Hyper Knights is a game I went into completely blind. From the few screenshots I’d seen, and the little I’d gleaned from the developer’s website, I thought I was in store for a typical RTS. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is little typical about this game as it is not afraid to experiment and try new ideas.
Hyper Knights doesn't use a great deal of story as exposition and setting, but that’s OK. Endless Loop Studios, the game's developers, aren't trying to make the game something it’s not, and not every game needs to be the next Bioshock narratively speaking. What Hyper Knights does, it does well. It made me hate ‘the Reds’.
A 2D Mount and Blade
So what genre is Hyper Knights? Well, in our insistence as humans to pigeon-hole everything (I’m just as guilty) I’d say that it straddles several genres. It has elements taken from real-time strategy games, but also fuses them with elements more akin to RPGs and strongly reminded me of a 2D Mount and Blade. In short, it doesn't really fit into a traditional genre, it breaks the mold.
Combat, however, is a fairly unique affair. Whilst it may play similar to other games, I have yet to see a game use a system quite like the one in Hyper Knights. Above each enemies head is a combination of buttons that must be hit in order to defeat them, and pressing an incorrect combo means no damage is dealt. What sounds straightforward at first, soon becomes much more difficult when enemies swarm around you, in what feels like, the hundreds.
Why so Blue?
You begin the game with one small hideout from which you launch your assaults on the enemy, the evil, and immoral ‘Red Army’. Your hideout passively generates your army for you, so you may attempt to conquer the nearby castles and towns. Your ultimate aim is to wrestle the region into your control and once completed, your men will begin to move around the map populating your newly conquered territory. This will then generate trade between your town and castle and start filling your coffers. Time, it seems, also heeds your word. Stand still and so does the enemy, move and they will follow suit.
There is a great deal of complexity and depth available in the systems surrounding the basic premise of siege and defend. You can upgrade the various settlements at your control and hire extra heroes that act similar to your hero. They will begin roaming the land with a band of minions, acting as you desire them to do so. These heroes can be assigned to attack the enemy but also to defend your little pockets of blue from the ever encroaching tide of crimson.
Battles themselves can be lengthy but they maintain an epic feel to them because of this. You might chance on a lonely town with few men defending and think a quick opportunistic attack would render the town yours. However, the game has a reinforcement system that can prove troublesome to your grand plan. If you don’t take the town quickly, then prepare for wave after wave of enemy reinforcements. Luckily the same system can help you in your attack and defense as well, swinging the tide of battle very quickly into your favor.
This can, however, feel a little frustrating at times, as victory seems to be a whisker away but then a sudden reinforcement leaves you button-mashing in rage. Fear not, though, for your battle may just have drawn enemy attention long enough for one of your heroes to take another settlement. You may have lost the battle, but your lieutenants can be off fighting their own battle. And they always seemed to do better than me.
Going Out For The Knight?
Overall the game is enjoyable and is available at an extremely modest price on Steam. The developers have indicated, following player feedback, that they intend to add further features including new maps, combos, and even a tweak to castle sieging which will see the inclusion of catapults and trebuchets. An area that I would like to see improved would be the tutorial to the game, as some features weren't explained or highlighted to me, and once I had discovered them I felt a bit stupid I hadn't seen them earlier.
Hyper Knights is one of those games where you can sit down and play for ten minutes or slog out a whole campaign in one sitting. For a game in Early Access, I didn’t encounter any bugs whilst playing, and this is always an indicator for quality and a strong sign of developer support. As it stands, I see no reason to not recommend this game. Its cost of entry is cheap, it’s fun as it stands and will receive more updates to flesh it out in the future. Just bring a controller, mouse, and keyboard is not for this game.
P.s. Long live the Blues!