Knight Crawlers Hands-on Preview – Thrown in the deep end

Posted on January 30, 2023

Knight Crawlers is an action RPG which puts you in the role of a Crawler. Your goal is to venture through the dungeon, fighting off waves of enemies to retrieve the artifacts below. During PAX, the developers gave us a chance to play Knight Crawlers in a PvP setting. You and a friend would fight off a few waves of enemies before fighting each other in a duel.

The preview experience outside of PAX is pure PvE, and it is a work in progress. Some features, such as melee weapons, haven’t been implemented yet (only the shield can be used for melee). But there’s enough in the preview demo to give you an idea of basic gameplay.

You’re not fighting against other players, but you are going through an infinitely long dungeon to fight enemies. With new environments and traps laid in each area, you are constantly thinking about how to use the area around you. Luring enemies into traps is a fun surprise, as well as breaking open items to find runes. You can also funnel enemies into narrow corridors or attack them from higher ground. There are many options for combat that you can exploit, and it’s fun to find advantages in each area.

You choose from a few ranged weapons and stick with it for the entire game. The goal is to proceed as far as you can throughout the dungeon, fighting waves of enemies until the path opens up. Proceeding to the next area is ideal, but you can sometimes trigger mini-bosses that you aren’t prepared for. Staying behind to summon more waves doesn’t make progress, but it lets you earn resources in relative safety.

Enemies will get stronger, and it’s great to see a variety of upgrades that can assist you in your journey. Casting powerful spells is always a fantastic sight, and you only have to wait a bit until they recharge. Orbs can be summoned to knock enemies away or damage them. There are a variety of upgrades that allow you to configure your character, and it’s always interesting to see what upgrade is next on the horizon.

Ranged weapons only fire when you stop moving, which is odd in a game that encourages frequent movement. Your shield isn’t strong enough to do severe damage to enemies, especially when they get tougher as the game drags on. You will be forced to run, then stop momentarily to get some shots in, then run again. While it’s great at showing you the depth of ranged combat, it does force you to rely on certain upgrades to be useful.

Movement is alright for the most part, but you can’t change the camera angle. This does result in hectic battles where you might be moving/jumping around, and some scenery blocks your view entirely. Since enemies tend to charge at you, it is inconvenient when trying to avoid taking damage. Healing is a rarity in Knight Crawlers, and it is frustrating when you take damage but aren’t able to prevent it.

Other than a few awkward game physics moments, Knight Crawlers works as intended. In a manner similar to Vampire Survivors, you can upgrade your character outside of dungeon runs to strengthen them. Equipment can also be found from defeating enemies and mini-bosses, which strengthen your Crawler. It’s a cycle of gathering resources and going back into the dungeon, which should prove interesting once the range of weapons expands.

There’s no clear date for the game’s release, but you can sign up for the closed alpha and provide feedback if you get invited. By providing feedback, making suggestions, and pointing out possible bugs, Knight Crawlers continues to evolve and develop a small community that makes it even better.