Portal Knights is a game built from the ground up on derivation. It takes but mere seconds to draw parallels and connections with the obvious: Minecraft, Terraria, Starbound. Like these titles, Portal Knights eschews a preset experience in favor of player-driven exploration and growth. A sound concept which has shown success in the past, is however marred by performance issues, a lack of focus, and clunky, unexciting gameplay.
You are a Portal Knight, and as such you aim to repair the world after The Fracture tore it asunder into many chunks. As such, you find yourself occupying varied different chunks of this world, repairing the enigmatic portal on each, and moving on to the next one. This leads to a consistent and engaging sense of progression as you move from chunk to chunk, always moving forward. The deeper you go, the greater the opponents you find. In order to meet the challenge, you yourself must mine and craft to upgrade your arsenal of weaponry and armor.
Your means of engaging the opposition varies depending on your chosen class; Warrior, Mage, or Ranger. The combat is shallow and implements little to no strategy; just lock onto the enemy and hold down the attack button as long as you can, and MAYBE step out of the way when its the enemy’s turn. Being locked into a static playstyle with no hopes of changing aside from making a whole new character does little to fight the rampant stagnation the game behooves upon you, and makes encounters with enemies more of a bother than an enticement.
One of the more curious issues I have with the game is the bizarre design philosophy in how you progress from area to area. While it might seem as though you are compelled to conquer these realms and move on, you are unspokenly required to build a home-base to upgrade and create your weapons. While you are able to designate a “home world” it feels hard to commit to constructing anything in worlds which will be all but empty once you have finished with them. To gather materials, you need to leave. To buy items, you need to leave. To do anything other than crafting and building, you must be on the go.
This creates an artificial divide between these tasks which pulls you out of the experience and delineates time as either “adventure time” or “home time.” Terraria deftly avoided this by giving you a reason to build a home other than convenience; you needed to build your settlement of villagers in order to access new items; and it was all yours from the ground up and providing true investment. This is as opposed to finding some world that’s “ok” and dropping all of your shit in some pre-generated house and moving on back to the slightly more enjoyable activities. Even Starbound evaded this via your spaceship; no matter what world you went to, everything inside your spaceship came with you and was just a click away. It might sound like an odd detail, but it truly pulls away from the experience and leads to a fractured adventure.
All of this is sans mentioning the lackluster world generation. When every world is fundamentally the same with some different colors, enemies with interesting designs but the same standard attack patterns, and the woeful performance issues. After putting numerous hours into the game during Early Access and more-so after the fact to find minimal to no improvements, I just can’t recommend Portal Knights unless you are the biggest fan of generic mining and crafting experiences.