Knight vs Giants: An Ornate Blade That Lacks Polish

Written by Contributor

October 23, 2023


“I’ve lived the same day over and over again. The same day, the same people, the same events. It’s like a prison, a prison of time.” Phil Connors, Groundhog Day (1993)


This review was written by Hakaze

Knights vs. Giants: The Broken Excalibur is a game that I finished, albeit with a sense of disappointment. As a fan of both roguelikes and city-builders, I had high expectations for this game. However, it ended up being a unique blend of these genres that didn’t quite hit the mark. Gambir Studios certainly tried something different, but let’s discuss how the game’s mechanics fell short of my expectations.


Production [4/5]

Like having a tricked-out bike with flame decals on it, the visual and audio quality of the game is something that could catch people’s eyes. It’s not unique enough to stand out from the crowd, but it’s solid enough to be something that someone might buy just because of how it looks. The art style and audio direction itself do a bit to help the game’s presentation, as it’s a mostly medieval fantasy set, the art style being storybook-esque lends itself well enough to how the game is presented, and the audio direction is good enough that it all blends in with how the game should sound, from the ambiance to the battle tracks as you kill waves of enemies. Sadly, even this is without its fault, sometimes, and I don’t know exactly why, the audio just cuts out or lines aren’t read, but again, this happens very rarely so it doesn’t detract from the experience and I would like to think it’s an audio driver issue. Another and a MUCH BIGGER problem in my opinion is the user interface where different buttons are mapped to different things such as your current build and stats, quests, and the pause menu where I feel it could have just been in the pause menu as there is a lot of white space when the game is paused. As someone who likes complexity in my games, having different buttons do different things when it could easily be on the pause screen is not the best way to do it.

Mechanics [3/5]

The gameplay follows a Hades-inspired approach where the goal is to reach the miniboss/boss at the end of the dungeon floor, which consists of randomly generated rooms that you must either pass through or clear. Clearing an enemy-infested room will reward you with either some coins (one of the two permanent currencies that do not disappear on death) and essence (a run-based currency that does disappear on death), an upgrade to your character, or an upgrade to the weapon or skill you are currently using. The game is controlled well enough that it doesn’t feel unnatural to move, though I have to admit that I’m a keyboard and mouse (KBM) player at heart, but I believe that playing this game with a controller is the optimal way to play. Nevertheless, the only annoyance I had was that I had to manually turn on the mouse aiming instead of it being turned on automatically as if it were off, where you move is where you aim and this sometimes ended my run, but I’ll chalk that up to a skill issue on my part.
Once again there aren’t enough unique or innovative mechanics to make this game stand out from the rest, what it does it does averagely and the extra mechanics such as the Pied Piper’s challenge and the city builder segment don’t feel innovative or unique enough to be something worth talking about, one mechanic I did find interesting though is the tarot card mechanic, but unfortunately it’s only unlocked in the latest of the late games and so I couldn’t enjoy it that much as I was already mentally tired doing multiple run-throughs of this game just to finish it. The mechanics of the game make it bearable though, the team behind it really had some great ideas but the implementation was just wasn’t there, but even if the implementation wasn’t quite up to par it doesn’t mean I hated it, I was more mentally exhausted while playing this game because as an avid Rougelike fan, this felt more like a half polished game than anything else.

Content [3.5/5]

The story is quite intriguing, albeit a simple one, if I may oversimplify. You play as the resurrected body of King Arthur of the legends, brought back to life by the one and only Merlin. You have been revived to defeat the 3 roaming giants that have been wreaking havoc in the lands of Brochalant Forest, Sarrache Desert, and Suidhe Volcano, and to restore peace and prosperity to the Kingdom of Avalon. They are also apparently in another dimension that their god, the Architect, created before he created the main dimension to place their world, also called Earth, but that’s a story for another time, as it’s much more convoluted than just “you must restore peace and prosperity to your kingdom by slaying the giants”. Sadly, even though the story is quite interesting, a 20~ ish hour game (to fully 100%) isn’t worth the price nor the time, as it’s more of a repeating loop rather than a unique run each time, as the game has presented itself.
I believe there could be so much more to this game but with the way it was released, it feels more half-baked than anything as most if not all of my runs are repetitive with the merchant Assam selling the same items, Morgana giving me the same negative and positive blessings and so on. There are a couple of side quests given by the hunter after your 5th or 6th run that can give you some extra coins, but nothing else. I don’t think there are any other collectibles in the game other than killing every type of monster and trying every upgrade and build combination, this game lacks endgame content as once you’ve defeated the giants, you’ve technically seen the whole game. Still, the world and setting are intriguing enough to keep me going, although it did take a toll on my mental state, as it was quite exhausting to play through in a week. Even though there were no changes to the way I played the game or my character, I still played it until I was 100% into the game, and that says something, whether it’s good or bad is up to me.

Features [3/5]

The game doesn’t have any multiplayer features, it’s a completely single-player experience and I think it’s better for that. I don’t think having a bunch of knights running around would make the game better, as the game is tailor-made to be a single-player game. Unfortunately, there’s only the randomly generated dungeon campaign, so there doesn’t seem to be any additional modes for the player to choose from, there’s no greed mode like in The Binding of Isaac or a slice-of-life type of game like in Danganronpa where you can reset your palette. There are a few gameplay options that could make your run easier or harder, such as the flowers and gems that are randomly given to you and you can choose or equip respectively. The last option is to select some Tarot cards, a late-game addition where you select 6 of the 9 face-down cards, choosing one will either buff or debuff your next run, which in my opinion does nothing to make the game more challenging. At the time of writing, the game does not support Steam Workshop, so there is currently no modding or user-generated content scene, but I feel that the game would be well served if it was implemented, as players could add more blessings, items, and such to the pool so that each playthrough would not be the same 8 or 9 blessings that can shred the opponent into fine silk.



As a fan of roguelikes for many resets, I feel like Knight vs. Giants was trying to do something unique with what they showed, yet it still lacks polish, not to take away any enjoyment from what I played, although it lacked the things that would fully satisfy a fan of roguelikes, it still sated my hunger, sadly I will not be playing it again for fear that my sanity may further deteriorate if I do. Nonetheless, I would recommend Knight vs. Giants to a more casual audience, as even though each run may take 30~ minutes, each run can be paused in the middle and continued long after you leave the game. I wouldn’t recommend it to the more passionate Rouge fans though, as even if the game is average at best, some little quirks might rub the more diehard fan the wrong way, but if you want to give Knight vs Giants a try, it’s on Steam for the cool price of $20, is it worth the price? In my eyes, sort of. I’ve noticed that the developers are constantly updating the game, and if they continue to have a good update cycle that adds more content to the game, I’d say it’s worth the price, but at the moment I think it’s best to wait for a sale to buy this game.
Final Score: 3.5 / 5
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