Spiral Knights Review
Spiral Knights is a free-to-play MMORPG, which seems to borrow inspiration from many places; from Zelda-like puzzles and dungeons to the charm which was inspired by Secret of Mana, it’s clear the developer wanted to combine the best elements from the best games and combine them into one high-quality product. This is always risky business, but for once everything pays off, and Spiral Knights is an enjoyable game whether you’re a free player or paying customer.
The problem with reviewing an MMORPG so close to release is that the potential for early additions and new quests is always evident. However, the fact of the matter is that this title already feels quite polished, if not complete. A bug-fix here and there is always necessary, however between the quests, player interaction, combat and presentation, there are few flaws to be found.
The game runs you through the basics in single-player mode, after your character crashes and is required to use supplied equipment in order to progress through dangerous lands. Eventually, you reach haven, a land where all Spiral recruits work together to venture into the Clockworks, a strange area where the nasty gremlins roam free and hide all the treasures and minerals desired by Spiral HQ.
Most of the action in Spiral Knights takes place in the Clockworks - a bunch of varying themes and levels which get more difficult based on depth. In order to access deeper levels, a player must craft stronger equipment from the materials he gathers in his travels. It’s a seemingly simple system, but the diverse range of materials and their varying degrees of rarity make it a never-ending quest which, before long, soaks up hours and hours of gameplay.
Thankfully, it’s not always a goose-chase for the game’s rarest items. The trading system, while completely efficient, offers a method of finding items which doesn’t require hours worth of grinding. If an auction-house (or similar) is added, then the system will work perfectly, although some of the challenge and balance in the game may be lost. The ultimate goal seems to be a flowing market where the price of everything is constantly changing.
The best example to support this idea is the energy. Everything in the game runs on energy - free players get 100 per day, and paying customers can buy far more. This can be done with either money or in-game currency. The price of energy for in-game money is always fluctuating. While this is a good thing in creating a realistic market for the resource, it also makes life hard for those players who are unable to reach into their pockets to support this great game.
Thankfully, it is balanced enough so that with enough hard work, all players should be able to sustain a rate of play so that there is no limit to their daily activity. This does make getting stronger gear harder, however one will have to sacrifice time if they want to be successful in this game; especially if they can’t pay money for in-game goods.
Of course, getting stronger gear is an absolute necessity, as the difficulty curve in this game is steep and unforgiving. The enemies’ power is always increasing as you venture deeper into the Clockworks, and so only the best will do if one wants to deal well in combat. Speaking of which, the combat is smooth and varied; a number of enemies have a wide repertoire of attacks meaning players will have to use their brains instead of the (tempting) hack-and-slash battle tactic. Also positive are the hundreds of different weapon combinations available to the player, meaning there’s no excuse for being unable to find a weapon you enjoy.
Unfortunately, lag can become quite an issue. This is especially apparent for Australian players, who are not close to any of the game servers and have to deal with up to a few seconds of lag at any given time. After a while, enemies’ attack patterns become predictable and so compensating for this lag becomes a little easier, but this does not excuse the problem’s existence.
One of my only issues with the game is that it’s almost always the same enemies you’re fighting. This means that there is a total saturation of some crafting materials and the cost of rarer materials - useful in crafting more powerful armor and weaponry - skyrockets, instantly putting newer players at disadvantage.
The other main problem with the game as it is is how repetitive the quests get. While the whole idea is well-integrated, and the worlds are always changing, one can’t help but shake the feeling it’s like playing the same levels over and over again with a different background. Some new quests could be added - especially in the Haven area - to add some spice to the game and to ensure the existing content does not get stale too quickly.
The presentation of the game is spot on. Beautiful, vibrant music is heard in every area you visit, and is accompanied by a special, charming visual style which is always pleasing to the eye. However, the presentation is also one of biggest let-downs in the game. The simplicity of it all hides the deep RPG experience which Spiral Knights offers, which is great for attracting casual players. But the statistics for all armor and weaponry are also hidden, meaning hardcore MMORPG players are unable to get the information they need in order to play the game with the best efficiency.
The fact that all these elements work together is what surprises most players, and before they know it, they have put in up to or beyond a day’s worth of playing time. While this may seem staggering, it’s not hard to see where the hours go upon looking at what the game has to offer. Everything just works and combines with other aspects of play in order to create one of the most addictive experiences going around.
The Final Verdict
Spiral Knights is all you could ask for from an MMORPG, and especially one which is free to play. It offers well-rounded action combined with great player to player interaction to give an addictive experience which can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they be free or paying players, or whether they are playing alone or with friends. Even if this game cost retail price or required an ongoing subscription, I would have no issue recommending it to any gamer.
By Harry Hughes
We say: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED