I’ve always wondered why we don’t see more games based around the legend of King Arthur. I mean, not all the time, it’s not like I can’t think of other things, but it is something I often muse on in a quiet moment.
Well, as if the staff of Gambir Studio and PQube were all mindreaders, comes the release of Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur. Billed as an action roguelite, two words that would usually strike dread into my gaming heart, I decided to strap on a suit of armour and see what the game had to offer. Care to join me as I recount my tale?
The story of Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur has a clue to what has happened in the very title. As was their wont, Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were merrily questing after the Holy Grail, and in a rare stroke of luck, they found it! However, in the finding, the Grail was damaged, and a terrible Void Giant was unleashed, ready to destroy the world. As Arthur and his band go off to slay the giant, in an upsetting turn (for them) the giant kills them all and also breaks Excalibur into the bargain. Merlin, meanwhile, summons his bestest magic in order to teleport the giant back to the Astral Dimension, and while this is successful, the rest of Camelot sadly is transported with it. Merlin has only enough magic left to resurrect one Knight, and so he chooses Arthur to be brought back. With the broken Excalibur in hand, he is dispatched to go and sort the mess out, and this is where we come in. What could possibly go wrong?
The presentation of the game is where we will go next, and here the news is – by and large – very good. The graphics have an appealing cartoony feel to them, with Arthur and his foes all rendered very well. Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur is shown in the traditional top-down arena style, with each room being separate from the next. Usually we will have to kill all the enemies in order to open the door to the next room, but every now and then there are rooms that don’t require fighting, which makes a nice change. Everything is nice and jolly, almost, and even when Arthur is fighting for his life, it is still a cheerful place to be.
Sound effects are also very good, with fully voiced cutscenes being a standout. To complement, the music and battle sound effects are all very nice too. All in all, the world that the devs have created is a good place to spend a bit of time, if you can overlook the vast array of foes and bosses all trying to end you!
The real draw with Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur is that the runs you undertake are all procedurally generated, so you are never sure what rooms and enemies you will have to face. Even the boss at the end of each level is different every time. In a way, this makes the game a little harder, as it is quite tricky to develop a strategy for dealing with a boss when you may not even see it. In a word, it certainly keeps you on your toes, I can say that.
Should you die (and it is quite likely, let me tell you) you will respawn at Camelot, with the gold you collected and the EXP you gathered intact. This is where one of the two halves of the game come into play, as when Camelot was moved, it suffered a little light damage. ”May need a survey” as they would say on Homes under the Hammer, and luckily an alien builder (I know, I don’t remember tales of aliens in the King Arthur story, but go with it) comes to visit, helpfully able to build and repair the buildings that are dotted around. In order for this to happen, the builder guy, who talks only in numbers, requires gold, and an occupant for the building. Now, the residents of Camelot were scattered when the place shifted, and as we explore, we will find them dotted about; the likes of a blacksmith, a librarian, a huntress and more. This gives us new options in Camelot, such as having our swords upgraded, information about enemies provided, and so on.
In addition, the Knights of the Round Table appear as statues, and by interacting with them, we can change the way that Arthur fights. At the beginning, only Lancelot and Bors are available, but we can soon add to their number. Each Knight has their own unique fighting style, and by choosing which attacks to use, we can build Arthur up to be a formidable fighter. Using Lancelot’s main sword style allows us to attack faster, while Bors’ secondary attack gives a ring of blades to help us stay safe. In addition, as we explore the world on a run, we can find the statues of these two in the world, and can further upgrade their abilities as we go.
The actual fighting is pretty hard, and not just because of the amount of foes that Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur throws in. It is pretty standard fare, to be honest, with an attack and a dodge button to use, with the extra attacks we can equip mapped to the other face buttons. However, the attack range of Arthur’s sword is fairly short, and so we have to be treading on an enemies toe in order to hit them; this certainly causes issues when fighting the bosses. All of them, without fail so far, have a large AoE attack that we usually can’t dodge out of the way off in time if we are attacking, and with no healing available apart from in a certain room on a run (oh, and by buying potions from the merchant, if you find him before the boss) our health bar can disappear faster than your mate when it’s their round.
Of course, the more you play, the more you learn the attack patterns, and the longer you survive, and it is here that the gameplay hook makes itself felt. It is so tempting to brush yourself down before setting off on another attempt before noticing the clock has moved into the wee hours and you’ve got work in the morning…
All in all, Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur will almost single-handedly cure you of any aversion to roguelites. The fighting is a lot of fun, as is seeing Camelot come back to life. Getting just that little bit further every time you go on a run makes the desire to play the game stronger all the time.
If you fancy a challenge, Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur will provide it. And I can’t really say fairer than that.