To be quite honest here, playing games like Minecraft was never something that ever struck a chord in the heart. They seemed like games that catered to a younger audience, ones that preferred a more relaxed pace and encouraged you to step outside of the box and create a world of your own. Then it all donned upon me: We’re all young at heart and it’s always been a dream to create a world of your own free will, with nothing holding you back except the limitations you create for yourself. So when Portal Knights released for the Switch, there was this slight inclination to perhaps try this genre out and see what it really was all about.
Portal Knights takes all of the finer aspects of the sandbox procedural world genre and throws in some RPG spices to keep things feeling fresh every time you pick it up. So if you enjoy games like Minecraft or Terraria where you’re freedom to create is pretty dependant on you, then Portal Knights is certainly a fine piece of work that shouldn’t go unnoticed. You can choose from your favorite class of Mage, Warrior or Ranger and then create your own character from there to take on this glorious open world adventure.
What to Expect
As aforementioned, Portal Knights is a game which combines the sandbox create-your-own-world type of feel, much like that of its Minecraft brethren. The only major difference is that Portal Knights implements an RPG element which allows you to level up your character, through beating bosses located on each portal you go through (with the exception of the opening stages since they’re meant as a guide), or by simply crafting whatever you feel like. There are some limitations, however, and we’ll cover that later in the article but basically, expect there to be a lot of grinding to gather items as well as blue portal shards that will allow you to travel from location to location.
It’s that type of game where hours start to feel like a few minutes and your eyeballs start to dilate from all the lush and beautiful landscapes that surround you. It’s truly a wonderful game to sink your time into, especially if you’ve just come off a long day at work and just need to wind down. It’s also an awesome game if you’re on a long trip and just want those hours to fly by. Portal Knights really in a way, takes you into a different portal of its own and you’re control of it at least most of the time. With all that being said, let’s dive a little deeper into the gameplay aspects and emphasize just why Portal Knights is worth the pickup.
The moment you hear RPG, you’re probably quick to assume that there’s going to be some heroic story to compliment all of the running around you’ll be doing. Sadly, there really isn’t one. Of course, your main goal is to defeat all of the monsters that each portal presents to you, but there’s no backstory as to how everything manifested and why there’s some master villain you’ll need to destroy. If there was a concrete story behind it, perhaps there would be more meat behind the already beefy title, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from the experience that Portal Knights already provides. So if that’s one con about the game then perhaps it is due to a lack of a story, but then again, the game encourages you to freely explore without a time restriction so perhaps it may create some imbalance at some point. Speaking of freely exploring, Portal Knights really allows you to go wild with just about everything, whether it be upgrading your weapons to dispose of stronger enemies, or just wandering around and collecting materials to create a snazzy looking home for yourself.
The option to do whatever your heart desires is there but there are some restrictions as to what you can truly come up with. As we said earlier in the article, Minecraft is pretty much the main head of the genre and so it has successfully mastered its purpose quite well. Portal Knights provides similar ordeals but stops you in your tracks in situations where, for example, having to collect shards from enemies. What we mean is that, there are times where you’ll have no choice but to grind your way through tougher enemy hordes in order to proceed onto the next portal. In the early stages of the game, collecting blue portal shards seems quite easy but then as you get further into everything, it comes down to random events as opposed to “Oh hey all that’s necessary is just crafting a, b and c.” So that’s another con that we ran into and where the element of freedom takes a beat seat for a bit. Of course, if the game provided you with infinite freedom, perhaps, we’d run into some serious issues, so we can understand things from a developer's point of view. In a way, the grinding is what drives you to come back and play anyway so if we didn’t have that incentive perhaps would’ve turned dry somewhere down the road.
Fortunately, Portal Knights seems to keep things feeling fresh for most of the time played and only felt a little boring when having to collect the same item over and over again. Of course, this is a first time experience playing these types of games, so it’s only natural to experience situations like that. However for the more experienced player to the genre, Portal Knights will be just another walk in the open world park that will surely satisfy you whether you decide to play online or offline. The option to play co-op with friends is a great addition and of course, should you desire to have some random people join in then the option is there also.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
To wrap things up, Portal Knights is a wonderful addition to the Switch’s already illustrious lineup and we expect more from the Portal Knights team down the road. The port performed well but there were some frame hiccups at times that caused us to die randomly, and the camera controls wouldn’t cooperate with us at times. Be that as it may, once you start to dig deeper into everything and time just joyously passes by, you start to ignore all of the flaws and pay more attention to all the things you can create in this lush and vibrant open world. It’s kind of like meeting that attractive person for the first time and you grow infatuated with them, then over time, you come to notice their flaws. However you start to remember all of those wonderful moments and realize just why this person was meant to be in your life, not because of the flaws but because of the wonderful experiences they provided for you. That’s how Portal Knights feels and will continue to feel as time passes, so we hope the same can be said for you too.
Lush and beautifully designed worlds for you to jump right into.
Every level is different and allows you to station yourself at your favorite one.
The boss battles are challenging enough to keep you satisfied, but not to the point of you feeling frustrated.
Leveling up your character ala RPG mechanics is a nice addition.
The camera controls felt a bit wonky.
The later parts of the game require a little bit more grinding than expected.
This game will not be for everyone.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Portal Knights has been out for about a year now but it feels totally fresh and brand new being on Nintendo’s handheld hybrid platform. The Switch allows for more versatility in terms of movement and the HD rumble feature feels responsive and not overwhelming. You truly feel immersed in the world when playing on handheld mode for some reason, so for that, the Switch version gets a bigger thumbs up than the Steam and console versions. Nothing against them, of course, but there’s just something about having your headphones on as you comfortably lie in bed, playing until the wee hours of the morning and feeling like you’re in a new world of which you created. Nothing can ever beat that type of immersion.
As always, for all things sweet, with news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!