Roguelites have boomed in popularity in the last decade, with a select few even being regarded as the best games ever made! It's clear the genre continues to thrive with gamers, however, to get one of these games right is quite a tricky chore. For every Dead Cells, Hades, or Vampire Survivors, there are those few which don’t live up to the high standards. Making video games is a fine art, and making a compelling Roguelite is no different. I’m always intrigued when another comes out, and keen to see what the new title brings to the genre. Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur is a charming, whimsical, and challenging Roguelike that aims to fill some pretty big metal boots.What is Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur?
Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur is the newest Roguelite on the scene, brimming with a colourful art style, meaningful progression, and trial-and-error gameplay which will test the might of any brave knight. King Arthur and his trusted knights find themselves unleashing all manner of evil as they search for the Holy Grail. Things go wrong as they unknowingly open a gateway to another dimension, and from the unknown comes the Void Giant, a massive beast that wreaks utter havoc, killing the noble knights and Arthur. As a last resort, Merlin decides to perform a power spell to transport the Void Giant back to the Astral Dimension from whence it came. However, the casting of the spell doesn’t go off completely without a hitch, and the entire kingdom is taken through to the other side, and into the Astral Dimension.
Merlin thankfully can resurrect the heroic King who is of course dazed and confused about the current situation. After confronting a few beasts and an angry giant, King Arthur is once again resurrected and grasps the reality of the situation with the help of Merlin. It is up to players to venture out into the strange lands and defeat three colossal beasts, who are intertwined with the soul of the Void Giant. Along the way, you’ll be putting the kingdom back together, finding the lost citizens of Camelot who have been scattered across the dimension, and of course acquiring new and powerful weapons and spells to make each venture through the unknown that tiny, bit easier.
This Roguelite has all the right elements, from a shifting world that changes with each venture, random encounters, powerful spells and weapons that unlock with progression, and a hearty sense of challenge to keep you invested, but rewards highly with bravery and cunning. There’s no place like home … but in another dimension
From the get-go, we have everything in place for a great Roguelite, and many aspects of Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur does work incredibly well. Namely the presentation. The visual presentation and music are done exceptionally well, with plenty of bright, vibrant colours, cool and quirky world/monster designs and just a sense of charm and wonder that pleased my senses as I played.
It’s in the same vein as something like Cat-Quest, being thoroughly cute, and light-hearted, but does have some bits that do indeed bite. While we’ve seen King Arthur and Merlin before in multiple games, TV shows and movies, I always enjoy seeing what can be done with the legend and how well it works with the various story components. Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur does a great job at working in Merlin, using a broken Excalibur as a main weapon that can be enchanted with various powers, and the various cast of characters fleshes out the supporting roles in several varied and meaningful ways.
There is a good sense of humour that, while doesn’t work 100% of the time, did manage to get a chuckle from me from time to time.
I will say there were some things which do hold back Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur and the biggest thing is the generic nature of much of the world-building. I can’t fault the art style, and the designs for many of the monsters and characters are nice, but there is a lack of identity here. Everything feels a bit too “Cookie Cutter”, like I’ve seen it countless times before in other games, or those adverts for the mobile game where the little knight dude is being thrown about by giant demon women… okay, maybe not entirely like that but even those adverts have a sense of identity.
Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur just feels very samey, lacking unique designs and moments that make it stand apart from the rest. Some of the bosses are cool, such as a giant demon sloth boss fight. But most of everything else doesn’t have that same sense of creativity, feeling overwhelmingly generic overall.
And small pet peeve, but I don’t understand why there would be some voice work for certain characters, then none for others. I noticed this odd phenomenon and it really distracted me, where Arthur and Merlin would be voiced for 50% of their lines, then everyone else would be silent, then a random character would have a line of spoken dialogue and never again. It’s like a moment in Parasite Eve 2, where there is no voice acting except for one line from a random NPC.
What shocked me most was the game has Sir Brian Blessed as Merlin but fails to utilise him properly. I love Brian Blessed, and even the guy who voiced Arthur was pretty good, but again, 50% of the time he’s silent and it’s just odd.
I wouldn’t mind so much if the game had no voice acting, yet there is quite a lot of dialogue that does go on, and on, and much of it is just exposition for a lot of things that don’t entirely matter. Hades does handle its story and character immensely execution. Every character has a personality, the world is so visceral and striking, despite it coming from Greek mythology, and is consistent with its presentation.
As I said, I do consider the art style to be brimming with charm, with exquisite-looking characters, a good sense of humour most of the time, and moments of voice acting are done well. But the inconsistency of voice work, the long expositions, and just the lack of imagination for the critters and world-building is a shame.When Camelot meets Hades!
The formula for a Roguelite is always the same. You venture through a landscape filled with mystery, danger, and loot, die and lose most of everything you collected, try again and repeat, get more powerful with each run, and make your way to the end where you most likely must do it all over again.
This, and the Demon’s Souls formula of game design are the most engaging in modern gaming. But with each new title in the genre, there must be something new, or a quirk to separate it from the rest.
Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur manages to bring together a solid gameplay loop, with enough of its charm and wit to keep you engaged. One of the more interesting aspects is the Broken Excalibur, which can be imbued with the power of one of Arthur’s fallen noble knights to allow him a range of powerful weapons and powers. There is quite a roster of weapons and powers you can unlock through the course of the campaign, all of which have their own merits and mix up the combat in meaningful ways. By using the weapons and powers, you’ll be able to level them up, making them stronger with each run.
Each weapon and power from your noble knights can be mixed and matched, so if you like the weapon of one knight in particular but not their power, then you can choose another knight’s power, and this counts towards levelling up said power. It’s fantastically refreshing to see no limitations on weapon combos, as so many Roguelites do have these in place. But Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur just lets you venture forth with the playstyle you desire, and when everything clicks, the combat is massively enjoyable.
Aside from the weapons and powers of your fallen noble knights, players can receive blessings from them too while in the world of the void. Taking a note from Hade's book, you can find a statue in certain arenas that offers 3 abilities, with one to choose from. There are over 100 active and passive abilities to improve your performance, ranging from speed increases to movement and attacks, to new powers and spells, and devastating counters and forms of protection that will get you out of a tight situation. Most of these I found super useful, and the amount of choice never made me feel constricted in my skill set.
Again, a lot of Roguelites, even the greatest of them, have this problem where offerings can be massively limited, and while I understand it’s a case of RNG, there can be more times when fortune does not favour you. But with this game, I never felt as though I was being kicked in the b***s as the selection of loot and goods was always helpful. I respected Knight vs Giant for the amount it had to offer and just how good most of it was. I had a ton of fun with the combat when I had a ridiculously good build, and the fast, frantic nature of combat encounters was already enthralling enough.
Bosses are also another highlight, providing a real challenge as you fight giants on one. These fights were gripping, strategic and very epic.
When it came to the world and exploration, there were some neat things I must highlight. Again, like Hades and other Roguelites, you can find various citizens of Camelot across the strange land, each providing a useful trait to the kingdom or something meaningful to you. Finding a Blacksmith means you can upgrade your weapons, finding a builder means to can rebuild more of Camelot, and so forth. Each character gives a certain advantage which is pretty cool.
What was also a great aspect was rebuilding Camelot, which actively ties in with certain attributes of your progression. Finding characters and combining them with a rebuilt Camelot opens more attributes, advantages, and upgrades, allowing you to run further and harder.
These and the combat were the best parts of Knight vs Giant, but again there were a couple of things which held it back.Being a Knight can be a bit of a grind
Firstly the exploration and worlds feel massively repetitive, and I can understand why this sounds weird considering this is a Roguelite. But most Roguelites always incorporate new elements with each run or add meaningful elements you can build upon. Whenever you took a run in Hades, there was always something new, and the world always felt vastly different and strange, keeping you on guard but also making you return more and more.
Knight vs Giant’s worlds are again very similar, with little new happening, limited encounter ideas and the same things happening over and over. For me, in World One, I would always meet this piper character that asked me to either fight 3 waves of enemies or survive 60 seconds for a chest of gold. There was nothing else like this from my experience, there were no interesting change-ups in combat encounters, and the patterns of the world never surprised me. Something like Dead Cells always vastly changed, had multiple paths to take, and again Hades included story elements which would stack on each other in each run, plus modifiers that changed the pace of play.
And lastly my biggest problem with Knight vs Giant is the grind, which makes progression tediously dull, especially towards the end game. While this is not a devastating game upon death and failure, it does not give much in terms of required resources after a run. The requirements for building Camelot, which is important for progression and unlocking new gear, became staggeringly high. Meaning you'll have to run again and again, and even die intentionally to repeat a run for a key resource.
For example, I had to find a mason to create new statues of Arthur's knights, thus unlocking new weapons and powers. After finding said mason I needed to find a resource for each statue, which was incredibly hard to come by. Making obtaining new weapons a tedious chore, and thus a lot of fun was sucked out for most of my time with the game. The same goes for these diamonds needed to rebuild certain parts of Camelot, and they only come after a boss fight.
Yet again Hades did give limited resources on each run, but you could trade, and even modifier to acquire the resource you wanted more easily. Knight vs Giant just wants you to run again and again, struggling against a slow grind at most times just for something so simple.Overall?
Knight vs Giant I feel falls into that in-between place of the Roguelite realm, where it has some great ideas and wonderful quality-of-life aspects yet falls on the sharpest foleys of the genre. I loved the presentation, with its wonderful art style, good music, and excellent voice acting. I loved the combat when everything clicked together, the amount of choice and how unlimited the game’s offerings were. But there are two big G’s which let down Knight vs Giant, and they are Genericness and Grind.
The lack of unique designs, world-building and just humdrum creativity means there is a lack of identity for Knight vs Giant. With nothing new, exciting, or immensely cool to grip you. And the grind to progression just made the campaign tedious towards the endgame. But these issues aside, I still think Knight vs Giant is worth checking out, as a nice little Roguelite to play around with. But with mighty titans such as The Binding of Isaac, Hades, Dead Cells, and recently Dave the Diver, I feel Knight vs Giant might be left in the void.
++ Great combat and cool mechanic to rebuild Camelot
+ The presentation is great, as it looks and sounds super nice
+ Some great Roguelite elements and quality-of-life inclusions
-- Does get very grindy, slowing down progress
- The world lacks interesting encounters, surprises and important resources
- Could have included more interesting and unique world and monster designs
A review code for Knight vs Giant: The Broken Excalibur was kindly provided by the publisher for this review.