Portal Knights

You block-ed the path to a successful greeting.

Yes, I'm funny. Today I would like to talk about this years Steam Summer Sale that, surprisingly, didn't leave me bankrupt and eating dry bread under a bridge. This year I bought exactly one game, only one, and that game was Portal Knights which was 33% off. In the past I wanted to go back to Minecraft many times, but I didn't want to play it alone and my friends never felt like going back to play it, until I showed Portal Knights to my man Marsu. He bought it too, we played it, he fucked the game up and we played some more, let me tell you more about it.

As always, lets take a look at where this game comes from. Sacred is a top down ARPG from back in 2004, with a similar gameplay style as Diablo 2, but with a huge singe player story campaign. I loved that game and I've even played it not so long ago. Then Sacred 2 came out, same style, better graphics that positioned itself as a worthy prequel and successor of the first game. Both games were made by the German developer Ascaron, which sadly became insolvent in 2009. Deep Silver bought the Sacred license from Ascaron and gave the assignment of making Sacred 3 to a then relatively unknown German dev team called Keen Games, but sadly they completely failed. Sacred 3 "utterly and completely failed at comedy, action, entertainment and game design" removing things like loot (I mentioned it worked like Diablo so, imagine that), skill trees and chopping the games runtime to a quarter of its predecessors. All that after Deep Silver even asked the community what they wanted Sacred 3 to be. All in all a complete failure that currently has about 20% approval rate on Steam.

"What are you talking about, you walnut? Isn't this a Portal Knights review?" you may ask. Yes indeed. I wanted to vent a little bit because Keen Games is the developer of Portal Knights. Fist time I saw that I was a little wary, I didn't feel like buying a game from a developer that ruined that series I loved so much in the past. It still got me interested and after researching the game I went to the Steam community forums in order to ask a few questions that had me a little worried. Not two hours later a dev replied to my inquiry explaining in detail how some of the mechanics I asked about work. I bought it immediately after. I'm not asking that every dev should directly answer every question the community has, we can help each other out too, but the fact that they went such lengths is a big plus. You also may be thinking, why am I going through all this trouble for a game worth 10 bucks? Easy question with an easy answer, and it's not even about it being in early access. I have so many games in my Steam library that I've never played or never even reached one full hour of playtime, all because of impulsive buying, I think everyone on Steam knows this. I realised I don't need those games for "someday when I don't know what to play" because in my last 10 years on Steam that never really happened. You are always playing two or three games simultaneously, or even more if you play with different people so, never happened to me.

Anyways, let's finally start talking about Portal Knights. This game got released as an Early Access Game on Steam back in February this year and we are currently playing it on Version 0.4.1. Portal Knights is a 3D sandbox game with procedurally generated floating islands, each one with unique biomes, creatures, and exclusive resources for crafting on each of those islands. You can travel between islands through pre-existing portals which you have to activate before using them to travel. You can find them on the surface or at the end of dungeons that go deep down into the earth.

I've personally played a ton of Minecraft and Terraria, both block mining sandbox games with their own way of creating depth. Portal Knights takes a little different approach to it. First, your playground is limited to the size of the island you are on at any given time. These islands aren't very big currently, you can walk from one end to the other in about a minute, but the devs have already announced bigger islands to come in patch 0.5. They are very varied though, with hills, cracks, buildings ranging from little houses to huge castles and dungeons and very varied biomes. Next you start by choosing one of three different classes, warrior, archer or mage. These have their own set of skills, which you can learn throughout the game, and armour sets. Every armour piece has different attributes, allowing you to somehow customize your character, it's very limited, so are the attribute points and talents, but I'll get to that later. The combat resembles the one of the early Zelda games on the N64, where you can focus on an enemy and vault around him without losing your aim, but the game still allows you to attack without having to focus, which is nice.

Marsu and I went for archer and warrior, but I switched to a mage later on because the foes hit really hard and at level 10 I still didn't seem to gain any resilience against physical damage, so I just levelled up another character and joined him shortly after. You can start building on any island you like, and then set it as your home island where you can travel to every time you need to store your gathered treasures or want to craft something new. We chose a green summer-like biome because we thought it was the prettiest. We like how everything is so full of detail in this game, every block has high resolution textures, grass growing on them and have little details like rocks. The blocks also adapt their textures if you place them next to each other, like a stone wall doesn't just get cut off, but gets a nice "edge texture" that makes it feel real.

And the picture you see right above this was the last one I took from our world. Since this game works with local saves, one of us had to be the game master, and for once it was Marsu. You guessed it, since that's my last screenshot he must have fucked up, and you are completely right. He grew tired of the Windows 10 update pop-up and having absolutely no knowledge of computers he goes and hits update. Well, what he completely ignored was the fact that he was using a cracked version of Windows 7, without a valid license key, and as the updater tried to convert his key to a Win10 key, the program crashed and leaving him unable to boot. It somehow locked it so tight that he wasn't able to go passed the boot manager. At this stage he still didn't think of asking me (I work as an IT Manager) and went to a friend for him to reinstall Windows 7. He never made a backup of anything, so he lost all his data for like the 3rd time already, including of course our Portal Knights world. Backup your data kids!

At this point we had to start all over, the only thing that was left was my char, the world and his char were saved locally on his PC. Not a problem for someone that played Minecraft in creative mode, just building stuff all the time, I'll just build our fortress again.That's what I did for the week to come, since Marsu didn't have the time to play I just farmed materials and built us a new base:

So yeah that's our humble little castle, with a storage floor with direct access from the outside, a crafting floor with all the benches upgraded and the basement, which houses a little army of terracotta soldiers and a portal. At this point in the article, patch 0.5 has already been released, bringing along the long awaited bigger islands, also adding new items and some UI changes. You can now choose between small, medium and large islands when you create a new world, all existing worlds are now categorized as small. I'm not really sure if at this point I'll be starting a new world to be honest, it really depends on Marsu right now, I've spent many hours in our second save there. Nonetheless booted one up to check out the difference in size, and damn they now look amazing.

Now they have made the island big enough in my opinion, on the little islands you run into the problem that the portals are way to easy to find, which makes you leave the area quicker, and there aren't that many resources, so you stay on an island for less time. I'm sure there are people that have played this game for hundreds of hours already and are much more efficient as I am, but my system to get my resources looked as follows; If I wanted to mine a specific ore, I'd rush through the first 2-3 islands that had that ore and mined only on the last one, because it's the one that the highest amount of it. If I needed the trees/plants from a specific biome, I'd just farm the seeds and plant them again all around the teleporter. Now as those islands got bigger, I think you have more incentive to explore every inch of those islands, just because there are now more resources and also more space for dungeons or castles.

All in all I have to say the game is very well polished, considering the fact that it is an early access alpha. We could argue how there's not much enemy variety or that the combat feels repetitive, but all that the devs have decided to put into the game works, and that's very important. I haven't seen one single bug in the 30h I've been playing. Marsu was the only one that once found a bug on how to replicate blocks, which the day after became impossible to replicate. This is one of the big pros of this early access title, the devs didn't just throw an unfinished test build of a game just go already get paid for the work, no. Here is how you do early access right, you have an idea, build the basic mechanics around that idea which in this case would be the world randomiser, the combat and crafting/building. Once the foundation for your game is in place, you can start adding content. New items, now biomes, new monsters and bosses, maybe even dynamic events as the daily missions we already have. Big props to Keen Games for that.

A few things still need to change or be added to the game in order to get it there, that being the point where it clearly differentiates itself from all the other blocky sandbox games, but they are on a very nice path. One of the things that needs a complete overhaul is the talent system. Every class has slightly different talents to choose from every 5 levels, sometimes you don't even have a choice like the game says "hey you reached level 10 you now get +30% EXP from all sources" you just stand there going "well, neat, I suppose". What I miss a little bit is the "strengthens fire spells" or "increases damage with one handed weapons" stuff like that, that allows you to customize your play style a little bit. A little bit more variety comes in the form of different tiers of armour. I hope that as the devs keep adding content and different resources, the variety in craftables will also grow with it.

Portal Knights is an early alpha game that works, doesn't have any game braking issues and still enough content to keep you playing it for quite a while, enough for the next content patch to drop and making you want to play even more, as it happened to me. If you played Minecraft or any other sandbox game you'll feel yourself right at home with this one. Being pretty, fun, and having a solid dedicated multiplayer made us love to play this game, I'm not disappointed. That's it for today's article, one that I nearly didn't finish on time. Have a good one and...




  1. First month I manage to fuck up :) I nearly forgot to post it on time for July and tried to post it from my Phone since I was away from home. Which obviously didn't work because the Android app for Blogger is garbage. It somehow blocked the post and didn't let me save it, but republishing it was working, and I didn't notice this until the day after.

    It had to happen sooner or later, July 2016, first month without a post in two and a half years. I will have to live with that ^^



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