Camelot, of Arthurian legend, has fallen. A great thirst for power, the collection of the mythical Holy Grail, and a cataclysm of giants unleashed. They defeat the knights of the Round Table, even Lancelot who’s the best one. In his quest to put things right, Merlin transports Camelot to an in-between realm – The Astral Dimension. The giants are still a problem… for now. King Arthur is returned from the dead, charged with defeating the Giants and rebuilding his kingdom with his broken Excalibur in hand. But Merlin is hazy on the details of what happened that fateful day, perhaps King Arthur’s loyal knights of the (g)round table (because they’re dead) can shed some light on the situation.
In this action Roguelike, King Arthur draws upon the essence of his fallen Knights, each with their own weapons and abilities which can be equipped and mixed and matched to tailor your own play style preferences. How chivalrous that despite their sacrifice to the service of the realm, they are still serving their King in death. As we venture deeper into the realms, we are periodically rewarded with randomised buffs, modifiers, and power-ups at the round table that will strengthen King Arthur and help him on the current run. This encourages the player to think about what upgrades they pick to suit their play style and current build. Experimenting is a lot of fun, and particularly satisfying when you get something going that works well. My early game strategy was heavily reliant on Ser Bor’s weapon, ranged throwing daggers, which only got even more dangerous and chaotic as I added power-ups to make them explosively ricocheting split shots which decimated everything.
For fans of the Roguelike genre, they will find Knight Vs Giant to be quite similar in essence and play style to games such as Hades. The deeper we progress, we come across more Knight mementos to unlock more statues and play style options, similar to Hades’ God alignments; and find characters who will help permanently improve our stats and restore Camelot. We may even run into Morgana, the legendary enchantress, who may bestow a random blessing upon us at the cost of obtaining a curse that will both help and hinder us in some way. You don’t know what you get until you agree, so you might find you don’t mind increased shop prices for the blessing of 25% more damage in a later, more aggressive area. The decreases in max HP can sour the agreement though particularly early game if you haven’t upgraded your stats much, so buyer beware!
As someone comfortable with Roguelike games, the format instantly felt familiar – hack-and-slashing at enemies, dodging their telegraphed attacks, and using abilities to deal extra damage or gain brief buffs. It’s a fun chaos, rewarded with anticipation of not knowing what lurks in the next room, could it be respite or ruin? I don’t feel like the learning curve was that steep for me, and I don’t think other people would find it that difficult to understand how to play either. As with all modern roguelikes, you’re expected to die relatively frequently in order to spend your gains on improving your stats or rebuilding the city. This is often reinforced nowadays with the unlocking of an achievement when you first die, a small reward to mitigate any sore feelings.
It has a relatively long play time, requiring the player to complete many successful runs to fully complete King Arthur’s quest, receive the storyline, and rebuild Camelot. This is staged out by a gameplay loop of completing two levels in three different locations, the Brochalant Forest, Serracha Desert, and the Volcanic Mountain. Each level is made up of areas or “rooms”, which you will have to consecutively complete by killing all the mobs in order to continue. The fourth stage is a fight with the Void Giant, where if you are successful, you can collect its blood into the Holy Grail and return home to Camelot and continue working towards leaving the Astral Dimension. The story is drip fed to the player incrementally as they unlock new statues and recover townspeople from the wilderness, keeping playing pushing, and progressing for the next upgrade or unlockable achievement. Each run is procedurally generated otherwise, so the game remains fresh and has lots of replayability value potential. As you keep pushing into the forest and finding new civilians, you can unlock buildings for them in town providing services, bounties, and stats of your runs.
In my first few hours with the game, I did encounter some stability issues. It’s a problem commonly encountered particularly in games with fast paced bullet-hell mechanics; when the bullet modifiers are doing too much, or there is too much player input from smashing the hell out of the attack button and dodging all over the place like a whirlwind in shining armour (with modifiers on your dodging ability too!), the game quit to the dashboard, forcing me to lose progress a number of times. This got a little annoying as I’d get a good run going, and then get reset back to the moment of loading into the level and often not find the upgrades and powers I’d found before. To have a good run, you must be adaptable, so I just worked with it and hoped it didn’t happen again too soon.
There has been an update prior to launch, which blesses us with the music files that add much more medieval atmosphere and character to the game, and I’ve had no force quit issues since so far. I was more than a few hours in before I noticed that there was no music to start with, so perhaps that is indicative of how instantly engaging Knight Vs Giant is. The music complements each area nicely, bardic and adventurous in the forest, while dark and moody in the volcanic area – not infrequently conjuring mental images of Bowser’s castle in Mario.
I had not heard of Gambir Studios before and likely neither have you. This tiny development team from Indonesia have only a handful of localised mobile games under their belt, with Knights Vs Giants their first console release available to the wider world. With impressive and stylistic visuals, sound design, and voice acting, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing their name in the gaming space more often. Knight Vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur offers an engaging fusion of Arthurian legend and Roguelike action with depth, charm, and potential for long-term play.
Gambir Game Studio’s Knight Vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur is out 5th Oct on all formats. Published by PQube.