Portal Knights Preview

A cute, fractured Minecraft-RPG connected by portals.

505 Games recently had a brief pre-GDC event where they showed off a healthy lineup, including games like the first-person VR space narrative game ADR1FT (I suffocated to death), first-person adventure title The Guest (I overdosed on pills), racing simulator Assetto Corsa (I crashed into walls at first, terribly; but it did have the best use of a racing line that I've seen a racing sim, effectively teaching me how to play it), and Portal Knights, an all ages-accessible sandbox-RPG.

Portal Knights knows what it is and doesn't make a lot of bones about it; it's a sort of junior Minecraft, much in the way that Advance to Boardwalk was a fully functional and more limited, but directed and stylized, experience of Monopoly that resulted in far fewer fights between my brothers and me. In short, it's Minecraft with the hard edges rounded off.

Round edges aren't entirely a metaphor. Portal Knights' visuals avoid the traditional voxel look of Minecraft and its clones for a more rounded JRPG style and look that extends to the worlds as well. Though it uses the traditional block breaking, building, mining, and harvesting mechanic, structures have a more stylized look when blocks are added to them with specific repeatable textures adopted when you place a block into something like a doorway or building that matches the template.

Advancement in Portal Knights is based on your completion of objectives in its mini-world environments, which are procedurally generated, and have different enemy encounters depending on the day/night-cycle, and is resource- and crafting-oriented (like any good sandbox). Where it differs is its RPG-like character creation, small environments, mission-based objectives, and in-game tutorials. Mission objectives grant you Portal Stones, which when the portal is filled out, grant the player access to new environments in its fractured world-map.

At the end of the demo I was shown a boss encounter, rated for level 20. Keeping with the action-adventure RPG tone of the game, the battle follows a Zelda-like progression. The giant monster moves around the outside of a circular platform and spits bombs at the player character. Hitting the bombs back makes it collapse onto the platform, allowing the player to attack directly, doing minor damage. This is where the game's four-player multiplayer really comes in handy.

Portal Knights is a cute mix of sandbox games and action RPGs, drawing heavily on Minecraft and Zelda for its influences. It's currently available on Steam Early Access for $14.99.