May 4, 2023
The Iterative Collective
Good Morning Games
A rogue-lite action RPG in a dungeon doesn’t seem remarkable, but Knight Crawlers adds its own twist to the genre. You are a wobbly dungeon crawler fighting your way through new swarms of enemies, deciding how much (or little) you want to fight. You must make your own fighting style with staves and melee weapons to fend off the forces of darkness.
Knight Crawlers has come a long way since its debut at PAX, where it gave players an insight into its PvP experience. This was followed by a preview that focused on single-player exploration. The game has improved since then, refining several of its mechanics for a unique take on the genre. Unfortunately, a series of bugs, and inconsistent movement clash with the gameplay. The end result is you are likely to feel frustration more than enjoyment.
The premise of Knight Crawlers is similar to other rogue-lite games. You are a warrior fighting in a dungeon and you must defeat enemies in an attempt to get out. All runs will start with one staff which fires ranged projectiles, and a sword. As you go through the dungeon, you will find better weapons and armour which prepare you against future threats. When you level up, you can choose from one of three cards that provide stat bonuses or extra assistance.
“How you choose to fight determines your playstyle, and there are several options to choose from.”
What makes Knight Crawlers unique is that the cards give you the chance to choose your own playstyle. You can focus on mostly close combat or ranged attacks. Pure damage might be attractive to you, or you might prioritise survival through healing. As your weapons grow stronger, you can focus on different aspects. This customisation keeps every dungeon run unique, as you continually refine your strategies to see what you are comfortable with.
If you don’t need a certain piece of equipment, you can turn it into Essence, which is used for purchasing upgrades or enchanting equipment. These upgrades are permanent for your character, making subsequent runs easier. Enchantments must be found while exploring, but they convey a variety of effects that may suit your playstyle.
Rather than equipping the strongest item you find in the dungeon, choosing your own playstyle means carefully looking at the stats. Is it right for you, or is it something you can just enchant? Considering these factors adds another level of customisation to gameplay. What works for you might not work for another player, and coming up with unique strategies makes dungeon crawling more enjoyable.
You progress through the dungeon by interacting with summoning circles, which summon enemies. The doors to the next room open after you defeat a certain number. The circle doesn’t disappear even when the doors open, allowing you to continually grind for Essence if you wish. As you progress, the number of enemies to defeat increases and they gradually become stronger. If things get out of hand, you can always manually retreat back to the Sanctuary and upgrade before a new run. It’s nice to have the option to leave whenever you want, especially if a run hasn’t gone the way you like.
The wobbly dungeon crawler is fun to look at, and there are several options for customisation that you can unlock. While there are stock costumes available, creating a unique look for your dungeon crawler is a real treat. You can also add small companion animals who don’t do anything but look cute. Customising your character’s appearance makes you personally invested in them, instead of stock characters that don’t reflect your personality.
“Even when you think you know how your character will jump, you can still be wrong and fall into a big pit of lava.”
Unfortunately being wobbly works against the dungeon crawler when the going gets tough. Jumping isn’t always consistent and it’s easy to accidentally fall into lava or hit a trap by accident. When moving around in combat, your wobbly movement can make you hit walls or get stuck between enemies. It’s funny the first few times it happens, but it quickly changes to frustration when your character doesn’t move well. Sometimes the environment holds you back, but you have no idea what is doing so. Failures are infuriating especially when you practice but things still go wrong.
Melee combat has improved since the preview, but it hasn’t changed enough to be more useful than ranged weapons. While you will combine melee and ranged combat together, you only have a circular slash for attacks. Your main usage will be hitting anyone who gets close, rather than hack-and-slash combat. These attacks deal more damage than before, but it’s still a shame to see ranged get better treatment than melee.
The main obstacle that you will encounter during your adventure are the bugs, which have a real impact on gameplay. There are times when equipment can disappear from your character, preventing you from replacing them. If you summon minions to assist you in combat, they can disappear. Taking a health-doubling upgrade can sometimes double your max health without touching your current health.
These bugs can sometimes be fixed by exiting the game and starting it again, but they can heavily disrupt a run. You won’t know what triggered the bug when it happens, because new bugs sometimes pop up even after a restart. It can frustrate you on a successful run when upgrades don’t work as intended, which ruins the whole point.
Knight Crawlers requires a lot of grinding, which builds on the frustration. While you can complete missions and get items like Domination Runes to power up, most of your adventures are luck-based. Once you figure out a gameplay style that works for you, you are hoping you get the necessary enhancements. If bugs start appearing, your efforts feel like a waste of time. You also have to work your way up the permanent upgrade ladder, which requires multiple runs. Unless you love the rogue-lite genre, it’s tough to keep going when the end isn’t in sight.
Being able to customise your explorer and have them fight against the dungeon’s forces is visually appealing and gratifying. Choosing your own playstyle also means you decide how you want to fight and experience the game. It’s a pity that there are other problems holding back its potential, because it could stand out. But until those problems are solved, going through the dungeons is an exercise in frustration instead of a relaxing experience.
- Lots of customisation options for character appearance
- Combine melee and ranged combat while picking one over the other
- Melee combat is still inferior to ranged combat
- Movement and jumping can be very inconsistent
- Bugs can make a significant impact on gameplay
Knight Crawlers offers several ways to customise your rogue-lite experience. You can change your character’s outfit, decide on your combat approach, and how you approach a dungeon run. Rather than throwing large numbers of enemies at you and seeing what happens, the gameplay allows you to choose what you want to do. Unfortunately, Knight Crawlers is still held back by several issues. Melee combat isn’t effective compared to ranged combat, and the wobbly character’s movement can work against you. There are also a good number of bugs that can interfere with your experience, forcing you to restart otherwise-successful runs. The potential of Knight Crawlers is there, but some areas haven’t received the refinement that could have helped demonstrate said potential.