Innovation – 6
It’s a case of points for effort rather than execution, but the concept of changing upcoming depths through selecting which minerals to deposit is an intriguing one. The fact that the depths in each gate rotate in real time works better, meaning if you don’t like what the lift monitor shows you, you can simply wait 5 minutes before proceeding. Sadly, whilst this may suggest more player choice, it actually just leads to more sitting around doing nothing. Also, whilst I acknowledge there are only so many PvP scenarios that can be reused, the decision to take wholesale from Bomberman doesn’t exactly scream “progress.” Ultimately, if you’ve played The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, there’s not going to be much new for you here.
Polish – 8
The game has a strong forum community as well as the ability to report any problems encountered in-game to the GM team. Maintenances tend to be short and players are given 15 minute notices at least an hour and a half in advance, so there’s little inconvenience there. One of the biggest pluses is the official wiki provided by Three Ring Designs which offers guides and advice for both new and experienced players. I did get stuck on top of a gate at one stage when a teammate ninja-hit a trigger, and couldn’t get myself free again. This did result from a perfect storm of timing however, and I struggled to recreate it so it’s not a huge worry.
Longevity – 5
Unfortunately the structure of the game makes it feel very grindy, very fast. The fact that once you’re out of the tutorial area you’re right at the endgame only makes things worse. Energy restrictions are just too harsh and turn what could have been a fun distraction into a thankless, stop/start grind. After hitting Tier 2 I got stuck in a rut, running for crowns to buy energy to run for crowns to buy energy ad infinitum. No matter how addictive it starts off being, the fun dissipates fast. Whilst I’d class myself as a chronic completionist, I felt no incentive whatsoever to try and collect all the weapons or costumes on offer as it just meant I’d have fewer resources with which to actually play. Whilst it probably comes down to personal taste, I struggle to imagine how anyone could find this a satisfying use of their game-time.
Social – 8
Aside from a thriving community, all the features in the game support social interaction. You can easily join players on your friends list at whatever depth they are on, providing you meet the gear requirements, with the click of a button. The inclusion of Guild v Guild PvP is a great touch, as is each guild getting their own guildhall, although there doesn’t really seem to be much to do there. You can elect to explore the clockworks in a random party or you can invite friends and lock out everyone else. It’s flexible and pretty much everything you’d want in terms of social options. My one gripe remains the lack of a vote kick function as problem players can easily hold your group hostage by refusing to move forward.
Value – 5
Various methods are offered for navigating potential energy droughts. Buying energy directly is pretty expensive, but the 30-day elevator pass is quite cheap and means no energy needs to be spent on traversing the clockworks. The problem I have with that however is that the game isn’t really free to play. It’s free to play for 40 minutes then sit around doing bugger all for 22 hours. An elevator pass is only $5 less than a World of Warcraft sub, and for that price I’d expect a damn sight more. Whilst the exchange rate of energy for crowns fluctuates based on player supply and demand, waiting for the price to fall is essentially as exciting as watching share prices go up and down only less productive. A huge black mark on the game for me was the way trinket slots are handled. To unlock your trinket slot you have to buy it for a stonking 150 energy…and it then expires after 30 days, meaning you need to buy a new one. It’s just a very blatant and cynically structured system to try and get you to pay money, which is pretty reprehensible for a game marketing itself as free to play.
Ultimately, I’d encourage you to give Spiral Knights a go as you’ll know before you’ve expended your first 100 points of mist energy whether you want to keep playing. The question of whether you’ll have the strength I lacked to grind your way out of the constrictions of the energy system is another question entirely. If you treat the game as a dip in/dip out sort of affair, then I think it’s possible to really enjoy it. But it’s certainly angled towards being played whilst waiting for your battleground or dungeon group to form, and not whilst waiting for the release of Guild Wars 2. If the energy system gets a revamp in the future, I’d be more than happy to look at the game again. But as it stands currently, sticking with the world of Spiral Knights requires saint-like patience and dedication…or perhaps just a willingness to use a credit card.