|Developer(s)||Three Rings Design and Sega|
|Platform(s)||Any with Java, incl. Linux, Mac, Windows|
|Release date(s)||November 12, 2009|
Spiral Knights is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by Three Rings Design and published by Sega. The free-to-play, Java-based game was released to advance testers on November 12, 2009 and to the general public on April 4, 2011. The game was released through the Steam software distribution system on June 14 of that year, and through Kongregate on September 22.
In the game, the player controls a knight of the Spiral Knights order, which has crash-landed on the mysterious planet Cradle. Knights collectively explore the Clockworks, the mechanized, constantly reorganizing dungeon that fills the planet's interior. The knights equip armor and weapons to aid them in their battles against the monsters inhabiting the Clockworks. When they are not exploring, knights trade with each other and with vendors, in order to improve their equipment.
When a player creates a knight, he or she first proceeds through a few tutorial levels, learning the game's basic controls. Through talking with non-player characters, players learn about the plot and the economy of the game world. Once a knight leaves the tutorial levels by traveling to Haven, the knight may never return to them.
Haven is the largest city on Cradle and the base of operations for the Spiral Knights (see image at right). The Town Square contains the Auction House, through which knights may sell items to each other. The Bazaar contains various vendors who sell equipment. The Arcade contains the gates, through which players enter the Clockworks. Other areas in and around Haven include the guild halls, the Advanced Training Hall, and King Krogmo's Coliseum.
The Clockworks is the enormous dungeon that fills the interior of the planet Cradle. It is organized into 30 levels (depths 0 to 29), which are further organized into six strata constituting three tiers. The strata are punctuated by terminals and towns, at which the knight may shop for equipment, adjust equipment, and heal. The Clockworks is in fact an enormous machine, and the contents of the strata are continually shifting. A knight can usually, but not always, determine the nature of upcoming levels by consulting the gate map (see image at left).
At predictable locations within the Clockworks, four bosses can be found: the Snarbolax, the Royal Jelly, the Roarmulus Twins, and Lord Vanaduke. Knights who defeat these bosses are rewarded with tokens, which they can redeem for special items.
On the 19th of October, 2011, Shadow lairs were introduced. These were the aforementioned bosses infected by 'The Swarm', a pixelized black substance, about which relatively nothing is known. It is expected that new missions be released in the future concerning 'the Swarm'.
Spiral Knights is a top-down, third-person, real-time action-adventure game, comparable to The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. While thousands of knights may be participating in Spiral Knights at a time, any given knight interacts directly with only a small subset of them. For example, in Haven there are typically tens of knights present; however, there are tens of independent copies of Haven being maintained simultaneously. When a knight is in the Clockworks, he interacts with only three (or fewer) other knights, as well as numerous monsters.
When a party of knights begins a Clockworks level, they appear together at an entry point. Their goal is to make it to the elevator, which allows them to descend to the next level or to return to Haven. The knights' route through the level is controlled, to some extent, by a sequence of gates. For example, one kind of gate opens only when the entire party stands together on a platform in front of it; when the gate opens, another gate immediately closes behind the party, sealing off the route from which they came. There are also switches to activate, keys to retrieve, and traps to avoid.
While they proceed through the level, the knights battle monsters together in real time. A knight may wear three pieces of armor (suit, helmet, and shield) and up to two trinkets (items that grant additional protection or enhancement) at a time. Also, a knight may wield up to four weapons at a time, by choosing from among whatever swords, handguns, and bombs he possesses (You get 2 weapon slots free, but you need to buy an item to get the others slots open. The other slots that you buy with an item have a 30 day time limit.) There are four kinds of damage, that a knight can inflict upon a monster, depending on the weapon he uses: normal, piercing, elemental, and shadow. Each monster type is vulnerable, neutral, and resistant to certain damage types. Additionally, there are seven status effects that a knight can inflict upon a monster: freeze, shock, curse, fire, sleep, poison, and stun. Status effects do not directly damage the monster, but do affect its ability to continue fighting. Symmetrically, monsters deal certain kinds of damage and status effects to knights, who resist them to varying degrees based on their armor. Occasionally, knights find objects that temporarily bolster their defenses, that partially heal their damage, or that they can throw at monsters to inflict damage and induce status effects.
The knights collect treasure dropped by the monsters and extracted from treasure chests. They also collect minerals, which can be applied to the construction of new gates in the Arcade. Significantly, most of the items picked up by the party during its travels are shared. In this way, the rules of the game promote teamwork rather than competition among players. Knights help each other by ganging up on monsters, by healing each other, etc. However, some items are not shared, and some players prefer to play Spiral Knights solo.
On August 2, 2011, a player-versus-player feature was added, in which knights enter contests against each other, with a chance of winning prizes. The first of these contests, called Blast Network, is similar to Bomberman; players place bombs to destroy blocks and their opponents while collecting power-ups. The second contest, called Lockdown, employs gameplay similar to that of the rest of Spiral Knights. Each team of knights attempts to capture and defend control points from the opposing team. Each knight's usual shield is replaced with one of three special abilities: speed, invisibility, or strong defense. On February 22, 2012, 'Missions' were introduced. This is the first aspect of the game where something like ranks are introduced, with the amount of missions being completed increasing your 'Prestige', or rank.
Spiral Knights differs from some other role-playing games in that the characters do not possess personal characteristics (e.g., experience levels, hit points) that improve over time. Rather, only a character's equipment improves over time. Namely, each knight begins the game with a set of 0-star equipment, and gradually acquires better equipment as he works toward 5-star items.
Items can be purchased from vendors and from other players. If an item is bound to a knight, then the knight is unable to trade it. Some items are bound to the knight when he acquires them, while others are bound only when he first equips them. Items can be unbound for a large fee.
Items are often made, rather than purchased, in a process known as crafting. In order to craft an item, a knight must possess a recipe, the set of materials specified by the recipe, and the precursor item (if any). Recipes can be bought from vendors in the Clockworks and in Haven, and from other players. Materials are found while adventuring in the Clockworks, and can be purchased from other players and sometimes from vendors. Some materials are rare and hence expensive. Before a knight uses a recipe to craft an item, he must learn the recipe, and a learned recipe cannot subsequently be traded or unlearned.
As a piece of equipment is used, it slowly accumulates heat. Higher heat levels bring small bonuses to the item's performance, and allow the item to be crafted to a higher-star version. Items are further differentiated by unique variants, which are special bonuses that sometimes randomly attach to items when they are crafted. The screenshot at the right, for example, shows a Divine Veil helmet with an "Increased Normal Defense: Low" unique variant. This Divine Veil protects slightly better against Normal damage, than do Divine Veils without this unique variant.
The in-game currency is the crown. Knights acquire crowns by killing monsters, opening treasure chests in the Clockworks, and trading with other knights. Crowns are used to purchase items, to craft items, to purchase unique variants for items, and to participate in player-vs.-player contests.
Knights use a commodity called energy to descend into the Clockworks, to craft items, and to perform certain other tasks within the game. Energy comes in two forms. Each player account can hold up to 100 mist energy, which gradually recovers over a period of 22 hours (1 per 13.2 minutes) automatically, at no charge to the player. Each player account can also possess any quantity of crystal energy. The key difference between crystal and mist energy is that mist energy cannot be traded, while crystal energy can. In particular, an organized trading system in the game lets players exchange crowns for crystal energy at rates that fluctuate with demand. Players can also purchase crystal energy using US dollars.
Spiral Knights is designed to be primarily a cooperative, rather than a competitive, game. Knights explore the Clockworks with up to three other knights. Most items that the party picks up are shared among its members.
Knights communicate through an in-game text chat system. There is also a mail system, which can be used for sending items, crowns, etc., for sending messages to off-line knights, for receiving items and crowns from the Auction House, and for receiving announcements from the game developers.
Each knight maintains a list of friends. The knight can see which of his friends are on-line, and can see where his on-line friends are located within the world. He can invite his friends to join him for adventure, trading, or talking.
A knight may optionally belong to a guild. The knight maintains a list of guildmates, with the same capabilities as his friends list. Additionally, the guild has a private chat channel and a private guild hall where members may gather. Each guild member possesses a rank within the guild. The lowest ranks — Recruit, Member, and Veteran — do not possess any special abilities. The Officers of the guild can invite knights into the guild, and promote, demote, and remove lower-ranking guild members. The Guild Masters (of which there is always at least one) can also invite new members and promote/demote/remove lower-ranking members, including Officers. Any player may start his own guild by paying a fee.