Let’s all admit it. Most of us can not get enough from Sandbox style games. If you are anything like me though, after pouring hundreds of hours into a single title, we usually move on to new games for a bit before being drawn back in. So, having a variety of awesome Sandbox games is never a bad thing.
I personally had never played Portal Knights ever before, so I was very excited to get my hands on this title. I’m used to playing Sandbox games like Minecraft which normally have no real story to follow. One great thing I learned from playing Portal Knights in the first hour or so was how great of a balance there is between the story mode and freedom. The story is just enough to keep pushing you to play, but it is also not too intrusive, so you can essentially just ignore it and do whatever you desire.
As you boot up Portal Knights for the very first time, you are prompted to choose between playing online, offline, or in local play. These are all pretty self-explanatory. You are next set with the best task of all… designing your character! There’s nothing too special in the customization options but it gets the job done. I gave my character a beard, some short spiked up hair, and I was ready to get started. Oh, and you also must choose a character type. You can be a Warrior, Archer or a Mage and each of these have different skills/weapon types they can utilize. This decision does lock you in, meaning if you choose to be a warrior you will not have the ability to use a bow, but you can create multiple different characters if you desire to.
After your character is complete, you are dropped into a world and your adventure begins. The world as you know it has been split into over 40 different biome types. The only way to get into these other biomes is by restoring portals and traveling through them. The portals are restored using portal shards which are randomly dropped from various enemies. Each area has different sorts of materials so exploring and progressing is crucial. On the contrary, if you just wanted to explore around the first biome and create awesome buildings, then that is completely fine. I sat around building in the first area for several hours before moving on to a more difficult biome. This allowed me to get comfortable with the gameplay.
Attacking is rather easy, and if you chose a ranged character, you can lock onto enemies which makes attacking much easier than free-looking. The menus are rather confusing though and difficult to navigate especially at first. I just could not get used to the button layout. I was eventually forced to change the button layout before feeling comfortable, but at least this process is simple to do via the settings menu. In addition to being confused with the menus and my issues with the button layout, I felt very overwhelmed in the worlds. Almost all the biomes have far too much grass and other items covering the ground. This makes everything look cluttered and it is quite bothersome. It may not bother other people as much, but it certainly annoyed me a bit.
Portal Knights does shine in the character progression side of things though. Leveling up allows you to upgrade your character which can unlock new abilities. I loved this implementation on a Sandbox style game. There are also missions you can complete for other NPC characters occasionally. I found myself grinding for XP in the very beginning because of how eager I was to make my character stronger. I was killing every enemy I could find and completing simple missions for everyone I could. This XP allowed me to upgrade my characters speed, strength, and all sorts of other things which was very useful.
When it comes to attacking enemies, it is pretty easy like I mentioned earlier, but things get more challenging as you progress. Enemies can become very strong, and boss fights take some patience if you are fighting them alone. Using your dodge roll is crucial to avoiding taking damage. I was overall pleased and comfortable with the attack mechanisms, and it was implemented very well.
Crafting plays a huge roll in Portal Knights. Crafting allows you to craft things such as new weapons, tools, and some other useful items. The crafting workbench provides all of the recipes you need to create items, so all you need to do is gather the correct ingredients and select what you would like to build.
Chances are, you are wondering how well the 2-player local mode functions, and you may not be so happy with the current results. I experienced quite a bit of framerate issues with the local co-op mode, especially when playing online with others. I never felt like the framerate dipped low enough to be unplayable, but it was frustrating. Being able to play with friends though is a great addition, and I’m hoping to see this issue patched, which is very do-able.
Overall, Portal Knights is a good addition to the Nintendo Switch library, but it is not perfect. Portal Knights provides an endless amount of gameplay, but it suffers from some technical and design issues. Many of these issues can be fixed, and hopefully they will be. If you are interested in Portal Knights I can definitely recommend it to you but it may not appeal to gamers who don’t enjoy sandbox style games.