Harking back to a bygone era of top-down, reasonless romps, Knight Squad is very much in the vein of classic games like Bomberman, The Legend of Zelda, and even Timesplitters – a birds-eye multiplayer blast, replete with modes, maps and mayhem that will please SNES heads and newcomers in equal measure.
Knight Squad: Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Chainawesome Games
Publisher: Chainawesome Games
Release Date: 16 November 2015 [EU]
Price: Free via Games With Gold [Disclosure Game Copy provided by Publisher]
As if it were a MOBA game for people who don’t play MOBAs, Knight Squad is a 1 – 8 player game that sees you battling other players in 2-D arenas, killing off your competition in order to win. The game is chock full of other modes too, besides straight up team death match and free-for-all. With a domination point defense mode, capture the flag mode, juggernaut mode (that gives your character a MINIGUN!?), king of the hill mode, and even a soccer – or football – game type, there is literally something for everyone here.
Each mode has its own set of maps too. From basic battle grounds to brilliant maps such as collapsed grail mine – that requires you to not only capture the grail, but also tunnel your own path through the map itself, Dig Dug style – the maps are a mixed bag. Each one changes the game in its own unique way, and keeps the multiplayer feeling fresh with every quirk or obstacle included.
The map is simply that, however: the battlefield. The actual battling is shallow, but very much welcomed. Tapping any of the face buttons, A, X, Y or B, will prompt your avatar to swing his sword in a retro Legend of Zelda arc. Running right into the fray and getting stab-happy is the main order of business, but should you want for more varied means of dispensing death, there are powerups everywhere! Reminiscent of Timesplitters or Halo in its LAN party days, there are powerups at every turn in Knight Squad. From bows and arrows to boomerangs, shields to speed boosts, there are all kinds of augmentations to receive during battle.
Although some powerups are invaluable in objective based game types, projectile weapons seem to lose out to the trusty ol’ sword, since swords can stab through obstacles, whereas arrows, magic blasts and gunfire stop at the first sign of walls. This trade-off is purposeful, however, in that those taking advantage of the ranged weaponry on offer will have to earn their kills rather than stay in one spot. Likewise for swordsmen, being able to stab your enemy through a wall gives combat a strategic angle. Waiting for the right moment to attack can make the difference between a flag captured or a flag lost, for instance, and players hoping to camp behind a wall with the grail will have a hard time avoiding pointy, through-the-wall sword justice.
With proceedings balanced and bonkers in equal measure, there really isn’t much more to say about the gameplay, because it is what it is: simple, silly and yet strategic too. Aside from the hours of fun the multiplayer can offer, a challenges section of the game will appeal to those looking for, well… a challenge. With six challenges on offer and leaderboards for each, these tests are a fun distraction, with each subsequent challenge harder than the last. I personally couldn’t get enough of the second challenge – fighting four huge worms that bounced off of the arena walls, while I tried aiming for their glowing weak spots at the end of their tails. The experience was very Legend of Zelda-like, and the challenge even more so, which was great.
As you’d expect from a game titled Knight Squad, the music is to be expected, in the menus at least. All trumpets and triumph, once the battles begin, electro-infused and dub step tunes keep the tempo high in multiplayer matches. This audio-visual dissonance is greatly appreciated, and the game benefits from this musical choice. Regarding visuals, the artwork is standard fare. Knights, dragons and other typical beasties are all present, with the game injecting colour into the character designs wherever possible.
This added flair also comes across in the characters themselves. With 8 playable knights to choose from, each one has its own name and quirk. Selfie, for instance, is a knight who takes pictures of themselves on their phone, and Solo is a knight who hammers out air guitar riffs on their sword. These ‘characters’ are purely cosmetic, however, and choosing one over the other will not affect gameplay at all. With no real character present in the characters, the expectations on the story shouldn’t be that high: chiefly because there isn’t one.
Knight Squad isn’t trying to be Game of Thrones – this is Bomberman, just with less bombs and more swords. Keeping things sublimely simple, Knight Squad is an entertaining slice of retro rampaging, with more maps and modes than you can shake a sword at. A great laugh with or without friends, those looking for an affordable and fun multiplayer title will be pleased, and players with a predilection for classic games will certainly be catered for.