PAX East was some serious sensory overload. Walking into the expo hall and having your eyes and ears assaulted by various explosions, gunshots, and eSports announcers is just so much to process. The indie mega-booth, while not nearly as over-the-top as some of the bigger guys, was still a whole lot to take in. I hit the floor with fellow Twinfinite staffer Muaz on Saturday to cover some of the indie booth. We kind of just stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out where to start. Then it all became clear: Start at that booth that has tons of people posing for pictures with a massive, steam-punky sword. MechKnight Chronicles was obviously the first booth to hit.
MechKnight Chronicles is a side-scrolling beat-em-up by the awesomely named Dinosaur Entertainment, an indie studio out of Austin. Before you ask, yes, there ARE dinosaurs in it. The game has a rad steampunk vibe to it, and it already oozes personality. The demo available at PAX had two playable characters: Roy, a heavily-armored soldier who wields what I assume will become an iconic sword, and Tina, a lithe assassin-like character who utilizes her agility and ranged weapons to dispatch enemies.
The combat system is fast-paced and a lot of fun. The game was designed so that anyone can pick up and play it. You can spam the ‘X’ button over and over and do well enough to clear a stage, but it gets interesting when you bring magic and combos into play. Your character can do light attacks by hitting ‘X’, but they also can do heavy attacks with ‘Y’. You can combine light and heavy attacks to produce some wicked combos. For example: while playing as Tina, doing a light attack followed by two heavy attacks will knock the enemy into the air, and you can continue to juggle them if you time your attacks right. Hitting light attack twice and heavy attack twice I was able to shoot out a large blast that knocked everything in its path down, which can be used defensively if you’re starting to get swarmed.
In addition to combos, each character has a magic gauge that fills up by picking up potions from defeated enemies. Each character also has their own element. There are four types of spells to cast, each selectable by flicking the right thumb stick in a cardinal direction and casting with ‘B’. There are attack/defense buffs that will increase your damage and armor for a limited time. Then there is the forward attack, which launches a magic attack straight in front of you. Finally we have an Area-of-Effect (or AoE) spell that damages multiple enemies within an area. The combo and magic system is also tiered, and at higher-tiers you will be able to pull off bigger and better attacks.
I really dig MechKnight Chronicles‘ art style too. While it’s obviously not finalized, the graphics are colorful and vibrant, and I really like the steampunk vibe going on with the game. The character designs are awesome; Roy and Tina both looked great, and the steam-powered skeleton soldiers (I don’t know what they’re actually called, but that’s a fair description) looked badass. There is a lot of personality in the animations and they’re very fluid. Even while standing in (the rather large) line to play, I couldn’t help but just stare at the screens as other people were playing. It doesn’t get boring to look at, that’s for sure.
While I was playing it, I thought to myself: “wow, this must have been in the works for a while, how did I miss this?” To be fair, it was easy to miss… because the game didn’t really exist until a little over two months ago. When I was told that the game demo that we were playing there was only two and a half months worth of work, I was floored. This pre-alpha build of the game plays and feels more put together than most “AAA” releases out there.
The team involved with MechKnight Chronicles is clearly talented. While playing the game I got to speak with co-founder Jesse Sosa, who has quite a bit of experience in the game industry (we have a video interview with Jesse here). He explained that he got the best talent he could find, and that his team knows what they’re doing. With how playable the game is at just two and a half months of development, I’d say he’s not bluffing. He cited Treasure, the video game company responsible for Guardian Heroes, Ikaruga, Alien Soldier and Gunstar Heroes as a big influence, and you can definitely feel the spirit of those 90’s games in MechKnight Chronicles.
As stated earlier, the current build of the game is in a pre-alpha state, and it is “about a year out” in terms of a release date. The game is planned to feature 4-player co-op, a versus mode and ten playable characters upon release. As far as platforms, currently they plan on getting the game released on Steam, but are also working to be available digitally through Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo consoles as well as the Ouya. If the game can be this fun in its pre-alpha state, imagine what it will look like in six months? Or at release? This is definitely one to keep an eye out for.