STAFF REVIEW of Portal Knights (Xbox One)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

Portal Knights Box art Imagine. if you would, if Minecraft, Lego, and Diablo all went out one night, got obliterated at a bar, and had a wild hotel night. Nine months later you would have Portal Knights by 505 games. Originally out via Steam, lucky console owners finally get to enjoy the game at a price point of $19.99 + tax. Now, you're probably wondering how in God's name all of this ties together, and I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised. The question you should be asking though is: "Is Portal Knights a 3D sandbox RPG environment that will see unknown amounts of hours pass as they blur into days; or is it another clone of Minecraft trying to give you something similar but yet in the end, is still just a knockoff?"

505 Games have released some incredibly fun games in the past such as Rocket League, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Terraria to name a few, and now they have set their sights on delivering a quality 3D sandbox RPG game. Portal Knights tells an extremely loose tale of an evil that has divided numerous realms of varying characteristics and it is up to you to right the wrongs and vanquish the evil responsible.

Ok, now that the dramatic plot pitch is out of the way, that's about all you're going to have to go on when you play, so if you dive into this thinking you're going to experience some grand, meaningful adventure, you're going to be mistaken. If you go into this thinking you're going to play Lego characters set in multiple Minecraft styled realms, then you're going to be incredibly happy.

I reference Lego because as you start out you get to customize your character which looks like a hybrid Lego character with an oversized Lego styled head. Your character choices range from a Warrior (who specializes in melee attacks and has high strength), an Archer (a class who uses ranged weapons and bombs and focuses on dexterity), or a Mage (who is your magic wielder of the trio). Choose wisely because once you select your character the other options are locked out, including various items and weapons.

Once you've chosen your character it's time to customize them. I was surprised at the amount of depth to the character creation as there were numerous presets to form literally billions of combinations (yes, I said billions). If you like to spend time customizing your character, you'll lose a lot of hours here. Once completed you will get a choice to play either online or offline. If you play online, you can share in the fun with 4 people online, or two people local co-op if you decide not to go solo.

When you think you're done making choices, think again, because after you pick online or offline you get to choose between small worlds or large ones. To put things into perspective, a small world is incredibly compact and should be experienced first to get a feel for what you're about to get into. All the realms you experience will be randomly generated; however, your first level will take you through a small tutorial about quests, controls, and menus. For example, pressing LT on an enemy will give your character an enemy lock-on feature which can be annoying at times because the camera system isn't the best. Pressing LT again will disengage it and allow you to move the camera and focus on what you want. After that brief tutorial though, you're on your own. You'll quickly learn how to construct portals which will take you to other realms, and while in the menu one of the tabs is your overall map of the realms so you can see what you have joined and what can be coming up soon. This is also where the Minecraft feel is going to hit you like a freight train.

You'll come across simple 1x1 blocks as far as the eye can see and decorated with varying textures, different block types, and other interactive environmental objects like trees, grasses, gems, etc. that you can mine to create various items, potions, weapons, and more. To do this you will need to build a crafting station which will introduce you into the Portal Knights' crafting menu which is remarkably similar to Minecraft. However, unlike Minecraft, the focus of Portal Knights is to complete various quests that come with every realm. You're going to collect a lot of items you don't need to use, so be ready to dump a lot of items you don't need. Building chests will help increase your storage, but you will be fast travelling back to the realm you built it in to keep things organized. This is the biggest fundamental difference with Portal Knights as combat is the primary focus.

Now, when you begin you'll spend a lot of time leveling up, so the game itself will feel more of a chore than anything. Earning XP while helping other characters you meet within the different areas help level up your character and in turn give you skill points to use on various stats. When you hit milestone levels you'll be able to select various abilities such as sword proficiency and increased rate of healing so long as you stand still for 5 seconds or more.

This building really adds a depth that we see in some of the bigger action RPG games, and goes a long way to giving Portal Knights the credit it deserves. As you progress, not only will your character level up and grow, but you'll come across elements for upgraded weaponry which you will need when you go up against the bosses. This could be considered the central focus of their own world and they will beat you like you owe them money. This is when you're going to realize that in order to respawn you need gold, so make sure you have plenty on hand. You're also going to want to make sure you complete quests to gain new recipes for stronger items and better gear.

In terms of Portal Knights' graphics, I am a huge fan of the randomness as it takes me back to the Diablo days where every run would be different and that is exactly what you get here. The randomness ensures that each level is unique and has its own atmosphere. The characters you encounter throughout will speak in a minion-like gibberish and the colors throughout are nice and bold and go well with the overall art style.

The soundtrack is nice; however, it is incredibly repetitious, so while I wish there was more depth in the soundtrack, when you start going to different levels, you can feel that this was not on par with the rest of the game content. Let me be very clear though, I'm not saying the music is bad, I just wish there were more of it. It's hard though with all the randomness of the levels, I mean how do you ever do music as unique as the levels themselves?

So, is Portal Knights worth $19.99 + tax? Without a doubt, yes. There have been games that cost more than 3 times this but provide less engaging content. If you have a group of people joining in, then the fun just gets magnified by a factor of 10. 505 Games has delivered a content packed, quality action RPG with Portal Knights. It is a game that you can spend hundreds of hours playing and still have just as much fun as when you first set off. Sure, the game has issues, but the issues it has don't come close to outweighing the amount of joy found in the overall package.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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