Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Review: Spiral Knights

Spiral Knights is a free-to-play, isometric, co-op MMO game created by Three Rings and owned by SEGA. The game features 4-player co-op, equipment based advancement, skillful gameplay, PvP, expensive crafting, paying real money for in-game currency(Crystal Energy) and nasty lag outside of North America.

The player controls a single knight, but you can create more, energy is shared between knights on the same account. The player starts as a noob knight who has been stranded on a planet. Luckily for you, tonnes of other knights have also had the misfortune of crash landing, so you all decide to band together and kick general ass. There is a hidden mystery deep inside the planet and you are recruited to delve into the dangerous clockwork dungeon.

Knights can team together to face the randomised clockworks together, defeating monsters and bosses as you go. Enemies drop crowns, heat and materials that the player can use to buy and empower her equipment. The clockworks use an elevator system to continue on to the next level. Unfortunately the cost of using a lift is energy and knights have a finite amount of this resource, especially new knights.

Energy rules all in Spiral Knights. Lifts in the clockworks, crafting and energy trading for in-game currency are all determined by people buying, with real money, crystal energy.  All knights have a free energy tank, called a mist tank, that refuels very slowly in real time. It takes 13.2 minutes for 1 energy and a full 22 hours for a full tank of 100. Elevators take 10 energy, so that is 10 levels per day for a new knight as long as she doesn't die. Lucky for knights there is an elevator pass that you can buy, with real money, that will make the elevators free. I guess elevator passes are Spiral Knight's biggest selling item as it allows you to play the game at your own pace. Once you are established, energy becomes less of a big deal as you'll be earning more then you are spending on lifts.

Co-op is fun, but can also be a hassle if your party is not working well together. The party leader has the option of kicking and inviting people at will. Friends and guild members can drop in an open party slot at any time. Having a full party can be a mixed bag. Less players means easier enemies, but having more players allows for better revives and splitting enemy attention. A three player party will be stronger than a four player party with one weak member. Lag can also rear its ugly head and makes players less effective; especially with blocking attacks.

PvP is split between team capture the flag and a 1v1 Bomberman style of game. The fighting is generally fun with teams of four or more. Players receive PvP prizes in the form of Krogmo Coins which can be exchanged for items. Lag can cause PvP to be less than a fair game, the norm for online games.

Recently the Spiral Knights team created a new ranked mission system. This mission system provides equipment appropriate levels outside of the clockworks. These levels award knights prestige and equipment on clearing. Prestige in turn unlocks new ranks and missions and also unfolds the Spiral Knight story. A DLC mission set was also released a short time ago.

Spiral Knights is a free-to-play MMO, and while it is possible to play for free, it unfortunately requires grinding of bosses to be energy efficient. While not required, I would recommend anyone interested in playing the game to buy an Elevator Pass and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

Checking out the game is free and it's available on steam.


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