Review: Rampage Knights

Rampage Knights has been out on Steam for a couple of weeks now, and I only got around to playing it today. I spent a modest time with it and haven’t explored its co-op mode, but have gone through enough of its single-player component to give a solid opinion on how it plays out. Here’s what I think.

Developed by Rake in the Grass, an indie studio from the Czech Republic, Rampage Knights has one very clear inspiration not only in how it plays but in how it looks: famous XBLA indie hit Castle Crashers. If you’ve played The Behemoth’s game, you’ll feel right at home with Rampage Knights (or if you’re more the oldschool sort, think Golden Axe).

I swear that's the last time you'll overcook the boar, Freddy!
I swear that’s the last time you’ll overcook the boar, Freddy!

You start off at a small encampment where you can customize your character: there are many bodies and heads, from lumberjack lookalikes to vikings and orcs, and hats (because who doesn’t like hats?) to choose from, starting with a sizable collection that you increase as you complete challenges and perform certain tasks. While these are strictly cosmetic, you can also choose from six classes – each one playing different from one another – that you’ll unlock as you progress in the game. Accompanying these are also a plethora of challenges and dozens of achievements.

You’ll then head out into the randomly generated enchanted forest to recover your treasure, stolen from a mysterious fiend. There are multiple weapons to find, each with their own reach, damage and special attributes (such as freezing or dealing additional critical damage), along with four other types of item: a permanent item that allows you to perform a certain action, such as casting a spell or dealing additional damage, for mana; throwing weapons; spell scrolls; and consumable potions. Certain potions and interactions can yield negative things, such as getting the head of an ass or running uncontrollably.

Featuring Abraham Lincoln, who may have lost his treasure to the fiend, but never his style.
Featuring Abraham Lincoln, who may have lost his treasure to the fiend, but never his style.

You can chain combos to swivel foes around you, tossing them up and down, stomping on their heads and bowling them into other enemies. Combat is fluid and dynamic, with many combos to perform and different approaches required depending on what you’re facing, but I couldn’t help feeling that the visuals were too flattened, making it difficult for me to ascertain precisely where my character was. Variety comes in the form of enemies, who can go from simple skeletons who slice you with their swords to charging undead and fire-spitting dragons, but more often than not it’s a matter of side-stepping when their attack prompt pops up and going back in for a few hits while they recover.

The game played well enough and has plenty of unlockables and extra content to keep you coming back to it, if only to get that cool extra hat or beat a tough challenge. It lacks the humor and story Castle Crashers had, shunning the linear experience in favor of a roguelike structure where you must begin from the start after dying a couple of times, and trading the leveling/skill system for more varied classes and single-run items. The boss fights are hard and the game itself has multiple difficulties you can unlock, and I can imagine from playing other co-op brawlers that the two-player multiplayer is even better. At the end of the day its a solid 2D brawler with plenty of progression elements and unlockables to keep you coming back to it.

Rampage Knights was played on retail code provided by the publisher.


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