reviews\ Apr 24, 2012 at 9:00 am

Spiral Knights review


This game has been out for about a year now, but somehow, we overlooked it when it came out, dismissing it as just another free-to-play game that was destined for failure. However, the format seems to be flourishing, so we took another look at this hack n’ slash MMO.

Let me just preface all of this by saying what a huge fan I am of the genre — I spent a very large (some would say too large... so many days of missed Trig homework, as a result) part of my high school years playing a combination of Champions of Norrath and its sequel Return to Arms, as well as the PS2 Baldur’s Gate games; so I’m a veteran of the genre.

An example of a good hack n slash

There’s a lot to like here, yet the game definitely has some problems. Let’s start with the pros. First of all, Spiral Knights makes it extremely easy to find people to play with. In addition to the standard chat channels in the game’s central hub, entering any dungeon gives you the ability to search for and automatically join a party for the dungeon and quest you are working on.

The controls in Sprial Knights are extremely simply, with left click to attack with weapon one, right click for weapon two, and moving being controlled with your standard WASD. All of these are based on defaults, obviously, so one could easily remap these if they wanted. With these simple controls, it's no surprise that the game handles well.

Another thing I liked was that the dungeons were all randomly generated, so even if you are working on a lower ranked quest to help a new player, it wasn’t just a repeat of something you’ve done before. The simplistic, yet still challenging dungeon design makes it a pleasure to run through with friends beating up on baddies. That being said, this simplistic design also means that the puzzles were not very hard to figure out and would easily appeal to a younger gamer, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Sunshine and rainbows and.. bombs. Lots of bombs.

Sprial Knights trades in the various spells that are staple to this genre and instead adds in different weapon types that have different effects based on both their elemental affinity and weapon type. For example, you could have a freeze bomb that, as its name suggests, explodes and freezes all enemies in a radius, or a flame sword that unleashes a flaming slash attack. These provide a variety of playstyles to suit your needs, but I wish you could carry more than the game’s limit of two at a time. You have to choose which weapons you want to carry before a mission; that adds a layer of strategy to each dungeon, as every type of monster is weak against different weapons and elements. This limitation does mean that there is less variety while you are in a given dungeon, but the party system makes up for this by always having four players present.

Sure, the gear looks great. I just wish I didn't have to grind for mats to get them.

In Spiral Knights, gear is earned mostly by doing quests or by crafting with items received during the game’s many dungeons. However, I did miss the thrill of seeing what dropped off of mobs; this eventually turned into a game of “grind the ____” — something I hate about MMOs in general.  That being said, the gear itself looks good with crisply drawn items, despite the game’s rather limited graphics engine. I’m pretty sure this game would run on my old Pentium 4, if that gives you any idea of the graphical prowess.

All of these things being said, I would not play this game alone. It is almost certainly an experience made much better by the people you play with, and it is far too simple and lacking in depth in certain areas for the veteran MMO or even Action RPG player. The game could’ve been a sleeper hit if it had just a few more qualities seen in a classic MMO or Action RPG such as Diablo II, like random loot tables, or even PVP.  In other words, skip this unless you have a group of friends looking to kill some time on a rainy Saturday afternoon… or if you’re avoiding doing that Trig homework, like I was those years ago.

Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Correspondent! You can follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin, and check out his newest side project, Video Gaming Hard Corps, a new competitive gaming organization.


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Dustin Steiner Former GameZone's eSports Correspondent.
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