April 13th, 2011

Spiral Knights! First Look/Review

There’s a new game I was turned onto by Joe Tortuga on twitter. This new game is Spiral Knights from Three Rings (Puzzle Pirates) and SEGA, yes that SEGA.

Spiral Knights is a new MMO game out that has instanced levels, item crafting and and is a play for free setup. What makes this game different is that you CAN play for free, also it’s not set in notEurope. It’s also an adventure game with no levels and no skills to worry about treeing or what skills you need. You don’t even need to worry about what class you want to be.

An image showing the simple character creation
The character creation UI showing a small box in the center of the screen. In a box to the right is a picture of the character to the left are three choices on the head, body and style colors. Below that is a "Personal Color" palette where you can choose the eyes/face and armor highlights. Below that is a name box.

Starting off with the character creation screen, I was a bit impressed to the fact that this game doesn’t seem to have gender. You play a knight character similar to Vivi from Final Fantasy IX. Every character has (or might not have) just a pair of eyes and a very clockwork knight golem body. The only gendered piece of equipment I saw was the pigtailed helmet which can be argued since it doesn’t have eyes with eyelashes nor bows.

Spiral Knight character creation box with "girl" knight
The character creation UI showing a small box in the center of the screen. In a box to the right is a picture of the character which seems to have a helmet/head style that has two short pigtails coming off of it. To the left are three choices on the head, body and style colors. Below that is a "Personal Color" palette where you can choose the eyes/face and armor highlights. Below that is a name box.

After creating a character you are thrust solo into a tutorial world where you can get a grip on the mechanics of the game. The controls themselves are quite simple. Only two button and a key for mouse users. WASD for the keyboard people plus X for both to use the shield. To switch weapons is the scroll wheel up or down, tough you can only hold two weapons without buying an extension. Your also introduced to the conversation system where an image of the character is off to the lower left, text next to that and the choices under the text block. Simple and to the point.

Attacking is easy, just right click. Clicking and holding causes the weapon to charge up. Move around with left click. Healing is done by way of finding healing items, life tanks, and health recovery items. When you die you can pay energy to revive or wait for your party member to resurrect you. A simple system.

The play type is similar to Zelda and other adventure games. Go around killing enemies, slaying bushes and grass for treasure. Breaking pots and boxes to get even better goodies. The party system is one where you can just click the “GO” button and get into a party and if none are available, you can start your own. So far the parties I’ve had haven’t been annoying or filled with assholes.

The area where you start
In the image is the play field and in the foreground is another Spiral Knight character telling you how you got there and how to move around and a tiny bit of the story. There is a comic style text block coming from it with a title on the top, the text with a scroll bar and an options area under the text block.

What about the weapons and armor? There are two slots for armor, a regular equip slot and a “costume” slot. So you can have the best armor in the game and costume on your level 1 armor just for fun. The weapons are Sword, Gun and Bomb. There are of course different types of these. One might block the SHOCK status and electricity better than one that blocks the HEAT status. There are swords, guns and bombs that STUN a target. You can either buy all of these weapons or you can craft them. Crafting is as simple as buying the recipe, finding the parts you need from the dungeons called Clockworks, and then clicking a “MAKE” button.

The dungeons are set up in a way that they are randomly generated, and also in such a way that players can future craft dungeons by getting materials and dumping them off at the two areas that aren’t quite formed yet. The dungeons themselves are one part action and one part quick puzzle. You either have to shoot the trigger or drop a statue on a panel. There are also areas where you can’t proceed until all living members are on the button.  So people can’t run off to far ahead of you and kill everything and leave no fun for you. After beating the level and getting on the elevator you see a breakdown of your “HEAT” which is the exp used to level up your equipment and a closeup of the other members of the party. The game also makes sure you don’t go too far to fast and put your level 1 knight in the middle of a level 10000000 dungeon by requiring you to have the right tier equipment for the level. Which is nice.

This game runs on the microtransaction scheme. Only there is one thing to buy and that’s “Crystal Energy”. There are two kinds of energy, Mist Energy that you get 100 of per day and Crystal Energy. Both of these spend the same and are used the same. Of course if you want to buy something that’s 200 Energy you’ll have to pony up some real world cash OR you can use the in-game money of Crowns. The market of Energy to crown and crowns to energy is just like a stock market where you can buy low and sell high. The lowest amount of money you can spend is $0.75. Which isn’t bad, as you can toss your loose change onto a prepaid credit card or use Paypal and your bank account that way.  $0.75 nets you 200 energy, which isn’t too bad. So at least the game gives you a chance to grind your energy or just buy it and support the game a little bit.

The energy transaction menu.
A screenshot of the energy transaction menu where there is a dropdown for the amount of energy you want to buy and for how much money you want to spend and where/what you want to spend it from.
The energy trading menu
A similar screenshot to the Buying energy with the knight character with the bird on it's head on now it has various prices that people are wanting to buy 100 Energy for.













The way the game gets you into buying money and limit your time spent in the game is by requiring energy to go into the dungeons so you aren’t spending HOURS grinding money and then buying energy with it. Either that or spending hours on a game when you have other things to do in your life. While it might hang some people up, it does allow for a more casual play.

Overall this game is a nice casual adventure game where you can kill monsters, get money and get cooler looking equipment. It uses Java and is a quick install. Without a lot of stuff to get hung up over this game is nice for the casual people with only an hour to spend on a game, or people who don’t want to memorize skill trees, stat levels or even complex crafting recipes and systems.

First LookPCReviewSpiral Knights

One response to “Spiral Knights! First Look/Review”

  1. I just picked up this game yesterday — I really like the original designs and ideas in it! And it seems like one of those ‘easy to play, hard to master’ type things, which I love. I will try it out for a few days and see if it sticks. =)