Knight Age – Review
If there’s anything I love more than most people, it’s cel-shaded graphics. Back when Wind Waker was announced, the world cried out in horror at the sight, while my young eyes widened slightly and a huge grin spread out across my face. There’s something just wonderfully childish and fun about the cartoon styling that I absolutely adore. So, when I started to look at Knight Age, the latest free-to-play MMO from Korean developers Joymax, creators of the popular Silkroad Online, my heart was set aflutter.
As you might have already guessed, Knight Age is beautiful in its cartoony way. The environments are bright and colourful, and a joy to wander around. The enemies are all cute and cuddly, ranging from foxes and sheep to giant praying mantises, to a giant bear that roams the plains and destroys anyone who crosses its path. The characters can be a little funny looking, particularly the female characters, whose eyes are as big as their breasts, but it’s all part of the charm. It’s bright and lovely, and the graphics are definitely the main draw of the game.
There is a story, but, to be quite honest, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. As you install the game, you’re shown a load of text describing the construction of the world, which I think is called Hayde, and how the god of darkness, Rhude, gave every human the power of darkness. There’s also something about 72 dark lords, which is the only piece of information that regularly reappears throughout the game, since your task appears to be taking most of these guys down. The story is convoluted and confusing, but it’s not essential to the experience, unless you really want some context for killing hordes of two-tailed foxes.
You can choose between four classes to play as: the Knight, who has high attack with melee weapons; Magician, who can use magic from a distance; the Archer, who can use bows, and the Warrior, who seems to be the “tank” (or, for the uninitiated, the character who soaks up all the damage in a party). The Knight and Warrior classes seem to be fairly interchangeable, since the Warrior also has a pretty decent attack power, and because of this you’re likely to see a number of Warriors roaming the plains and rarely any Knights. Ditto for the Archer, who I think I encountered one of during my time with the game. Everyone seems to play as the Mage and Warrior classes, which is fair because they appear to be the best classes in the game. One thing that also caused me to raise an eyebrow was that each class is also gender-specific, so Magicians and Archers are always women and Knights and Warriors are always men. It turns out that this is due to the story, and each class is actually a specific character, but it was still a minor annoyance that you couldn’t be a male Mage or female Knight.
I went for the Mage, and shortly after was taken to the tutorial, which outlined how the game worked in a very easy to follow manner, and introduced me to my new friend for the rest of the game – a Pupa. Pupas are little creatures, such as tiny golems or wisps, that you can call to your side and have them help you in battle. My fighting friend was a Big Horned Snow Rabby, essentially a white rabbit with a horn on its head, which took on enemies at close range and distracted them from my mage’s distant attacks. The Pupa system is incredibly useful for range fighters, and makes fighting enemies much easier than if you were on your own. You can also command them to go crazy and attack everything, and watch while your Pupa runs around the map, killing everything in its path and earning you experience points. It’s a great little addition, and makes Knight Age just that little bit different to other MMOs.
Another thing that sets Knight Age aside is the focus on mounts and mounted gameplay. You get your hands on your first mount about half an hour into the game, once you hit level five, and it’s a very useful thing to have. For one thing, the world is pretty big, and would take a long while to traverse on foot. But if you’re an Archer or Mage, it means that you can attack and move at the same time, allowing you to keep away from enemies whilst damaging them, which is especially useful when charging up spells as a Mage. There’s also a variety of colourful mounts on offer, usually given as a quest reward or as part of an event (in one instance, I suddenly noticed everyone riding on the backs of giant purple chickens, and realised I too could ride a feathery friend). The mounts are pretty cool, and getting them so early in the game is a major improvement over other titles, which make you wait for hours before getting your hands on so much as a horse.
If you look away from these additions, however, what you find is that Knight Age is actually pretty much like every other MMO out there. You take quests from quest givers, which are one of three missions: go and talk to someone (or sometimes, talk to the person who just gave you the quest, which is bloody stupid if you ask me), slay a certain number of creatures, or collect a certain number of items by slaying creatures. You’d think each dead creature would drop your item, but no, you often have to kill twice the number of enemies to get it. There’s a slight variation on this quest where you only have to collect one thing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re actually supposed to kill a certain number of enemies before it drops, and the game just doesn’t tell you. It’s dull, uninspiring stuff that gets really boring, really quickly, and offers such little variation that once I managed to gain two levels just by talking to people.
Sometimes you’ll be tasked with clearing out a dungeon, and, to be fair to Joymax, these are actually pretty cool. You can tackle them by yourself, and in some cases are given an AI party to help you out, who are invaluable when they’re not throwing a strop and refusing to move. Each dungeon features some kind of special trap, so the dungeon with a lightning elemental boss contained moving walls of electricity that kill you or your Pupa in one hit, if you’re not careful. These neat additions make the dungeons that little bit more interesting, and require some extra strategy when taking them on.
The bosses, however, are majorly hit and miss. The first boss in the game’s storyline, an Earth elemental called Taksha, was particularly problematic. Not only does he have a stupidly large amount of health,but he can stun you (which takes away your mount for the duration of the stun and forces you to re-mount), and can summon balls of healing energy that heal him 150HP for what felt like every half second. So after twenty minutes whittling him down to a quarter health, he’ll stun you, summon a healing ball, heal himself of all the damage you inflicted on him over the last minute, summon another one close by and double his healing, and then stun you again. It took three attempts and nearly an hour and a half of my time to finally take him down, and he was a level nine boss. Compare that to a later level 12 boss, who has half of Taksha’s health and can’t heal (but can kill you in one hit, which is extremely annoying), and you’ve got an incredibly unbalanced and unfair boss. It nearly caused me to give up on the game entirely, which is not a feeling you want to give to players.
There are also a couple of issues that weren’t hugely annoying, but certainly detracted from the game. The user interface is cluttered and confusing, and most of it is essentially useless; how many people, honestly, are ever going to use expressions at any point in the game? If I want to show people that I’m angry/scared/slightly aroused, I’ll just write it in the chat box. The chat box that is, naturally, filled with bots spamming their websites to sell gold (required to buy premium items and often bought with real money). The censoring on the chatbox is ridiculous as well. Players can’t write “fun” – it comes out as “**n” because of the “fu” potentially meaning something rude. The censoring carries over spaces as well, so “mages hit” would become “mage* ***”. I guess it makes sense to censor the language in case younger ones are playing, but there are times when it gets in the way of clear communication, and players can’t understand what their party want to do. Finally, leveling up takes absolutely forever, even with the potions bought with real money that increase the amount of XP you gain by 30%. Quests are the way forward for leveling up, but if you’re not a high enough level to handle it, you’re stuck slaughtering hundreds of the same enemies until you finally hit that extra level. They’re all minor annoyances, but they start to grate after a while.
The sound in Knight Age is nothing to write home about; there are about three different songs that play in a continuous loop, and aren’t particularly enjoyable or irritating. The sound effects are fairly solid, with bangs and wallops playing whenever people take damage, and suitably elemental sounds playing during spells. One thing I found odd was that R2-D2s signature bleeps and bloops played occasionally and for no discernible reason, other than perhaps because two Pupas had seen each other and fell in love (that’s my best guess, anyway).
Overall, Knight Age is pretty much just another MMO. It suffers from the same problems with quests and grinding as all the others, and if you’re not a fan of that already, it’s unlikely to win you over now. It’s saved by some wonderful graphics and the usefulness of Pupas and mounts, but they’re unlikely to hold your attention for long. It’s enjoyable until you start to grind and repeat the same quests for the twentieth time, and then it’s a bit dull… but at least it looks nice.Pros
- Beautiful cartoon graphics
- Pupas are a useful and neat addition
- Some of the dungeon designs are interesting
- Almost identical to every other MMO
- Boss difficulty is all over the place
- Cluttered UI and terrible censorship in the chat window
When I first started playing Knight Age, I was drawn in by the glorious environments and cutesy characters and enemies. The adorable Pupas that followed you round and helped tackle enemies were great fun. I got a mount half an hour in, which made things even faster, but as I played and played, it became apparent that I had played this game before in a hundred different environments. Knight Age adds only one majorly interesting thing, and then reuses every idea from every MMO ever made to create a gorgeous, but uninspired world. If you like MMOs and you love cartoon graphics, then I’d suggest you take a look. If you hate both of those, however, there’s nothing else here that will hold your attention.
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