Knight Crawlers Review – A truly wibbly-wobbly experience

Knight Crawlers is a rogue-lite ARPG that'll appeal to some but leave others wanting.
Knight Crawlers Review
Image: Good Morning Games

Knight Crawlers is a roguelike dungeon-crawler developed by a husband and wife team at Good Morning Games. Their debut title is certainly full of charm, and I can tell the team probably had a great time making the game. However, in places the game seems to suffer from an identity crisis and packages what seems to be developer limitations as “features” to make a game that seems a bit confused, if not rich in character.

To dive head first into the confusing bundle that is Knight Crawlers, it’s important to note one of the biggest features of the game. Knight Crawlers claims to prominently feature a “physics-based combat system” as the core component of its gameplay. For those who don’t know what that means, a physics-based combat system is one where the actual physics of movement are simulated and used in battle.

Momentum is your most powerful tool in games like this, and its a sort of pseudo-realism that skirts the line between pressing a button to kill an enemy and playing a VR game where you have to actually swing a sword. In good examples of this kind of game, your sword has to be swung with enough force to penetrate armor, you can slip out of the way of enemy attacks and shoulder bash them to the floor, often with nothing more than your movement controls. Physics-based combat in games is basically an entire subgenre with its own fans.

So does Knight Crawlers have a physics-based combat engine like it claims? The answer is.. I’m not really sure. It doesn’t really feel like it.

Have you ever played Gang Beasts? Knight Crawlers uses the same wobbly physics in the player character and all enemies that games like Gang Beasts do, to simulate what I imagine trudging through a sea of Jello might be like. Your character wobbles, slams into things, and will hilariously ragdoll on death, and so will all of your enemies.

The problem is that the actual combat mechanics are nothing like Gang Beasts or similar games, which manipulate the strange physics for the sake of comedy. Instead, Knight Crawlers is really just an idle clicker with ragdoll physics. Killing an enemy will send them tumbling back, but I didn’t really feel like there was any physic-based combat in the game, especially when my only form of attack was a static slash, centered on my character’s body, that hit everything in a 360-degree circle around me.

Knight Crawlers Combat
Image: Good Morning Games

There’s no swinging of your weapons, shoulder bashing, charging, or other actual physics-based mechanics in Knight Crawlers to warrant the claim. You can’t even really charge enemies down, which was a little disappointing. However, they will fly back when they die, bounce off walls, and roll hilariously across the floor. Certain attacks also have big kick-back power, but they feel few and far between in my opinion.

The game has a daunting clash in its presentation that I found really distracting. The levels are beautifully designed, and the card system (which is the game’s rogue-lite perks) features beautiful illustrations by artist Ng Jian Zhi, Then, this beautiful world is filled with low poly characters that limply drag their weapons behind them, executing beautiful combat effects with no animation at all. Animation, by the way, such as swinging a mace or jabbing a sword, would have taken better advantage of the physics engine than the circle slash “back off” button the game has now.

Knight Crawlers Difficulty
Image: Good Morning Games

As a rogue-lite, the game is fundamentally solid, if not lacking in anything you haven’t seen before. Each level features hordes of enemies that you have to clear out in order to continue to the next level. Clearing a room awards you a set of randomized perks to help you form a build, and special items and weapons can be found to fight the hordes better.

The game boasts that you can summon enemies as you want, which is true, but is a feature that also feels kind of confusing to me. I think the idea is that you can summon as many or as few enemies in a room as you want, taking on just a handful or a huge horde for more exciting combat. However, you still need to defeat a certain amount to unlock the next room, and the portals sort of have a cooldown between spawning, so you can’t really spam spawn a whole lot in easily. This system kind of just felt like a way to funnel enemies in slowly if you so chose to do so.

The perks in the game mostly contain invisible stat increases like “gain 125 health” or “gain 25% crit chance.” This is an egregious crime to certain games, who really hate stat-based combat, but I just found it a little unexciting. The game also has a Vampire Survivors-like passive projectile system ala the collectible weapons and perks in the game. These attacks get more complicated later in the game, becoming more like powerful spells you can cast. This system is pretty solid, and it explains why your melee attack is kind of basic, but I feel like they still could have done more.

Knight Crawlers Cards
Image: Good Morning Games

I don’t want to be mean to Knight Crawlers. As an experience, it is certainly not without merit. However, the design of the game feels confusing, like the team wanted to do a few too many things without really committing to any of them. The game has a wealth of potential, and that’s sort of my biggest gripe with it; That I feel that potential went unused.

It wouldn’t be constructive criticism if I didn’t offer the team my suggestions for how I’d improve the title.

For starters, I would add directional melee attack animations; Make the physics in your game matter by having the player position themselves for the optimal swing. Giving yourself room to unleash a full-on swing could be the difference between giving enemies a little love tap and sending them flying with a real homer. Movement also becomes more important when you’ve got enemy attacks to physically dodge.

Knight Crawlers Sanctuary
Image: Good Morning Games

I think the game’s art should be focussed a little more, too. In all of the promotional material for the game, you see a dark, edgy, but cute style that looks like someone chibified dark souls. This look is betrayed pretty hard by the in-game models, which look like asset flips that don’t belong in the world at all. I think the game could have really done with more focus on keeping its art style consistent.

The Final Word

Knight Crawlers is a game I wish I could love. While some players will certainly find a solid, if short, experience in the title, I found myself too distracted by the game’s seemingly untapped potential to really immerse myself in it. I’m not saying skip it, but I personally will be keeping my eyes out for some big updates before I play again.

5

Knight Crawlers was reviewed on the PC. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Knight Crawlers is available on Steam.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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