App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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It’s hard to deny the popularity of crafting games. There’s just something fun about being able to take a world and mold it for your very own purposes. These games are fun enough, but the genre occasionally feels a little too directionless. Portal Knights changes all that. This is a crafting game that’s inserted into a fun little action rpg, which is a surprisingly amazing combination.
Knights of the block table
If you’ve played Minecraft before, Portal Knights should look somewhat familiar. You play as your own created character in a world full of blocks that you can bend to your will by mining them out of the terrain and placing them in other places or using them to craft new items.
You’re more than welcome to just spend your time experimenting with these blocks and building whatever your heart desires, but Portal Knights also offers a series of quests to go on to level up your character and put your crafting skills to the test. Some of these quests might task you with killing monsters, while others might ask you to go on a good ol' fetch quest. There are also some quests that get you to build portals, which can transport you to new realms filled with their own unique sets of resources to harvest, enemies to fight, and quests to go on.
Fight for freedom
Portal Knights has a relatively robust crafting system, but the whole thing really comes together because of the game's quest design. Most of the things you are asked to do are relatively standard for an action rpg, but when placed within the context of a crafting game, you’re free to solve puzzles and challenges in unexpected and creative ways.
For example, there may be a quest that asks you to perform some complicated platforming, but instead of making the tight jumps and dodging obstacles, you can just build bridges and walls to waltz through the challenge with ease. Being able to subvert quests like this may sound like it trivializes some of Portal Knights’s challenge, but that’s exactly the point. You can play the game virtually any way you want, and this turns even the most boilerplate quests into fun opportuntities to play with the game's tools.
It feels amazing every time you find a new, weird way to beat a quest in Portal Knights, but there are times when you have to fight with the controls and inventory management system to get simple things done. This puts somewhat of a damper on the entire experience.
You primarily control Portal Knights through a virtual button scheme to move, attack, etc., but use a menu-based system for all of the game’s crafting and resource management. This can create a lot of times where you accidentally mine the wrong blocks, place things in unintentional places, or fill up your inventory with things you didn’t mean to gather. This, along with generally loose-feeling character control make Portal Knights feel pretty clunky. MFi controller support could go a long way to making Portal Knights’s controls much more manageable, but—sadly—there is none.
The bottom line
Portal Knights gives players an open sandbox full of possibilities, and then layers on a series of quests that challenge you to use all its tools to overcome their challenges. This is a killer combination and makes Portal Knights super satisfying to play, despite the fact that it doesn’t always feel as sleek or elegant as you might want.