The Minecraft-Inspired Portal Knights Adds RPG Elements to Become Its Own Wonderful Game

I played a lot of Minecraft for some time, but after a while the freeform process of mining, building and adventuring ran its course, and I haven't felt compelled to play it since.

Maybe if the game felt more structured and there were more concrete goals it would be something I'd return to from time to time. That's precisely the premise of the new game Portal Knights, which isn't just about collecting resources and creating, but leveling up a character, honing their skills and unlocking worlds in the form of an action RPG.

Portal Knights main art

(via 505 Games)

In Portal Knights, you take on the role of an adventurer who lives in a world torn apart by an evil force called The Fracture. While the world's islands were once united, they're now separated by vast distances. To reconnect them, you must restore special portals that allow instant travel between them. Only by restoring all the portals can you finally reunite the land.

Before you begin your journey, you'll have to create your character. While the character creation tool isn't the most advanced I've ever seen, it did offer up enough options that I was able to create a character with a passing resemblance to me. Once you've designed your character, you select one of the three warrior classes. You can be a sword-wielding knight, a ranger with a bow and arrow or a wand-bearing mage, each with their own offensive abilities.

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To hone your character's strength, you'll have to get to work. Fighting enemies, completing quests, crafting new items and mining can help you gain experience, which levels up your character, making them stronger and faster and allowing them to develop skills and craft more advanced tools. The stronger your character, the more enemies you can defeat and the more elements you can mine, allowing you to create better items to make your character even stronger. This system works in a loop, meaning there's always something to do, and if you don't mind grinding for experience to boost your stats, you'll be a pretty powerful in no time.

Of course, you'll also need to travel through the game's diverse islands to progress on your journey. To do this, players must gather special materials to craft six portal blocks of the same color and return them to the portal to activate it. There are dozens of islands within the game, each with their own unique ecosystems and a randomly generated island to explore. Of course you'll find very different items in a snowy tundra than a tropical rainforest or a barren desert.

Of course, the entire adventure is optional. You're always free to do just enough of the objectives to get to areas that interest you and start building up your own blocky empire, if that's more your speed.

You'll have even more fun playing the game in an online adventure with friends—but keep in mind that if you're playing on a console, you'll need to have a subscription to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live to access these online services.

The combat in this game is also more refined than in Minecraft. Attacking requires some finesse, with careful attacks and dodging. If you simply melee your opponent repeatedly, they'll get in multiple hits and you won't survive for too long.

You'll also encounter bosses called Portal Guardians on some of the islands. They're big, strong and tough to fight, especially if you're taking on the game alone, with with the right tactics and persistence you'll be able to bring these baddies down.

The game's objectives can be a mixed bag. On one hand, it's great to always have concrete objectives to propel your progress. On the other, it can be nice to be free to do your own thing without obligations. A lot of the game can also feel like a series of fetch quests, and depending on your personal preferences this can either make or break the game for each individual player.

Still, one of my favorite things to do in Portal Knights is return to the first island and build up my home into an increasingly elaborate mansion, filling it with crafting tables and surrounding it with fields of crops. You can build up a home base anywhere, and unlike in Minecraft, you won't need to fortify your residence against attacks, as this game doesn't really have exploding invaders or bad guys that will track you all the way home.

If you're used to playing these sandbox building block games on a PC, playing Portal Knights on a console with a controller will probably take some getting used to. Navigating to find exactly the items you need can be tricky and time-consuming, especially because they're not immediately labeled. There are a lot of menus and nav screens to figure out here, which unfortunately is necessary with the complexity of the game and all of its various items. It can feel clunky at times, but with repeated play it eventually becomes second nature.

This game is also different because your tools will never break. Instead, use makes them dull, rendering them mostly ineffective but still usable. When your weapons or mining tools lose their luster, you can simply use sharpeners to restore their strength, so you won't have to be so careful with what resources you invest to create great items.

And while the game may have the same basic building block concept as Minecraft, the world presented within Portal Knights avoids the classic blocky textures and characters comprised of cubes for a more sophisticated look. The characters and enemies are smooth and rounded, resembling little cartoony figurines that fit in well with the surrounding world. In these lush landscapes it can be a little tougher to locate the specific items you need for various quests amongst the details, but that's a tradeoff with the improved graphics.

Portal Knights isn't a game for everyone. If the totally open-ended nature of Minecraft is what keeps you coming back to the game, you might want to stick to the classic. Depending on what you're looking for, the RPG style the game may turn you off completely or finally reignite your passion for open-world building games. If you loved Minecraft at one point but you've lost interest, it's worth looking into Portal Knights to see if you can fall in love all over again.


Portal Knights is available now on Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, retailing for $19.99.