KnightShift Review (PC)
Knightshift (Once Upon a Knight in the US) is a game in line with Roberta William’s Kingsquest series. The game should be taken a strong dose of groaning humor. The pun in the title should let the viewer know that this won’t be the typical “hack and slash” that you would expect from a series like Diablo. It attempts to combine elements of both RTS and RPG play in a single game. Warcraft III went for strong RPG with a dash of RTS, and Knightshift goes the opposite way, with mostly RTS play with RPG elements. But that really doesn’t do the game justice as it is really three games in one. You can chose from Campaigns, Role Playing, and Skirmishes, each of which has a different mixture of RPG and RTS.
RPG The Tie That Binds
You have a good selection of characters from which to chose. They are the Barbarian, Archer, Knight, Sorceress, Priestess, Amazon, and Spearman. Each of these characters comes with a humorous story of how they got into the adventuring business. But chose carefully as the characters are not balanced and you spend a lot of time with some of them running for you life. The weakest of them is the Archer, who doesn’t seem to be able to hit anything while moving and is a sitting duck with low hit points for anything that gets close. If you can manage to keep him alive long enough to gains some levels you can start to get him into shape, but expect to wear the mouse out running away for quite some time. One of the strongest characters from the start is the Amazon, who can create a mirror image of herself for the creatures to beat up on while they both do damage.
The mechanics of the game are not difficult. You get quests by finding people with question marks above their heads and they give you simple tasks such as escorting a maiden to her uncle, finding cows or recovering armor. The mini-map will show you where the next quest is located. There are no hard puzzles to figure out and you can only work on one quest at a time. The game is however quite playable and while it isn’t something that will keep a hard core RPG fan going for weeks, there is enough value there to entertain.
An RTS Unlike Any Other
Now we come to the RTS portion, or what they call skirmishes in the game. It is a classic RTS style game with all the normal elements. You only have one resource and it is milk. You build cowsheds which allow you to build cows and cowherds to take care of them. The cow graze and then come back and deposit the milk which you can then use to build anything else. The cowherd will speed up his cows and even try to protect them if no one else is around. Buildings are built by woodbutchers, who don’t chop trees. They do fight if needed, so they won’t be idle between construction jobs.
The whole system depends on the production of milk. You can only build four cowsheds that support up to 3 cows or cowherds. This gives you a maximum of 12 cows, but you will want to have at least one or two cowherds to speed things up. Because it takes a long time to get the milk, you won’t see any rush tactics used in this game. The advantage is clearly in the defense to start. However, you will spend quite a lot of time waiting to get the milk needed to build even the first units. The more powerful the unit, the longer you will have to wait. Don’t expect to use the upgrades much as the wait for the milk and the time they take to research make most of them useless during the game.
The AI is pretty simple and can easily be defeated. One easy tactic to use is to build an enclosing fence and place towers around the inside. Place a gate on an inside wall and the AI will target the gate to the exclusion of anything else. Its units will continue to go after the gate while your archers stand untouched in their towers and defeat them. This will not work in multiplayer however as the walls you build can either be passed over with a flying unit or destroyed quickly with ground units.
I’ll Take The Combo Plate
Last we come to the meat of the game, the campaigns. You start out as a prince who lost his kingdom and must win it back. Through a series of quests and missions you slowly get back your armor, name and kingdom. During this part of the game you will spend some of the time in RPG style of play and other in an RTS style.
Again the game is simplified. The quests are short and for the most part easy to complete. The cut scenes are numerous and at times it seems as if you spend more time watching them than you do playing the game itself. You will also get some surprises along the way, such as statues that turn some of your players into cows. A lot more could have been done with these if they had put some more time and effort into it. The quests need to be longer, harder, and more of an intellectual challenge. The game spends too much time holding your hand.
The game engine underneath the game is well done and may yet lead to some very absorbing game experiences. In it you will find an interesting mixture of both RPG and RTS. They went in the opposite direction to what the Warcraft series did and the combination show flashes of something that could rock. However, it seems that most of the development time was spent on the graphics and not enough on the playability issues. If you go into this game thinking you are going to get anything more than a couple of day’s entertainment you will be disappointed. But if you’re looking for some light-hearted fun and something to take your mind off of the more intense and serious gaming, then this is the game for you.