Gameplay is very similar to other sandbox/building style games such as Terraria and the above mentioned Minecraft, and will draw similiar tropes. The "voxel" look of the graphics is very familiar, as is the inventory and gathering mechanic used by the player. One of the key differences is the use of RPG elements, such as stat increases, skill lines and healing item mechanics.
The game was developed by Keen Studios, and distributed by 505 Games. It was released on May 18, 2017 for PC, May 23rd, 2017 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One, on November 22nd, 2017 for Nintendo Switch, and on December 6th for iOS.
Portal Knights provides examples of:
- Adam Smith Hates Your Guts:
- Invoked, as the higher tier materials require much more effort to make. Three Copper Ores make one Copper Bar, while it takes 10 Titanium Ores to make one Titanium Bar.
- Changed and arguably averted in the Switch edition, where it takes three Ores and an increasing number of Coal Blocks, and even then, four at most.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: Vanity armour, which has precisely zero in-game effect; oddly enough, actual armours can also be equipped in the vanity slots, which allows you to carry an extra set of armour without taking up inventory space.
- Big Bad: The Hollow King, who was responsible for the world being mostly destroyed in the Fracture, and whose monsters and Hollow Knights continue to plague the survivors of that event.
- Camera Lock-On: A gameplay mechanic. Doing so also changes the command to jump into a dodge while locked on. The combat is very similar to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
- Crapsaccharine World: Yes, the environments are bright and cheerful (at first), but the stark edges of the broken terrain and endless sky below the main islands constantly reminds the player that this is a shattered world. Later stages will often have remnants of the people who lived there, such as melted helmets and journals, that makes it clear that a whole lot of people died in the Fracture. The surviving humans are far and few in between, with the most populated towns having 7-10 people at most.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Dying only sets the player back a fraction (less than 10%) of their current total gold. All items, experience, monsters slain and portals opened are kept after death. With gold having so little use (as of the original game, updates may change this), this loss is of little real consequence.
- Death World: Some of the islands will seem like this, covered in ash/cinders with extremely dark and worn-looking environments. These islands also never get a daylight cycle, and with the inherent darkness of the game, some PCs can find themselves hopelessly lost in (if not killed by) a crevice they could not see.
- Elaborate Equals Effective: The higher tier equipment certainly gets fancier. A wood bow looks like, well, a crude bow made of wood, whereas the Sunna's Golden Bow is a bright, shiny artifact that looks capable of tremendous damage. Of special note are the higher level armors, that grow more and more elaborate.
- Elemental Powers: Fire, Ice and Lightning are all represented, as is Nature, Light and Dark. Both the PC and enemies are able to lend elements to their attacks.
- Essence Drop: Enemies will drop various orbs upon death, red to restore health, blue to restore magic, yellow to gain experience. Some player skills also cause drops to come from the player, in effect healing the player as they damage an enemy.
- Fetch Quest: Played straight with the NPCs who will typically ask for items contained on that island. The rewards are generally experience and money, but sometimes the rewards can be a little odd. For example, one quest given was to collect 24 Gold Ores, with the reward being experience and 5 Gold Bars. Since it takes 7 Ores to make one Bar, this was quite the deal, but begs the question of why the NPC needed the Ore in the first place.
- Gender Is No Object: Played straight, as gender has no effect on gameplay.
- Loads and Loads of Loading: Unfortunately, played straight. Going to another island brings up a loading screen. Coupled with a rather low inventory limit, this can be a frustration. Also annoying is that every player makes the jump. There are rumors that eventually players won't have to travel together, but for now if one party member is "full" expect lots of whining until the group is taken to wherever the players have set up their housing.
- Lovecraft Lite: Adventure Mode starts out in basically normal fantasy terrain, but you start encountering cultists and monsters of a god called C'Thiris, and later levels in this mode take place in outer space terrain and bizarre black structures. The Hollow forces are world-destroyers that span dimensions, and yet the Portal Knights can stand toe-to-tentacle with these beings and eventually beat them back.
- Omnicidal Maniac: The dark forces that empowered the Hollow King are this, as beating him will reveal that they have destroyed hundreds of other worlds and universes.
- Point Build System: 3 stat points are unlocked with every level, and are able to be spent however the player wishes (at least in the Switch version, two more are automatically spent), though there is a logic with the class system. A Ranger can certainly pump their Strength for a melee build, but as their focus is ranged attack it makes more sense to add points to Dexterity, but again there is no in-game enforcement of this besides lacking enough stats to do decent damage. At 5 level milestones (5, 10, 15, etc.) perks are also gained which are mostly passive buffs.
- Sequel Hook: After defeating the Hollow King, visiting the Portal Knight's Sanctuary reveals that the King was taking orders from an unnamed villain, and that the player needs to rebuild the Portal Knights in order to fight this force.
- The Remnant: The player character(s) are the eponymous Portal Knights, but every other Portal Knight before them were wiped out while trying to fight the Hollow King's legions during the Fracture. There are surviving Knights in the Portal Knight's Sanctuary, but they are technically ghosts and can't leave the Sanctuary, so the player character(s) are stated to be reviving the Order.
- Who Forgot the Lights??: Heavily invoked with the Moon biome islands. The player can craft torches and other light sources, but the range of these is so small, the field of vision barely extends 2-3 blocks. These biomes probably look really neat, but no one can actually see them. Hunting for ores in this biome becomes extremely time-consuming, made all the more glaring as the top-tier materials only appear in these areas.
- Other worlds are initially contained within a dome of earth, preventing sunlight from illuminating the area.
- Largely averted in the Switch version, unless there is an obvious source of shade, such as inside a tunnel.