Cube Knight Review: The Twin Stick Shooter Goes Medieval
It takes a lot to stand out in the mobile market. With game cloning prevalent, it’s nearly impossible to make a game that either doesn’t stand out, or doesn’t stand out long before someone rips off your idea. Occasionally a game does manage to stand out in a market where the Top 50 games are all icons of screaming faces, or have titles like Flappy Flop, Shooty Shoot, and Racy Race. Enter Bluehole’s Cube Knight: Battle of Camelot – a twin stick shooter with RPG mechanics set in the time of King Arthur’s court.
Cube Knight’s premise immediately sets it apart from the countless other games rocking voxel graphics. In Cube Knight, you take control of one of eight characters, each of which comes from Arthurian legend. Furthermore, each character plays differently. For instance, Gawain throws dual axes and can turn into a bladed tornado at will, while Lancelot features an energy sword and has the ability to rush enemies with his shield.
Each character features a basic attack, which generally consists of throwing or flinging some kind of weapon, be it a sword, axe or spider (you read that right). When the going gets tough, you can hold down the attack command and charge your skill up to three tiers, unleashing a generally devastating attack when ready. After killing so many enemies, you level up and get to pick one of two to three perks that will help you during that level only.
If the gameplay sounds simple, that’s because it is. I say this as a major plus. I’m generally not a fan of digital joysticks, but the simplicity of Cube Knight allows for ease of use, even with a touchscreen. That being said, there were inevitable moments where the digital joystick did cause me to run into a tree or rock, but I never felt it hindered the game as it does in so many mobile FPS games.
When not slaying monsters you can spend time in your kingdom, which levels up as you complete stages. As your kingdom grows in strength, you can build various shops and workshops that allow you to strengthen your characters. Some of the items in each shop can be purchased with in-game currency, while the strongest of items are bought using the premium currency, gems. This is where the game straddles the line between P2W and pay-to-win-faster.
To test out the payment model in Cube Knight, I went ahead and started the game using one of the two free starter characters, Lancelot. The early levels were easy enough, with some of them requiring a little bullet dodging but nothing insane. I then used some of the gems and purchased Gawain, a character only unlockable with gems. While I found him more entertaining to play, he didn’t feel overpowered by any means. His charge attack did feel more powerful than that of Lancelot, but it wasn’t a total game changer. I then hopped onto the item shop and decided to sink some serious gems into some equipment. After spending several dollars worth of gems I was decked out in gear with my stats doubled, even tripled in some cases. As you can imagine, the early levels didn’t stand a chance against my medieval tank of a character.
Things aren’t all doom and gloom however, as the game does occasionally hand out gems upon completion of achievements and so on. It would take some time to completely gear your character in premium gear, but it wouldn’t be impossible. Furthermore, the premium gear isn’t even necessary, as the non-premium gear that becomes available as your shop levels up is actually rather decent. And, like all twin stick shooter and bullet hell games, skill outweighs any gear.
While Cube Knight does sport the rather overdone voxel graphics, it does wear them very well. This is especially true when considering the fact that Cube Knight is a mobile game. Each level is rich with color and feels like a medieval fantasy setting should. Each character also looks unique as well, with their outfits and spell effects setting them apart from their peers. And while the graphics are blocky, the edges are all smooth and outshine many other voxel games.
Cube Knight also features some great music, from the epic start screen music to the fun and sometimes-tense music that plays during each level. Much like the graphics, the sound works very well and helps create a coherent and fun universe.
Overall, Cube Knight is a blast to play. The cash shop does stray into P2W territory, but as a single-player game it doesn’t completely soil things. I would like to see the four premium characters become available as one purchase or with in-game currency, but I also understand Bluehole needs to make money somehow. Regardless, Cube Knight offers a decent amount of content and has a ton of potential. I look forward to seeing what future content is added, and would love to see a PC or console adaption of this universe. Twin stick shooters are best after all when played with, well, twin sticks.
Cube Knight is available on iOS and Android for free with optional in-app purchases.