Knight Age is an Asian style Free-to-Play MMO presented by JoyMax to the North American market. Its main feature is mounted combat which is the raison d’être for its name, Knight Age. Players familiar with MMOs from the Far East will be familiar with all the little details that almost all of them have, such as the gift boxes that appear in your inventory for certain achievements. This actually is a nice little feature, courtesy of the gift giving culture of the region.
The setting is reminiscent of an earlier age such as traveling by donkey cart, and it is fantasy with two ranged and two melee classes which are gender fixed. They are the Knight (male) which is the tank of the group, the Mage and Archer are both female and the Warrior is DPS – even if he looks like he should be a tank with those heroic shoulders.
Customization is limited with a few preset faces, hair styles and skin color. It looks like you are able to select your starting clothing, mount and pupa (pet) but it’s only a taste of what’s available in game – much to my disappointment as my first pet turned out to be a bunny rabbit, and my mount, to be a donkey.
The game is mostly PvE-centric, although players can duel each other in outdoor regions (no fighting in town) and there is guild vs guild PvP.
Aesthetics - 6.5
The game is billed as pleasant, lovely and cute and I have to admit it is cute. So awfully cute it comes over as kiddy and juvenile. That said, colors and backgrounds are varied and work surprisingly well together. A nasty evil swamp is dark and colors are muted where as villages and cities and bright with light and color. Characters are Manga style – curvy with big head, big eyes, and short arms and legs. The donkey mount is quite disgustingly cute and fat with the shortest legs you ever did see.
Animations, spell effects and other graphical effects add an extra touch. Your character vaults off the mount and lands in a little cloud of dust. Your mount does not simply disappear. Combat. Your character faces the NPC you target even if moving away or sideways and its body twists from naturally from the waist up. As suited to the abbreviated physical shape, even the running and jumping motions (accompanied by a short “Hiyah!”) are cute.
Shortfalls are the gender locking and few customizations available for your character. Sound and music is likewise sparse and there are no voice-over. You hear the galloping of your donkey’s hooves, a bit of ambient sound and music here and there and your character and NPC grunts and cries of pain and battle. Quest cutscenes are far and few between and often do not have sound either. It is disconcerting not to have sound and voice in what essentially is a little movie.
Gameplay - 8
The game paces well and new players should go through the tutorial even if you are a seasoned MMO player as it takes you through the Pupa (pet) system and you familiarize yourself with the NPC you need to see and the steps you need to go through to acquire new Pupa.
If you do the early quests and allow the in-game quests to carry you through the lower levels, you will find yourself in the right area at the right time, and the right level to do your first dungeon. Dungeons are instanced and all have a solo (normal) instance as well as a hard and extreme mode requiring higher levels and groups.
This isn’t a game that takes you to level 10 in the first 20 minutes. At level 1, you acquire your first pet. Like many other newbies, I picked up all the Pupa eggs I could find and walked slowly (you’re encumbered with it in your arms) back to town to have the eggs hatched and the Pupa attuned to me. All I did was find different colored Pupa. As pupa do not evolve but level with you, I kept them for merging which is where you get random effects. Higher level Pupa are quested or dropped from boss mobs.
At level 5, you acquire your first mount: the aforementioned fat little donkey which increases your movement speed. You grow the sweet little animal by feeding it with wild plants you find on your journeys and at each level, gain a point to place in a stat of your choice. This stat is applied to you, the rider. There is also an auto travel system and when going between regions for the first, the game actually mounts you to take you there, reviewing the objectives of the quest or imparting information along the way.
The class system uses a skill tree and the most interesting about it is that you can multi-class. You can put job points in any of the four classes and skills points in any of the skills. At each level, a pure class will always be stronger in his core skills, but for soloing and at higher levels, it must be tempting to put a few points into a ranged skill for pulling if you have a melee character or even healing.
Quests are the mundane “get me so many of this such and such” even if couched in “story speak”, but the game provides a way to double up xp by having Job Boards in town, and in convenient places before you enter an area full of quest mobs. Every now and again, you find one which requires you to loot an NPC disguise and use it, and another where you have to do a favor for the target NPC before it will give you the item you want.
Combat is best mounted (you’re faster) and even Knights will strafe around their targets, using their melee skills while their Pupa follow behind and beats on the Mob. This keeps the Pupa alive. Reviving the Pupa involves drawing an arcane circle with magic chalk.
This segues nicely into dying. There is wear and tear on your gear and dying creates the most wear. Luckily at every village, town and camp, someone is able to repair your gear. You just pay a bit of cash. The death penalty is reviving at the mouth of the dungeon, or at a revival spot in an outdoor setting, with roughly half your health and mana and some wear on your gear.
Gear comes easily as you level and gear can be augmented and slotted with runes. Potions are easy to come by too, in the lower levels, mainly from leveling gifts and also play time gifts – you get a gift box every hour. At level five, I deleted all the starter potions for inventory space and at level 10, I was deleting other low level potions.
Information about items in game is well indicated. Loot that is too high level for your character has a red border on the icon. Loot that is not your character class is shaded red. There are details on items that can be accessed so you know whether it is just vendor trash or possibly something for crafting that you can sell in the market.
Each character may learn only one crafting skill, and you are also introduced to that NPC in the course of your early character questing life. There are three schools; Alteration – that of creating buffs and stat enhancers, Restoration – where you can create HP and Mana potions for yourself and your pet, and finally Poison – which speaks unto itself. Ingredients include items that are harvested as you travel the lands, as well as items that a dropped from monsters, and the mandatory vendor bought item, the flask.
Grouping is interesting as an interface allows the group leader to position the party members in formation for large scale combat. No more dumb idiot who runs off and aggros the entire lot? Unfortunately not. Each formation provides a different type of buff for the party and a small circle appears to let party members know they should be close to the leader for the formation to activate. Party members can click a button to automatically move in position. It can be a convenience in PUGS with clueless noobs (there’s an incentive to keep together) and also when moving through the dungeon. A number of gestures also allows the group leader to send cues to the entire party as to direction in which to move without having to type in text while trying to move at the same time.
Weapons and gear can be augmented and/or socketed in two different systems. The Augmentation system and the Panta system which is intrinsically linked to the Pupas – as they create the Pantas or gems for socketing. The methodology is simple. The combinations are complex.
JoyMax tries to keep security strong and prevent botting in game. The game will not memorize your log-in name, much less password, and every hour, you have to key in a five number code on a virtual keypad on the bottom right. If you miss it like I did a few times, a message flashes across your screen. Miss it 3 times and you are kicked off.
Polish - 8.5
I have to give kudos to Joymax for this category, Knight Age is finely polished. The auction house or market as it is known in game, has the ability to search (although the * wildcard does not work) and sort. Every UI has mouse-over popup tips that inform the player what the icon / space is used for so the player never has to go out of game to search for a guide to do something. They are also tabbed so there isn’t a window for your pet, one for your mount and one for your character. Pressing the particular hotkey for your mount will bring up that particular tab, but if you can’t remember every hotkey, you can press the one you do remember and then bring up the tab you want. Inventory is also tabbed and sorted for equipment, quest items, general and everything
Localization did a great job with translation and I did not find hideous grammatical and spelling errors that can be rife in some localized games. Given the many errors that I’ve seen even in home grown MMOs, it was a joy not to be subject to them in KnightAge.
The one thing I had trouble with was filtering chat. Given the how the rest of it worked, I had expected to have tabs on the chat, for local, region, global, group and order.
Innovation - 6
The thing about innovation is that in a review, we can miss what's happening under the hood. The nuts and bolts of it for say... matchmaking or auction house functionality. That being said, I don't see anything really innovative in Knight Age. The automated pathing is convenient but is not new. Feeding the mount for it to grow (level) is different and actually makes sense, as does the combat experience in other games. The Pupa (pet) merge system is also different and gives you a use of all those eggs you may collect. It's not a fail, certainly in innovation, but still somewhat "same old, same old."
Social - 8
It’s early days yet, but I found players friendly and willing to answer noob questions in Knight Age. There is also a “social network” UI which allows you to customize your public profile that others can see. Sending and receiving “hearts” to and from other players strengthens the network of friends and order members that are part of your community. Perks include the ability to warp to a friend and the ability to revive a member of your community. The higher your social network level, the shorter the cool downs become.
Guilds are known as Order of Knights and tools include Order storage, five ranks with different perks and guild vs guild PvP up to a 50 vs 50 arena battle. There’s even an LFG tool.
Longevity - 8
Knight Age is in its infancy still and gold sellers are already rife in game. Does this portend a long life? Do gold farmers and sellers flock to games they think will be successful? Given the polish and the social systems in game, I predict that Knight Age will be around a while.
Value - 8
Knight Age is free to play. The store sells the usual convenience items; Cosmetic items, XP enhancers, extra inventory space, skill respecs and the like. Some common weapons that can also be found as drops are also sold – like Rookie weapons. The cash currency is known as Silk and $5 buys 50 Silk, with bonus silk provided at the higher dollar amounts. Of note is that some items are permanent and some are rental. For example, a Luxury Knapsack of 72 slots costs 59 silk but mounts and weapons are 30 day rentals. This is due to the stat enhancers of the mounts for example, the different colored War Horses have different elemental resistance buffs as well as +3 to every stat. They rent at 39 silk for 30 days. Weapons also have a 30 day rental – which make perfect sense, as you’d be ready to upgrade way before then!
Did Knight Age succeed in creating a different type of combat with steeds? Well, no. If my donkey kicked or bit once in a while, it would have made a difference. All my steed really is, is a movement buff and another way to improve my stats.
Despite the mostly standard combat and unimaginative questing, Knight Age scores tops in their game systems. However, how different can combat and questing get? Despite the number of action-oriented MMOs that have come out, more players still seem to prefer the “auto-attack / tab to acquire target” style of combat. This is a pretty mixed review. There are some great things to the game but there are things that detract as well. Still, there is something to be said about a game with a well crafted UI.