When I first reviewed Portal Knights on the PS4 earlier this year, I remember being surprised by how it mixed elements of other games together to create a really cohesive package. I think perhaps the only thing that could have improved the experience would have been the ability to play it on a handheld console when on the move and then pick up where I left off. Now, the Nintendo Switch version of Portal Knights is slated to offer exactly that experience, but is it still as good as it was, or has something been lost in translation?
Let’s begin with a quick recap. At first glance, Portal Knights does appear as if it is a simple mash up of other games, but look closer and you’ll discover that among some of the borrowed concepts, it has more than just a few of its own. Firstly, rather than offering players a single world split into individual biome’s, Portal Knights instead offers a series of bite sized levels that are accessed via portals (hence the title.)
Each of these levels look liked an updated version of Minecraft, with a colourful, blocky theme that is simplistic but surprisingly charming. The enemies are undoubtedly more varied as well, which lends Portal Knights a more combat orientated theme than most games of its kind, which is welcome considering that another thing it does better than most is combat, not to mention the crafting and enhancement of weapons and armour as you progress to obtain more and more powerful components.
This gameplay was addictive even when played on a traditional home console (or PC, I suspect) but in Switch form, it is even more compelling because you can literally drop in and out whenever you feel inclined to do so. The Switch version runs well in docked mode (at 720p) and looks fine, with few frame rate drops and a brightness that I think feels appropriate for a Nintendo console. In handheld mode, the game is a little less impressive, with occasional frame drops and stutters to hold it back, although not to any game-breaking extent.
Between the PS4 version that I originally reviewed and the Switch version that I’ve been playing on planes and trains for the past week or so, I’ve found my time with Portal Knights to be increasingly welcome, with the RPG, combat and building elements all combining in more and more interesting ways as I’ve gained experience. As a sandbox experience, Portal Knights really delivers, but this extended playtime has also led me to identify what I believe is the games only real issue.
That issue, unfortunately, is a lack of real direction or impetus. It’s fantastic to have a series of bite sized worlds to explore, accessed via portals that must be built by components that you have to search and fight for, but it would also be great to have a broader narrative that really drives gameplay. When I first reviewed the game, I didn’t pay much attention to the quests (because they seemed such a minor part of the game that I didn’t care) but now I’ve spent more time with it, I wish I was doing something more interesting than fetching and carrying items for mumbling NPC’s.
Portal Knights is a really potent addition to the arsenal of Switch games that have been flooding through the door recently. It’s no longer a case of beggars can’t be choosers, because there are loads of options for Switch players. That makes me even more delighted to be able to say that whilst Portal Knights is still a Try It on Switch, it is, if anything, slightly better than the PS4 version I played before because of the handheld mode, which adds a ton of versatility to an already very good game.