Portal Knights for Nintendo Switch

When I first played Minecraft years ago, I wasn’t too impressed. It’s not that it wasn’t a good game, it has its merits; the game just didn’t appeal to me. Then came Lego Worlds, which I decided to give a try due to my love of Legos, but again it didn’t really do anything to keep me coming back. I realized that I needed a game that had a point. Something that I was building towards. A bad guy to beat; a story to follow. Minecraft Story mode came along, but as I was put off by the source material I never really gravitated toward it, and it’s not really the same game. But then we got games like Trove and, today’s focus, Portal Knights. These games were game-changers, as it were.

Keen Games’ Portal Knights addresses many issues that people had with Minecraft for the Switch: smaller communities resulting in a bland single player experience; little direction; and no motivation for those like me who just aren’t into building highly detailed and intricate structures. Portal Knights is a game for this intrigued by the blocky sandbox concept, but want to get the experience of an adventure.

Set in a destructible world similar to other titles of this nature, Portal Knights boasts colorful, engrossing 3D models. The game allows for creative resource management while navigating through an RPG-like adventure. There’s far more direction and structure, including an unobtrusive guide to teach you the game through localized quests.

PK is not particularly deep when it comes to story line, but it is enough to keep you engaged and feel like you are doing more than just destroying and building, destroying and building, destroying and building… you get the point. The idea is that the world has been shattered, with only portals to connect you to the various lands. Your job, as a Portal Knight, is to restore peace to the world as you explore the fallout of The Fracture. When you start the game, you have the choice of playing one of three classes, along with the ability to change the appearance of your toon through some visual customization. Along with this are some skill trees that are fairly flexible and, interestingly enough, allow you to change things up at any given time. Portal Knights feels like the joining of an RPG and sandbox, without extreme emphasis on one or the other. And it works perfectly to give credence to the old saying, “Simpler is better.”

Now, this might leave some people disappointed and wanting more out of the game, especially those that picked up the game because of the similarities to Minecraft. I began playing Portal Knights on the PC and have been an avid fan since day one, but the difference in controls was a little maddening at times, especially during the first several hours. I was excited to see a portable version of this game and was really looking forward to it, but I nearly put it down two hours in due to this. The menus are tabbed, using a mix on ZL/ZR and the L/R triggers, and it’s very easy to mix up which set of triggers does what. On the plus side, the menus are very touch screen friendly for those playing on the go. Combat is very straightforward and simple to pick up; however, while enemies were easy to defeat, they were difficult to avoid and hard to hit in general, which was not aided by the camera locking system in place.

An easy going pace to the game did help some to alleviate the clumsiness of the combat system and menus. Never was there a moment in the game when I felt I did not have enough time, or rushed, to meet a goal, nor was there a driving force compelling me to improve anything for simple survival. There is just a satisfying feeling as you take your time in the tutorial area, or others, to explore, find secrets, craft potions, collect resources, and many other things.

Portal Knights does a good job to carve out its own identity in a world where Minecraft dominates. The Switch port, while not inherently different from the PC version, has a small learning curve when it comes to the controls, but it’s a great came to pick and play anywhere especially with a friend using the 2-player split screen option (though I would only suggest using this when docked), or even the online play with a few others. The game’s open-ended nature makes it perfect for a 15-minute gaming session while you are waiting in the Doctor’s office, or at the mechanic for your car to be ready.

While not a ground-breaking innovative stand-out in the gaming world, Portal Knights does accomplish its goals and serves its audience very well. Offering more direction, actual characters, dialogue, quests, and a story structure than other big games of the genre, like the aforementioned Minecraft, the game does well keep its audience engaged and happy. All in all, this was a very decent port to the Nintendo Switch, and one that I can see myself spending hours playing.

4 out of 5 stars.