll meet some NPCs here or there, but the story is fairly minimal; the quest to craft new gear and get to different realms is what you’re playing for and it works for the most part.
When the game first starts you get to pick one of the three classes; warrior, mage or rogue. You can pick if you want to be male or female, and then go through a number of options in regards to skin and eye colour, hair style, and so forth. The game doesn’t have a huge mix of options in regards to making your character, but you don’t really need them and the designs look cute enough you’ll be happy with what you’ve come up with. The first location you load in will be your tutorial level more or less, where you’ll learn the basics of combat, crafting and more. Once you have a good grasp on the basics, you create your first portal and then head off to the next realm. One thing to note is that the levels themselves are randomly generated when you load into them, however they do seem to follow certain themes, like deserts, or ice worlds, etc.
The crafting in the game works pretty well for the most part, and is similar to those that have played games like Minecraft or Terraria. Go around and chop down trees, dig up dirt, attack enemies, and then gather the resources that you get from them. Then you can either craft things on the spot, or you need to go to a workshop table and craft items there. You can also build structures to your hearts content: building little houses, or large castles, the sky is the limit. However, since the game is so focused on progressing through realms to get to the end of the game, you don’t tend to stick around long enough to really warrant building things, unless you really want to. I can see some people enjoying the crafting and building though and being content to build up their own creations and show them off, but that just seems counter-intuitive to what the game wants you to be doing. Regardless, I’m sure there are a lot of really great things that have been built.
What I did enjoy in Portal Knights over Minecraft though, is the combat and RPG elements. The game does have a leveling system, so when you are killing monsters, or heading down through mines underground, you’ll get experience. After leveling up, you can spend points to build up your stats and so forth. Additionally, you’ll often end up in new realms facing off against monsters that can be incredibly tough, so there can be quite a bit of grinding in the game. Grinding to level is normal in the game, but you can also find some materials to craft yourself some new gear. The combat as well I quite enjoyed, as it feels a lot like Legend of Zelda, where you can lock onto enemies and strafe, move in for the kill, and so forth. It’s actually quite enjoyable and when playing with others, it’s fun to set up strategies when fighting tougher enemies.
Speaking of playing with others, the game was definitely meant for that. You can play through the game with local co-op play, or online with up to three other people. It’s actually a really great experience, and again, fun when the warriors are tanking enemies while the mages and rogues DPS from afar, and that’s just combat. Working together to build things is also enjoyable, much like working together and building things in Fortnite. You can play through the game solo, but the game is a lot more fun when playing with others.
Visually, Portal Knights looks great. The worlds are often very vibrant and colourful, and populated with all sorts of cute, yet dangerous creatures. Also, the game runs great both either docked or in handheld on the Switch. When I was playing in handheld, I rarely noticed any framerate dips and the game remained looking very crisp. My only complaint though was the game has a day-night cycle, and when I was playing in handheld mode, it was often hard to see the game world when it was night time. I would crank up the brightness but it was still a bit too dark. The music in the game is also great, with some nice ambient and tiny symphonic pieces. After clearing out enemies in some realms, I would wander just to listen to the music and take in the game world.
I quite enjoyed my time with Portal Knights. It had just the right amount of crafting and building things Minecraft-style to shake things up, but the focus on RPG stat building, gear crafting and fighting was spot on. As well, if you have a family member that is moderately interested in this to play co-op with, or friends far away to play online with, the game is even better. Portal Knights is a cute adventure that is a bit of a mixed bag of game parts, but they all come together to make for an enjoyable experience for those that like to craft and quest.
A review code was provided by 505 Games