The Tiger Knight Development team at Netdragon has teamed up with Oasis Games to create a Free-to-play hack-and-slash game that is absolutely amazing.
Basic Game Overview
The development team has gone into Early Access open beta, and since the game is free to play I downloaded it and jumped right in. The current state has quite a few problems and there are a lot of flaws (which I’ll get into), but already I can tell just how amazing this game will be and I see that it has a lot of potential to grow. Going into it I thought the game was just another Mount And Blade clone based on the screenshots I’ve seen in the past and the trailers and gameplay videos that were released, but boy was I wrong!
I really wasn’t expecting the game to be this way. The best way to describe it is that Mount And Blade and Dynasty Warriors met, started talking, went out on a couple of dates, took things slow and did things right, got married, then went to work with some sweet love making and had a baby that they raised in all of their ways, and as a result they had a child named Tiger Knight that took all of their best qualities to become something amazing that their parents could be proud of.
This game doesn’t feel like a rush job and is actually pretty well put together with solid gameplay and graphics. The thing that makes Tiger Knight: Empire War so great though is the development team. They keep us informed, there is a lot of chatter in the forums, they take in feedback and criticism, they keep us up to date about server problems and they try hard to fix it, and most importantly, if they give us an ETA deadline for when the problem will be fixed, they normally meet that deadline!
There are a few translation problems and “Engrish”, but for the most part I can piece together what they are trying to say and the game is playable in its current state. The developers have said that they are working on a proper English translation for the future.
But enough about the basics, let’s get into the actual gameplay and why the game is so fun and addicting.
If you’ve played both Dynasty Warriors and Mount And Blade then the concept of Tiger Knight: Empire War will be very familiar to you. I believe that Tiger Knight does support controllers, but at this time the developers recommend that you use the keyboard and mouse. Even then, sometimes the controls will glitch and you can’t move correctly. I haven’t personally experienced the controls glitch but there were a few players that reported it and the developers are also aware of it.
You can move around using the WASD keys and you look around with your mouse. You can attack by holding down the left mouse button while looking in the direction you want to attack. So look up slightly and press left mouse and you will do an overhead swing, left and right will do horizontal swings, and looking down will do a poke. Certain weapons however are limited to the type of swings you can perform, so you have to study your weapon’s stats to know how the weapon will perform.
If you time your attacks just right you can also perform a deadly combo attack to deal out more damage. The combat is pretty hard to master, but Tiger Knight: Empire War probably has one of the best tutorials to teach you how to play the game. When you first start you have to choose your server, for now they only have North America, Asia and Europe. You then go into a basic tutorial that teaches you the core basics of the game — sadly, you can’t skip this. Once you finish the basic tutorial you get to create your character, then you get to the main game.
From here, there are a series of challenges and training missions you can choose to take which goes in more detail about all the game mechanics and actions and they rank you from D all the way to SS. The more you take the challenges, the better you get at combat. The cool part is, the challenges and training missions actually help you when you get into battle. They have challenges for horseback combat, blocking, sword swings, archery, and even a training war simulation for you to practice with, and by the time you start hitting S rank with the training missions you will see that you will greatly improve when you go against other players.
As mentioned above, the game does have a create a character system, and a pretty detailed one at that. You can choose from male and female, but at the moment the female models are not available for Early Access. You can see a few of them in game, such as Sun Jian’s daughter, Sun Shangxiang (shown below).
You can choose your basic face structure of Eastern features or the more “Western” features of the Roman empire. You then have dozens of sliders for eyes, nose, mouth, face structure, hair color, skin color and a few options for hair styles. You then proceed to name your character and choose your faction.
At the moment you can choose from Wei, Wu, and Shu, and there is also an option for Rome, but for the Early Access version Rome is currently unavailable. There were also two other options available for other factions, but they were greyed out for now so it looks like we’ll get more factions in the future with additional campaigns, stages, and weapons.
These factions don’t matter too much in the beginning because you can kind of switch later on when you get in the game. Tiger Knight: Empire War doesn’t use a class system, instead you choose your soldiers that will fight with you in battle. Just like Dynasty Warriors, you have a small group of AI controlled NPCs that follow you and fight by your side. Your faction chooses the default group and your basic loadout, but you can switch to use another faction at any time.
Each faction has a set specialty for weapons they use and armor types. I chose Wu, so they prefer leather armor and blunt weapons when they start off, but they also have a branch for archery units that you can unlock, which also gains you access to using bows. The equipment that your soldiers use in combat is the same equipment you will also gain access to.
Wei specializes in Halberds and polearms with heavy armor, while Shu has spears and calvery. If you are familiar with Dynasty Warriors then you will already know which faction uses which type of weapons. So if you want bows and halberds, you would need to master both the Wu and Wei faction unit progressions to unlock all the content. However, there are a few special items you can unlock as well from dueling other players in PVP team deathmatches.
The armor has a pretty cool concept because the game has three armor types-
Cloth: protects against blunt damage and works as a fluffy pillow to soften the blow, but is weak against piercing.
Leather: protects against slash damage to keep all your insides in place. It is complicated so I don’t know how it fairs against blunt and piercing damage.
Metal Armor: protects against piercing and Slashing, but is weak against crushing blunt damage.
As a result, they also have weapons to counter each armor type, so you have piercing weapons like spears and pikes, chopping weapons like axes and halberds, crushing blunt weapons like clubs and hammers, and slashing weapons like swords. Your loadout can hold up to four weapons and/or a shield, so you can pick and choose what you need in battle.
The shields will block all incoming damage in a cone in front of you, but adds a bit of bulk and restricts your combat attack choices. Without a shield you will have to block individual directions to match the above named attack swing directions, which can be very difficult to do if you have five guys attacking you at once.
For now, there are four game modes you can choose from, and I believe they have up to 10-14 player vs player matches. The four modes include solo training mode, Command Mode (PVP war), Duel mode (Team deathmatch), and then Epic War (PVE War). The match making feature works pretty well and for the first 10 character levels or so you should have no problem finding a game. After level 10 it took me about 2-4 minutes for it to find a game because it has to find other players around your level, and since it is still Early Access there weren’t many of us over that level requirement.
In Duel mode it is just you vs other players, but you don’t have your soldiers following along with you. That game mode is a bit broken because you can spawn in after the game loads with people stabbing you because it has no spawn protection, which sucks butt hard because you start the game dead.
I can’t remember the exact number, but I believe that the game is set up as a first to about 80 kills, or whoever has the most kills before time runs out wins. It is a fun game mode, but it can also be very frustrating when your team doesn’t work together because that is pretty much the only way you can win. If you die in combat, the kill only counts if the enemy finishes you off with a deadly finisher which activates a kill-cam style assassination which takes about 5 seconds to complete.
If the assassin is interrupted, the dying player stays on the ground and his team will have a chance to revive him, or you can choose to kill yourself (which still gives the kill to the enemy). So the objective is to stick together and revive your team so that the enemy doesn’t get the kill. You can revive as much as you want in this mode.
Command Mode operates in a similar fashion, but it is more like Dynasty Warriors where your soldiers will follow you into battle and you have to take over bases while trying to kill the enemy team’s NPC commander. You only get one life, so if you die you stay dead. There are no respawns in this mode, so if your life gets low and your team starts to fall, it is better to fallback and regroup. As long as your commander is alive you can return back to base to get more foot soldiers.
Last but not least, the Epic War mode takes place in a series of waves with you and the other players working together to defeat an army of NPCs in a story mode scenario. The first wave is 1 on 1 battles with one player fighting a top ranking NPC General in combat. 5 players will have to battle 5 generals, each taking turns in a hot-seat style combat system, whether you win or lose doesn’t really matter because it only affects your score. After that, you do a boss battle where all the players work together to defeat the boss — such as the infamous Lu Bu. You then move on to the castle siege portion that plays out like a large scale version of Command mode. Just like before, you only get a single life, so if you die in battle you will stay dead.
All of the game modes requires a lot of teamwork and strategy, so if you don’t work well with your team, you will more than likely lose the entire game.
Leveling Up, Equipment and Cash shop
All of the game modes will give you a combination of General EXP, Solder EXP, Copper (basic currency) and Prestige. The only mode that doesn’t give soldier EXP is Duel mode because your soldiers of course do not follow you into battle, so instead you gain Exploit points. Exploit points are special points you use to gain rare special weapons and armor types that is outside your faction progression. For example, if you earn enough points you can unlock a special quality halberd weapon without following the Wei soldier faction, etc.
General EXP is for your main character and will level you up, soldier EXP is used to upgrade your soldiers to get them better equipment and to move up the ranks to unlock more advanced tiers and soldiers.
Prestige is similar to soldier EXP, but you can also use it to unlock new Adjutant soldiers (your right hand man), or used to force level up your soldiers to skip out training them up in battle. For example, a soldier needs 5,000 EXP to rank up to the next tier, but they only have 1,000 soldier EXP from combat, you could use 4,000 prestige to cover the gap to forcefully level them up, but the only downside is that prestige is earned at a very slow rate, so it is pretty difficult to get more of it.
As you level up and get higher in level, you also unlock new missions and stages for you to play which adds complexity and variety to the game.
As for the cash shop, the developers say they are aware that no one wants pay-to-win gameplay, so for now the only cash shop items are small things like healing supplies, fire arrows, horse whistles to summon a horse in battle, character rename cards and customization, and other small items. There was talk about weapons and armor being in the cash shop, and so far the idea is that if your main character’s level is lower than the equipment requirement then the armor will debuff down to match your character so that it isn’t overpowered.
At the moment, the cash shop armor and weapons are not currently in the game, so we’ll see how that turns out. The only other cash shop items is gold, which you can use real life money to purchase. You can then exchange your gold into more copper or prestige. If you complete the missions and challenges though, you can unlock free VIP tokens and gold by playing the game.
Tiger Knights‘ Duel mode is probably the most flawed game mode because it has no spawn protection and it sometimes stacks all the skilled players on one team, leaving new players and unskilled fighters to try and struggle on another team together. It is also annoying because players will go AFK (Away from keyboard), leaving a team of unresponsive fighters just standing around for the other team to kill.
Epic War is flawed because for some reason the FPS drops drastically and runs horribly. This game mode also has special cutscenes for the story and to introduce main generals to the battlefield, and it sometimes gets stuck in the cutscene to either leave you in a black screen or your controls will stop responding. Alt Tab seems to fix most of these problems for some reason…
The server, especially the North American server, has a lot of stability problems so we get a lot of lag. On top of this, we have to share a server with the east and west coast as well as Canada and South America. As a result, it bogs down the server and creates problems. The developers say they are aware of this and they are working on a solution, but in the meantime it means that we Americans and Canadians have to play on a laggy server with strange ping spikes.
Furthermore, if you choose to play as an Archer you will become frustrated by the wonky accuracy. This wouldn’t be a problem because I understand they want to avoid super-snipers, however the damage with the arrows is quite low, especially for the first 5 archery levels or so. The arrow speeds are also extremely slow, so even after you master the accuracy, you also have to master leading the arrow to get a proper hit. So it’ll take you a good 5 to 6 perfectly placed arrows just to get a decent kill against another player. Proceed to throw in armor damage reduction, and well… I think you get the idea.
If the arrows are going to move that slow they should at least cripple the player to slow down their run speed if you get leg shots, and maybe do a bit of bleed over time damage to compensate the low damage. If you compare the archer damage to say halberds and spears, you will see that it is better to use melee attacks to take out enemies. Archery has its pros for taking out large clusters because you can use a special skill command to rain down arrows from the sky, but in my opinion it doesn’t really even out, especially when you are faced in one on one combat.
Speaking of damage, the hit boxes and hit detection for melee weapons are also weird, especially for horse combat. Sometimes it looks like your swing hits the player but it won’t register the damage, your weapons will just go straight through the enemy. So you have to spend a lot of time learning the hit boxes to get decent hits in.
The last problem is probably the grind. After you learn how to unlock equipment and how certain items are locked to a specific faction for a specific level, you will soon realize that if you want a specific build and item combination that you will need to grind for dozens of hours to unlock the content you want. Alternatively, you could pay real life money to exchange your gold for more prestige to try and unlock the content you want faster.
Should You Play It?
This is probably one of the best free to play MMORPGs I have ever played in terms of fun factor. I absolutely love the Dynasty Warriors and Mount And Blade series, so they are some of my favorite games of all time. Combine both together and you have an amazing concept that is absolutely addicting to play.
The grind to earn soldier EXP and prestige is pretty extreme, so leveling up and progress is really slow, but at the same time I understand that they did it so that you have something to work towards with end-game content. If you unlocked all the best weapons and armor in a week then you would probably get bored with the game after about two weeks of playing, so I understand why they stretched the content out.
The graphics are beautiful if you can turn them up high enough, but for most of us we’re getting bad FPS spikes right now because the game isn’t properly optimized, but even on my low end laptop I can sometimes get a steady 20 FPS on medium graphics settings, and I’m playing the game on an old Lenovo T400 laptop, so if you have anything newer than this you should be able to play comfortably with 40-60 FPS.
To conclude, for a free to play game, Tiger Knight: Empire War does a whole lot of things right more than it does wrong. The development team is aware of the current flaws and they are taking feedback seriously while working hard to create the best game they can, which is exactly what an Early Access game should do while in their beta testing phase, and even with all the flaws I don’t really find myself raging at the game.
If you are a long time fan of Dynasty Warriors and the Mount And Blade series then I think you will absolutely love Tiger Knight: Empire War, so I highly recommend you download it and give it a try.
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