Friday, July 23, 2021

Fallen Knight (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

We turn our attention to a game that originally released on iOS devices. Now, Fallen Knight from FairPlay Studios marches triumphantly on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. At the game's mobile launch, it had but one difficulty and a lack of modes. The console and Steam release of Fallen Knight sees the complete game available day one. So, how is it? Let's find out with the SuperPhillip Central review.

A Not-So-Good Knight

FairPlay Studios' Fallen Knight reminded me heavily of Zero's gameplay as found in the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero games. That's why I so wanted to love Fallen Knight, but unfortunately, several kinks in Fallen Knight's armor: lackluster level design, mediocre controls, and one frustrating game mechanic make for a Mega Man-style romp that does not really deserve full knighthood.

Fallen Knight sees you playing as Lancelot, tasked with taking down a terrorist group who has attacked the city, wishing to let the world know some kind of secret that Lancelot and the rest of the futuristic Knights of the Round must protect with their lives. After all, 'tis their duty! What follows is six levels of hack-and-slash 2D side-scrolling action.

Otherwise a standard and typical Mega Man clone, Fallen Knight throws in an intriguing gameplay mechanic in order to separate itself from the pack. Players can choose to simply slash their way through enemies, or they can opt to disarm foes by parrying them just before they attack Lancelot. However, the window to perform a parry is so insanely narrow--maybe just a few frames--that this mechanic did nothing but frustrate me. It's worth parrying enemies and defeating them that way, as you earn Honor Points that can be spent in the in-game shop, but again, parrying has a high learning curve to get down part. There are some parts that you can equip to Lancelot to increase the window of opportunity available to parry, but it's still quite arduous to nail. 

Slice, slash, and otherwise sever your enemies with Lancelot's sword.

This is most prevalent during the boss battles, which you can opt to either fight them in a traditional way (i.e. chipping down their health until they're eliminated), or attempting to disarm them. Starting off, it's best to just defeat bosses, as trying to disarm them is a whole other dilemma. Bosses can only be disarmed by parrying each and every one of their strikes during one of their special attacks. Said special attacks are otherwise unblockable, albeit avoidable with careful dodging. Some attacks require up to four perfect parries to determine a successful series. It's not just good enough to parry a special attack once, though, as you have to do it three times to successfully disarm a boss, earning an Honor Point bonus for doing so. Since bosses only perform special attacks that can be parried sparingly, this means if you wish to disarm a boss and mistime a parry, you have a bit of a wait for another opportunity for the boss to use its special attack. It's a pain in the proverbial butt.

If you're just battling bosses to beat them, Fallen Knight's bosses can be fun.
If you're trying to disarm them, they can be a genuine pain in the neck.

Though it is pretty paramount to acquire Honor Points through disarming enemies and bosses because that's the currency of Fallen Knight. Between stages you can purchase a bevy of upgrades and parts to Lancelot with said Honor Points. Some of these parts are only available for purchase after completing certain objectives, such as disarming specific bosses. Important purchases include health and Power Core upgrades--the latter of which are used to equip more parts to Lancelot at once. Meanwhile, different parts give Lancelot the ability to double jump, dash in midair, recover health faster, shoot a beam from his sword, provide a longer window for parrying, and much more. Different parts cost require different Power Cores with the more powerful parts taking up the most Power Cores. It's a balanced system overall, but the necessity to grind for Honor Points--which again, aren't the easiest to obtain thanks to how strict the timing of parries is--makes for genuine headache.

Parts in the Armory are at the ready for Lancelot to equip them once purchased.
Just make sure you have enough Power Cores available to wear them!

Furthermore, the actual levels of Fallen Knight aren't too interesting to play. The first level doesn't just serve as an introduction to the game's mechanics, but also serves as an introduction to the game's love for blind jumps and limited enemy variety. There is basically just a handful of enemy types to speak of, which does make learning parry patterns simple enough, but doesn't really make for much enjoyable variety. There are also HP Up items "hidden" in each level--one per level--and I put the word "hidden" in quotes because they're practically impossible not to discover. The levels are incredibly linear and devoid of opportunities for exploration.

More so than the clumsy and clunky parry system and the poor level design is the lackluster control of Lancelot himself. Swordplay works well enough, and it does feel good to slice and dice your way through enemies, but movement is hardly sublime. Running or jumping up walls seems cool at first, but too many times I'd find myself grabbing onto walls when I didn't want to. Often I'd find myself getting hit because of these cases. Furthermore, the hit detection in Fallen Knight seems a bit off, as well. On many occasions I'd take damage despite not exactly being near an enemy's strike or attack. 

Fallen Knight's story won't take players too terribly long, but that's assuming they get their feet wet with the Casual difficulty. If that's the case, the story won't take more than hour to reach the end. However, there is also the standard difficulty, various ranks to achieve from playing well, disarming bosses, a mode where you can play as another knight: Galahad, and a boss rush mode, too. There is no shortage of content to be found in Fallen Knight, but whether it's worth playing through is another story. 

Regarding the presentation of Fallen Knight, it's a mixed bag. The visuals harken back to some less than favorable Mighty No. 9 comparisons, but at the same time, this is a budgeted indie effort. I can't be harsh there. However, I can be harsher when it comes to the framerate, which can occasionally turn into slideshow levels. For a game that requires precision parrying, dodging, attacking, and platforming, that's a big issue. Framerate issues aren't heavily prevalent throughout Fallen Knight, but when they do rear their head into the action, things get ugly quite quickly. 

Eventually, you will learn the strict timing of parries, and almost be able to do them consistently.

Additionally, the text in Fallen Knight has various grammar issues (for instance, confusion between "its" and the contraction "it's") and words left out from sentences completely, which makes for a less than polished presentation. Nonetheless, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one strong point with Fallen Knight's presentation, and that's the soundtrack. It is full of bangers and catchy tunes. The sound team did a great job here.

At the end of the day, and after Lancelot's sword had been put back into its sheathe, I came away from Fallen Knight disappointed. Well, actually I was frustrated and disappointed. The timing of parrying needs just a little bit more adjusting to be reasonable. As is, it's just too darn narrow. I don't want to effortlessly parry and defeat foes, but I also want some consistency here. Lackluster level design, clumsy controls, and occasionally troublesome framerate problems, round out my issues with Fallen Knight. This Mega Man-like has plenty of potential, for sure, but it hasn't yet been met. Thus (and unfortunately), I must decree that I hereby dub thee, Fallen Knight, a disappointing game. 

[SPC Says: C-]

A code was received by SPC from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

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