Spiral Knights: Early Impressions

Over the last two weeks, I’ve put about fifteen hours into Spiral Knights, a game that claims to be a free to play MMO from Three Rings, the makers of Puzzle Pirates.  Of course, the game is just barely free, feels more like a lobby game than an MMO, and Three Rings is owned by Sega now.  I have no idea if that last bit has had any effect on the game at all — but the first two are legitimate criticisms that all new players should be aware of , or they shortly will be once they start playing.

Spiral Knights is driven by an energy mechanic.  Starting levels uses energy.  Unless another player is willing to give you half her health, reviving uses energy.  Weapon slot unlocks, heat (xp) boosts, and items can be purchased for energy.  There are two kinds: mist energy is free, and players are given 100 over 24 hours; crystal energy can be purchased with real money or with in game currency from players that purchased it for real money.  One way or the other, crystal energy represents a real money transaction.

Using an elevator costs 10 energy.  Players are limited to two weapon slots unless they spend energy to unlock more, each for 30 days.  Players cannot use trinkets, items that provide stat bonuses, unless they spend energy to unlock those as well.  Reviving doubles each time a player dies in a run, starting at 5 energy and quickly adding up.  Players with a tendency toward addiction might want to avoid this game — even basic game play can quickly drain your free energy.

But it’s quite possible to set limits and stick to them and spend very little to play.  I chose to spend a small amount of money as I figure the game would be worth at least $40 as a console title — I spent much less than that but will see how I feel in a month or two.  If I’m still playing after two months, it’s already outlived the average console game.

I actually might still be playing quite some time for now, provided Guild Wars 2 doesn’t suddenly release tomorrow.  Although it is more of a jump into the action title than an MMO, the Zelda-esque game play is refreshing and fun for a change.  I find myself actually studying enemies, getting to know their patterns and attacks, learning the moments to use my shield, standard single player action game stuff.  But far from the standard in online role-playing games.  No one will fall asleep while playing Spiral Knights, that’s for sure.

The premise is simple.  An order of knight creature things crash lands their spaceship on a planet filled with monsters and stuff.  Other stuffs and things are needed to repair the ship, so the knights have to explore the planet, which seems to consist of a giant clockwork machine, or something.  What that means for players is that levels are depths of the Clockworks, and that levels rotate in sections: the path from depth 1 to depth 8 will not be exactly the same every time, even if a player starts at the same gate.

If you’re just looking for a casual distraction from a more serious MMO, Spiral Knights is practical to play for free in small doses.  If you’re looking to fill some larger chunks of time, about $6 – $10 is a practical transaction for a month of playing.  I recommend the game as something different to do or as a backup online game for when your favorite is down but you still need a fix.

(feel free to send a friend request to Saucelah in game)

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