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Danger Danger

  • Kylaila
  • 07/30/2015 11:25 AM
  • 478 views
Steel Knights is a pretty brutal third person roguelike/dungeoncrawler in a sci-fi setting.
It will keep you on your toes, but it starts out very very difficult.
Seeing how this was made in 7 days, it is a very impressive work.

There are three different worlds to explore before you can move on to the final stage.
You will select a bonus at the start of the game (between items, attack damage, defensive capabilities or speed) and off you go to fight through the dungeons.

Very noteable is the flavor text you get - a full introduction into who you are and what you do, as well as small updates as you journey for every floor you clear. (little bit more than 10). And the boss you defeat. It creates a wonderful atmosphere and story for you to find yourself in if you pay attention to the updates - or you may simply ignore this feature entirely and focus on your battle prowess alone.
You will get a lot of tension as you escape, endure or avoid threats - or see the boss watching you.



It is very menu-based and .. needs a little bit getting used to.
You will walk with either keypad or numpad (which allows for diagonal movement), and attack automatically if you would be running into an enemy.
Combat is turn-based as any enemy moves as you do.

There are thankfully a few shortcuts which you should look up in the tutorial - s for shooting specifically. It is impossible to shoot via item/equipment usage, even if you should be able to. You will get a message claiming you have not equipped the right weapon otherwise (even if you do).
"X" is your all-saving basic menu. "Z" your cancel. Picking items up, using items, changing equipment, looking at field tiles (I never got a useful message though). There are shortcuts for them, but they are only in the tutorial and you can just use the general menu as it is a quick and smooth interface.
Needing to select items with your keys alphabetically ordered, you will need a little bit of time to get used to it and selecting stuff quickly.
There is the option to chat, but .. I never successfully used it. Even humans and teammates you cannot chat with. You will prompt to attack instead - and so is it with the dungeon residents. Perhaps there is only a small selection of enemies to talk with, but I soon abandoned the option as it simply was a longwinded way of attacking.

Shooting requires ammunition, and different types of weapons require different types of ammunition and play out differently.
There is a laser with one shot which needs to be charged on map, a single target rifle and a splash + low ranged shotgun. All of these can be used in conjunction to your normal attacks, and you will later find plenty of ammunition.

There are a few different armor pieces with fairly weak effect, as well as "cores". They will grant you a boost but will make you vulnerable to a specific enemy color, so you may want to skip using them to play it safe for you, unless you want to keep changing them.

Difficulty

It is a solid system as you can attack very quickly and keep moving throug the dungeon, however, starting out is both reliant on luck and very very tough.

First of all - there is no option to save, only permanent death.
Secondly, there is no health bar.
There is no health bar. No indication of how much HP you even start out with, nor how much you have left. Nor is there any character sheet summarizing our stats. Nothing.
Your only option of healing yourself are small, medium and large medikits - how much they heal exactly you can only guess.

This will reward playing it again and again. You get a better grasp on how much you can or cannot take, but an indication of falling below a certain % of HP would be lifesaving, especially starting out. Items are scarce in the early stages.

You start out with guns, but without ammunition (unless you chose this as your starting bonus), so it will leave you more vulnerable as you would be otherwise.
To make matters worse, there are also evolving monsters. If you do not kill them in time, they will grow into stronger monster who may almost kill your character and cannot be taken on regularily at the beginning.

Eggs have proven especially problematic in the right cave/vulcanic cave. They may or may not evolve immedatiely into monsters and will pose a huge threat early on.

There is the option of dodging enemies - but almost all enemies are slightly faster than you by default. So even if you step back, they will get an extra turn every now and then and make a proper escape impossible, unless you avoid them on a larger scale. You use the corridors to fight one on one when you are surrounded, however.

The "green" planet is one I would advise not to start out with, as randomly a "???" enemy will appear and start chasing you. Following (or seemingly so) you to the start of the next floor even. You cannot kill him early on, he will slaughter you. And outrunning him is impossible, too. Even the speed bonus did not make this possible, so it should be left for later.

There is also a kind of bloody hospital, err, station to explore with zombified, gunwielding people and monsters.

As you progress you will get a better grasp of things and start slaughtering enemies - the range of enemies stays almost the same, just a few new are added into the mix every now and then. This can catch you off guard as a harmless looking one may crush you in a few turns if you are not careful. Amongs the masses of easy enemies, it is sometimes hard to stay on your toes - but you absolutely have to.
If it comes to worst, you can use items to teleport you to a floor above or back to the central station. However, I found little use for this, as you will have to progress to get somewhere eventually. Not to mention that the general number of enemies is fairly low - you will seldomly if ever be surrounded. It is sometimes difficult to keep track of the exact numers of the hp your are taking, specifically if there are multiple enemies at play, so I appreciated that not happening much.


Except these guys. But they barely scratch you.

Following the floors is a boss monster, and they pack a punch. You will have your medikits stacked up to go against them, though. And the flavour text will tell you when you are close to reaching the end.
I feel the lack of health bar is by far the mechanic that keeps bugging you the most, and which will be vital to master.

The graphics are simple, but quite pretty with a variety of different critters, very diverse, distincly different dungeons and difficulties in each of them. I loved the different vibes each area had to them.
My personal favorite would be the grass-cave area, simple but stylish.

There are plenty of diverse monsters, starting with our well-known slimes, robots, zombies, but also interesting furry critters, elements and less identifyable foes.

Music there unfortunately is none .. nor is there sound. I found it very jarring to have little feedback of what is going on, but playing your own music will at least help this feeling.


At the end of the day - this is very challenging and frustratingly difficult game to start out with. But it has a good simple system at its core and a lot of story flavour, too. The longer you play, the more your efforts pay off.
Just give me some health indication, please?

Posts

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Thanks for the review. There's still bits and pieces of this engine kicking around in more modern games so it's definitely relevant.

I have no idea what's up with that no health thing. Something in the window settings must be off. If you check the screenshots on the page, there's supposed to be a pretty detailed readout name, health, armor, xp, etc. Not sure what's up with chat either. But thanks, I'll add these on my fix list and maybe this game will get a facelift in the next couple weeks.
.. indeed. Very odd. It can be a challenge on its own, but a fairly frustrating one.

Looking forward to the updates!
I'm so close to include the Electric Six video, haha
A nice and honest review, overall it seems like you had a good time playing it through on multiple runs.
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