It seems to be on the forefront of every person’s mind that plays Portal Knights that it’s trying to be Minecraft. And that’s understandable, Minecraft is arguably one of the most sensationally successful franchises to grace the gaming community. However, just because imitation is the best form of flattery, doesn’t mean it will yield the same results.
Thankfully, there are a few things that Portal Knights does differently that sets it apart from the world wide block-busting block builder. For one, the appearance, while still maintaining that familiar cubular design, does create its own aesthetic through a brighter and cutesy look. Even the most difficult of monsters have this sort of whimsical charm to them. The background music contributes as well to the much more stylized feel, where as Minecraft was a very neutral, blank canvas. But before The End and the Nether, Minecraft was literally just that: Mining and crafting.
Portal Knights, on the other hand, introduces a story. Some cataclysmic event known as the Fracture has severed the known world into numerous biomes, requiring the mending and usage of portals to access them all. The game doesn’t focus too much on saving the world though, so much as improving your character upon the conditions this world has given you. Collect portal shards, mend the portals, level up your character, craft your own weapons, defeat monsters, defeat boss-monsters, and a partridge in a pear tree.
While I wasn’t quite hooked on the idea of there being something overarching to these several separate biomes, I did, however, enjoy the random events that would occur in different worlds. For example, the Saurian Invasion: In addition to the run of the mill monsters one encountered in this particular biome, a group of creature warriors (strangely resembling the Pokemon, Cubone), have invaded the world in the name of chaos. You have to kill a certain number of Saurian warriors and mages in order to complete the event. The rest of the events go fairly the same way, but with different monsters, different difficulty levels, and a different quota of monster bodies to fill.
It seemed that, while crafting was advertised as just as pivotal as the game’s combat, it fell to the wayside for level grinding. As someone who would prefer a good crafting system to just another RPG, it was a little disappointing at how everything was laid out. I do firmly believe that one of the reasons it was so frustrating is that I was crafting through a controller and not a mouse and keyboard. As I believe Minecraft was not meant for the console, I see that belief and raise you a Portal Knights as well. Aside from the console vs PC argument, I always felt I had far too much stuff, and nothing to do with it. It was one extra task to find out what exactly I had in my inventory and what exactly its purpose was, whether that be an ingredient, a weapon, or a pet. The crafting wait sequence seems outdated and unnecessary; it doesn’t add to my enjoyment of the game to have to wait several seconds to produce a health potion, which cannot be done in the middle of combat if you’re getting by on the skin of your teeth. And ingesting a potion mid-combat require fumbling your thumb over the controller for the right quick selection button in order to drink it.
This was a frustration when trying to craft better weapons, better clothes, etc. While the materials being scattered throughout the biomes was an interesting twist, it only irked me more having to sit through several loading screens just to collect three separate ingredients for crafting.
But I understand that, while this game wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, why reviewers are praising it. It’s unique enough in its visuals to be recognized, it has an overarching story that sets it apart from Minecraft, the class system and character customization is an RPG staple that everyone can get behind, and there is a sense of adventure when entering a new biome through the newly reassembled portal. If I were to suggest one thing to the producers, it would be to implement a clearer tutorial series for beginners, especially considering that the sheer look of this game is bound to attract a younger crowd of gamers.
While it seemed like it tried hard to be Minecraft but “with a twist,” it still held a unique charm with its biomes, portals and eventful stories, as well as the class and custom character system. With the craft system lacking in favor for grinding combat, the game could use some balancing and tweaking to be what it advertises to the public.