In a free-to-play market where most MMORPGs all mimic the UI and design of the most popular World of Warcraft sometimes there are games that seek to stand out by presenting new gameplay elements. Knight Age by Joymax is one of those games that adds pets and mounts to a game that would be an otherwise boring MMORPG. Also: this game totally reminds me of the Dragon Warrior/Quest series in how it looks, how it plays, and what it sounds like.
The big takeaways from early game KA happen to be about the pets (pupa) and the mounts. Being able to ride around and beat down badguys from horseback (I mean donkey-back) is a very nice thing. Also it’s possible to get birds, raptors, and other interesting mounts as the game goes on; but at the same time there’s a lot of different pets to choose from to change gameplay and style.
Even if I only had rabbits through the entire game (although I did get one with a huge unicorn horn.)
It’s a cute game and somewhat fun to play, and the maps are big, there’s a lot of people and they’re chatty. So let’s look at what this game is like for the first few levels and how we might expect it to play later on.
Graphics and Sound: It looks a lot like the console games I used to know, but in PC form
Knight Age is cartoony from the first look with thickly drawn, but 3D, figures, environments, and textures. In fact, it has a particularly almost console-based affect to it that reminds me of Super Nintendo and PlayStation games thrust into a slightly better graphics quality. This makes the game very cute, but with a sort of Western aesthetic instead of the chibi anime-style that we’ve gotten used to in MMO games of this type, although it also keeps some of the same elements from those games in the drawing style.
The characters themselves feel like they’re right out of cartoon in this way; as I said above, this game would not look out of place at all on a video game console instead of a PC.
The animations are okay, and everything fits together nicely, so in a way the graphics are very unoffensive and they also probably work together to lower the requirements to run this game.
Sounds are everywhere, although some subtle. Footsteps can be heard and mounts gallop, weapons swing, spells zing, and impacts can be heard. It has a lot of very cutesy-styled console-ish sound effects when weapons hit and enemies die. I even hear a horse whinny when I was wandering through the city—however, it feels pretty empty (I got spoiled by Guild Wars 2.) Otherwise, sound effects are consistent, the UI has them, there’s a lot of sound-response to activity; even screenshots have a bleep-ka-chunk sound when pressing the PrtScreen button.
As you get near death there’s also a thump-thump heartbeat sound to warn about impending defeat. Rather a cute effect.
The music is okay. It reminds me in a very nostalgic sort of way of playing Dragon Warrior—in fact, the music sounds almost exactly like rip off of the recent Dragon Quest music from towns and such. I’m probably biased into liking this music, therefore, because I really love that music. It does seem to be on a short loop, but I hardly noticed because it’s not very loud, it’s not intrusive, and it fits the cartoonish style and the light-hearted surroundings.
Gameplay: It has a lot of strong RPG elements and even a taste of the Pokemon experience with pets
First thing I notice is that the character names are not long enough to fit my normal name of “Helvetica,” so I end up going with “Helvetic” instead.
There are four character classes to choose from, falling to my bête noir of gender locked classes with Knight (M), Warrior (M), Magician (F), and Archer (F). Each of the characters has their own sub-story that explains why they’re gender locked that may or may not play into the game narrative; and each of them has their own weapons and skills fitting to their class. There does, however, seem to be a system by which characters who start in one class can obtain skills belonging to others (and use them if they have the proper equipment, likely that means weapon.)
Movement is accomplished with the standard WASD and click-to-move, with a standard bar of skills at the bottom—in my case, I went with an archer and she shoots arrows—and it is also possible to carry two sets of weapons and switch between them. There’s also an auto-pathing system for moving between quest givers and areas where items need to be retrieved.
The game centers around two additional elements to normal play styles: pets and mounts.
Pets in the game are called “pupa” (presumably after the transitional juvenile state of insect development?), they’re grown out of eggs and bonded to the player. Each pupa has a set of skills, buffs, and abilities that may assist the player in their adventures—some of them hit hard, some heal, some throw spells. The one that I started off with was a little white bunny that, in spite of its cute appearance, is quite a savage combatant. She’s called a “Snow Rabby” and if you’re a fox, don’t get in her way.
The necessity to pick up eggs and bring them back to town to receive pupa adds an almost Pokemon “gotta catch ‘em all” effect to the game. They also must be trained up and leveled in order to gain access to all their abilities—this means using them in combat and spending time with the pupa summoned. As a result, a great deal of the game is played with a pet at your side. They can also be leveled up by feeding them things (often expensive food.)
Mounts come into play a little later in the game and there’s a bit of encouragement towards mounted combat. This opens up at about level 5, getting there is mostly learning how to be a player in the world and use the pet to kill stuff (and perhaps set up a dual or triple class.)
The game does permit mounted combat and mounts also have their own levels (that can be earned via feeding the mount or fighting on them.) Mounts themselves convey some extra firepower and armor, and of course, movement speed. Another interesting aspect is that when in a group, with mounts, it’s possible to “form up” or move in a formation that changes how the different members of the group take damage and dish it out.
Playing I also ran into this odd thing, the “auto prevention system,” it popped up 4 numbers and a number pad and required that I enter that in a set amount of time. I almost missed it (although it took up a chunk of the lower right screen.) I suspect it may have kicked me off if I had not managed to type that number into the keypad in time. I am not sure that I enjoy being poked or prodded by the system to prove that I’m human no matter how many issues that Joymax has with botters.
Freemium: Cash shop has some apparent issues and there’s also limited-time expiring items
Joymax uses a microtransaction currency called Silk across all their available games and items in Knight Age can be bought using it. Looking at the store, it looks like there’s quite a few aesthetic items for purchase, including outfits, and mounts, and the like.
However, some of the costume-weapon changes seem to convey an XP and a damage bonus; this edges the game a little bit closer to play-to-win (with the damage bonus, even though it’s only +5.) Also, another element is that all purchases that I’ve seen are mostly only for 30 days total and that means that cash shop items then expire after they’re bought.
In a way, that feels a little bit cheap, because if I buy something in a game, I’d really like to be able to keep it permanently; after all, I spent money on it. This is a trend in a lot of games that produce a sort of free-to-play “rent” in order to stay on top of the game by selling consumables that convey not just an XP boost but some sort of damage/armor boost as well and therefore need to be bought over and over to keep that edge.
Conclusion: Joymax has a very cute and well thought out game in Knight Age
I really enjoy the look and feel of Knight Age, although the UI seems a little bit tedious at times (the screen resolution is a little bit all over the place.) The aesthetic, atmosphere, and even the sounds remind me of JRPG games from consoles and that’s quite interesting and almost nostalgic. It still suffers a little bit form some not-easy-to-read methods of receiving and turning in quests; but that’s a little bit offset by the way the story is presented—via cut-screens.
I don’t like how the cash shop seems to contain items that convey an edge in damage, and especially don’t like cash shop items that expire (that aren’t consumables.) I think that if there’s a 30 day version of some item it should be extremely cheap and then have a permanent version that costs about x8 or similar (but never exceeding $20 for anything in particular.)
Getting bothered almost hourly to prove I am a human is a nuisance and a major turn off from any game that has absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay or even the graphics.
There seems to be a lot of good things going for this game and I played it up until I got three of my characters mounts. I like how although the initial class is gender locked, it’s possible to grab abilities from the other classes and use their capabilities.
It’s cute, it’s casual, and it has people in it to paly with; this tells me that I think Knight Age will probably do well in the Western market. It’s also worth checking out for the Pokemon element of the pupas and the mounts.