Spiral Knights – Updated Look
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
It’s time to head back into the subterranean world of ClockWorks for an updated look at Spiral Knights, a 3D Action MORPG created by Three Rings Design (a developer best known for their original breakout title Puzzle Pirates). Spiral Knights has been around since 2010 as a F2P title featuring “Legend of Zelda” style dungeon crawling, multiplayer co-op action, and an ever-changing world based on player contributions.
Since then, the game has gone through some hearty changes, including its availability on Valve’s Steam service; it was one of the first titles to be included in Valve’s item trading system. Most recently, they have removed the dreaded elevator fees that were required in order to explore deeper into the world, so now players will now be able to play as long as they want. Will this change be enough to warrant coming back to Spiral Knights?
Now the core gameplay for Spiral Knights hasn’t changed much: players can enter the Clockworks solo or join up with three other players. The option to join open parties is still possible, as well as the option to drop in and out of dungeons at the end of each run. Players will have to slash, shoot and bomb their way through over four different gates with three tiers of difficulty. Using the keyboard for movement and power ups, and the mouse for aiming and attacking, the battle system remains quick and easy for anyone to pick up and play, but sadly does not allow for solid gamepad usage.
The main premise of Spiral Knights is still all about finding loot, crafting powerful gear and exploring down into the Clockworks in order to reach the mysterious core of the planet. That much hasn’t changed, but what has changed is the inclusion of quests and missions to help give players a sense of direction. Now players can ease their way into the deeper tiers while getting (somewhat) properly equipped in the process. There’s also a quest dialog that comes with these missions, but they certainly won’t be pulling players in with any gripping storylines.
While the core gameplay is still enjoyable, repetition is still issue, and it sets in quickly. The feeling of exploring the Clockworks wears off in the later levels due how frequently the game recycles map layouts. It’s hard to not feel a bit of déjà vu when trekking through a dungeon that has a similar layout to a dungeon that was completed four stages ago, but has a new tileset thrown over it.
It certainly doesn’t help that most dungeons are as difficult as simply clearing out rooms of enemies, and the fact that most puzzles are as simple as flipping a switch… literally. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more puzzles that require timing and coordination with party members, but understandably, the lack of these kinds of challenges was to keep the game solo friendly.
Still, Spiral Knights only stays solo friendly for so long, especially when reaching the deeper tiers of Clockworks, as the game starts to get a bit more relentless with enemies that hit like a truck. Of course, the game does feature armor, weapons, and other gear than can be purchased, crafted and upgraded to help you survive, but they only help so much. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to gather some party members.
Danger rooms and boss battles are definitely the highlight of venturing into the dungeons. Entering a danger room will pit players against several waves of enemies, and boss battles offer a decent challenge with simple, but effective mechanics thrown in. The rewards for completion of these battles are usually a hefty amount of crowns (in-game currency), forge crystals, and rare materials for crafting. Unfortunately, the only way to enter danger rooms is by using “energy”.
When elevator fees were removed, mist energy was also removed in the process, which means players can no longer gain free energy that replenishes itself every few hours. One way to earn energy is through exchanging them with crowns. While this sounds nice and fair, the prices for exchanging crowns for energy are fairly high, usually high enough to stay out of a pure F2P user’s reach, so the only other option is to earn energy is buying purchasing with real money. While earning crowns gets much easier later on, it’s a shame that pure F2P players will not be able to stock up without paying early on, especially since energy is also used for… well… just about everything else, including crafting and device activation for mecha knights and turrets. Even starting a guild requires energy.
Newly added to Spiral Knights was the inclusion of Battle Sprites, which are tiny little pets that can aid players in battle. The usefulness of these battle sprites, however, completely varies depending on which one the player chooses. The Drakon’s primarily use is for offensive attacks, but its strength is sub-par until leveled up to a certain point, and the Maskeraith’s abilities seem too situational. The Seraphynx on the other hand, while not having the best offensive attack, possesses great healing abilities, making it the most preferred battle sprite available.
The repetition from PvE can be tiresome, but this can be broken up through new PvP game modes. While the core combat for Spiral Knights seems like it would not be suited for any kind of multiplayer competition, PvP in Spiral Knights focuses on objective based game modes that involve a nice amount of strategy, including a capture & hold mode called Lockdown and bomb trapping mode called Blast Network that plays suspiciously like a game of “Bomberman”. Lockdown manages to add some more variety by introducing changeable classes, including Strikers which can zip around the battlefield faster than other classes, Guardians which can protect themselves and their teammates with increased defenses, and Recons that can scan the field for enemy players while invisible. Each class serves a useful purpose and helps to create a more an engaging PvP experience.
The presentation of Spiral Knights still holds up well, with its colorful visuals and quirky music that harks back to 16-bit classic adventure games. The world still retains a lighthearted charm filled with creatures and monsters that seem to have lives of their own. Creatures such as the Gremlins and Fiends are always fun to deal with, especially since Gremlins always communicate with each other during a battle and Fiends usually have pit bosses always around, whose only job is to promote and demote the other fiends around him.
With the addition of tons of new content, features and removal of elevator fees, Spiral Knights is a much more enjoyable game that it was so many years ago, with content and pacing that both casual and hardcore players can dedicate themselves too. The only real issue that can be found here is the excessive amount of repetition from dungeons and the lack of crystal availability for F2P users, but all of this can be overlooked regardless if a player wants to play for a few minutes or several hours, just as long as those players can pull some friends in or find some new ones along the way. With the game’s community still as friendly as ever, that shouldn’t be too much of a daunting task.
Games mentioned in this article
- Spiral Knights - Spiral Knights is a 3D Action MMO with bright animated graphics. Play cooperatively and clear dozens of stages, each with various monster and puzzles to solve.