Knight Squad Hands-On Preview: (Gauntlet + Bomberman) x Knights = Awesome

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Cramming eight people around the television set in my living room for a night of gaming seems like the worst idea of all time. For one, I’ve only got enough couch space for about four-and-a-half people, so an unlucky few would be regulated to the floor. I guess they could ask my beast of a dog to share her floor pillow, but she’s a drooler and a licker. That’s bad, though most of my sympathies would lie with the poor sucker who has to wedge himself in the fireplace. But you know what, having a full complement of players for Knight Squad might make it worth it.

Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Chainsawesome Games
Developer: Chainsawesome Games
Genre: (Gauntlet + Bomberman) x Knights… Was I Unclear in the Title?
Release Date: Summer 2015
ESRB Rating: Rating Pending

knightsquad-boxI first got my hands on Knight Squad at this year’s PAX East show and I was completely blown away. Developer Chainsawesome Games pitches it to prospective players as “Bomberman meets Gauntlet,” and I can’t think of a more accurate logline. Like Bomberman, Knight Squad gives players an overhead view of a mazelike arena stuffed with powerups and opposing players. But like Gauntlet, these players wield medieval weaponry instead of high explosives (well, most of the time, anyway). If you’ve ever played Super Bomberman on the Super NES, you know how addictive a well-done single-screen arena battler like Knight Squad can be. And believe me, Knight Squad is already extremely well-done, even though development isn’t finished.

If you’re worried that battering your friends with swords for a few hours in an overhead arena brawler won’t be fun for long, don’t worry: Knight Squad has nine different game modes to keep things interesting. Plans are also in place for more to be added to the game when it’s released. So far, I’ve been able to try Capture the Grail (an everyone-for-themselves capture the flag mode), Gladiator (a king of the hill-like mode), and Soccer (a soccer mode). All three were a lot of fun, but Soccer was in a league by itself.

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Like every part of Knight Squad, Soccer is exactly what you expect it to be. Eight knights split into two teams of four and a massive rock is dropped in the middle. Whichever team scores the most points by pushing the rock into the goal wins. Simple? You bet. But it all gets ridiculously insane in the best possible way when you realize that every knight has a sword and can pick up traditional weapons like an axe, a bow, or a crossbow. A few non-traditional weapons also made the cut, so watch out for knights with laser pistols, machine guns, ninja stars, or a kamikaze horse. And don’t forget the bombs, because sometimes, Knight Squad is exactly like Bomberman!

Realism clearly wasn’t very high on Chainsawesome’s wish list for Knight Squad, but the game is all the better for it. The fantastical arsenal just adds to the chaos and amps up the trash talk considerably. Sure, you might hold off three or four players in a game of Gladiator with your sword, but no amount of Jedi trickery will stop an uncivilized knight with a laser pistol. Though speed pickups, armor upgrades, and invincibility shields can certainly make your knight more formidable.

While solo and online play will be available (except for Soccer, which is local only), Knight Squad works best with eight people crammed around a television (sorry pup). Though if that’s impossible for your setup, bots will fill up the remaining slots in any mode that requires eight players. Whichever way you play, the fast-paced battles will leave you grinning from ear to ear. There’s a fair bit of luck involved in any knight duel right now, but players who practice will certainly have an edge.

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Six other modes will make up Knight Squad’s mode list, each of which should look familiar to players with a penchant for multiplayer gaming. Juggernaut is a free-for-all mode that sticks a machine gun in the middle of the arena. Last Man Standing is another free-for-all mode that gives every player a single life. The remaining four modes are all team-based including Capture the Flag (pretty self explanatory), Team Deathmatch (ditto), Crystal Rush (protect your crystals while destroying those that belong to the opposing team), and Domination (control a series of neutral zones to win).

Knight Squad is currently available through Steam Early Access with the full version planned for a release sometime this Summer. According to Chainsawesome, the game is also in the works for the Xbox One, and it, too, should be out in the Summertime. If you’re a fan of Bomberman or Gauntlet or multiplayer gaming or fun (you’re a fan of fun, aren’t you?), then Knight Squad should be your top gaming priority as the warmer months approach.

After playing Knight Squad, we talked with Lead Programmer Jean Simon Otis. Read the full interview here.

This entry was posted in PC, Previews, Top Story, Xbox One and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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