Ever since Minecraft exploded a few years back, other games have been trying to ape its open world sandbox success. The latest to join that fray is Portal Knights, a brand new title from developer Keen Games and publisher 505 Games. It’s currently on Steam Early Access, but we played several hours of the game and think it might just be our next addiction.
Portal Knights is essentially a string of small procedurally generated islands that you unlock by rebuilding broken portals. Each island has a different strength and weakness in terms of the resources available so you’ll have to switch between them in order to build items, explore dungeons, achieve goals and accomplish tasks set in side quests.
And what glorious little worlds they are. The graphics are cutesy, vivid and full of colour even if you’re in a desert realm. We particularly loved the vast array of character creation options you can go through too. You can play as a knight, mage or a ranger in terms of class, but the way they look is entirely up to you. If you can imagine a sword-wielding female ranger with a giant purple beard and crazy eyes, then you’ve pretty much imagined the character we made.
But like in Minecraft and other open world sandbox titles including the brilliant Dragon Quest Heroes, you’ll have to also deal with the night. As the sun dips below the horizon, The Wrath takes over, turning the one-hit enemies into formidable beasts that you should probably just try to avoid. It’s not a new mechanic by any means, but it’s well executed here from what we’ve seen so far.
It also seems that there’s a much stronger sense of purpose and progression here than in other games of this type. You’ll want to make sure you create a home base of sorts – whether that’s on the original starter island or something a little more plentiful is up to you – but as you progress, you’ll discover there’s a much more varied gameplay experience to be had. And with couch co-op support, you can even do that with a friend.
It’s quite refreshing that there’s such an equal focus on combat as creation in Portal Knights. Along with the open world islands, there are boss-specific spaces and timed events to conquer. We were shown a particularly impressive dragon that you’ll have to face later on in the game and this is just one of many beasts you’ll need to take out.
Combat itself is a fairly simple hack-and-slash affair if you’re a knight, while the rangers are armed with bows and the mages have their magic. We found the camera to sometimes be a little problematic at times, but no doubt this will be fixed before the full release.
But equally, if you mainly just want to build a little home and live in it – à la Stardew Valley – you can, to a point. You’ll need to move along the linear island structure a bit and maybe take out some bosses too, but that’s just to get access to all the resources you’ll need to build the perfect homestead and everything that goes with it.
And we haven’t even talked about the fact that you can have pets in this. On the starter island, we rescued a friendly rat who became our new pal, following us around while we battled evil skeletons and collected berries. But we also saw a fellow Portal Knights warrior with a little panda and later a tiny little dragon. If you’re looking for cute appeal, Portal Knights has it in spades.
Will Portal Knights be good?
Like Minecraft, Portal Knights already has a thriving community and what they’ve created even in Early Access on Steam is an exciting look at the potential of this game. It’s got all the charm and gameplay opportunities to become another sleeper hit to rival the likes of Dragon Quest Heroes and even Minecraft itself.
Thankfully there’s a snazzy little demo for the Xbox One and PS4 versions available from April 20 so you can check out what we’re on about.
Portal Knights is launching on Xbox One and PS4 later this year, with a demo available on both from today.