Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon Review

By – Mike Andre

 

There was a time when RPGs were all about  turn-based  combat, stats, dungeon crawling and character progression. Now, little over a decade later , who would imagine we would have RPGs with cover systems, auto regenerating health and cutscenes at  almost every corner? Frayed Knights comes  in the right time to remind us what RPGs used to be about, with all the good and bad things that come with that.

Frayed Knights is a old school RPG, in the vein of Wizardry, Dungeon Master, and Eye of the Beholder, where you play as four adventurers whose reputation for failure earns  them the title that gives the name of the game.

Smile, You’re Playing Frayed Knights

The world serving as a background for Frayed Knights is your typical, almost generic RPG medieval world with spells and dungeons but surprisingly, it manages to feel rather refreshing.

The reason is simple; it never takes itself seriously. It’s a constant parody of pretty much every RPG commonplace, in stark contrast with the dead serious stance of most mainstream RPGs (and pretty much every other genre) released in the last 10 years.

Not saying Frayed Knights has a particularly good writing, it doesn’t, but I suspect that was never the main focus of the game. The story is not particularly memorable, it’s simply fun, just about enough to get you going like most old-school RPGs where the focus is all put in the combat and the other role playing aspects of the game in detriment of the storyline. The characters are not particularly interesting either.  They lack charisma and are rather stereotypical  with the occasional joke or humoristic remark,  keeping their dialogues from getting repetitive after a while.

There are a decent number of sub quests, some more interesting than others and even though the main quest isn’t all that huge, you have a lot to do before you can say you’ve finished the game 100%. The good news is that you’ll probably have a lot of fun along the way.

There is a nice variety of dungeons and crawling through them is so much fun you’ll probably feel the urge to search every corner of each one so that you’re sure you don’t leave any treasures behind. The enemies, too, are varied and most of them require different approaches when fighting which is also pretty nice and not that common nowadays when it comes to RPGs (crouch behind cover, wait for head to pop up, shoot, repeat. Ok ok, sorry, couldn’t resist).

In Luck We Trust

Combat is turn- based with a strong strategic flavor to it and is no doubt one of the most well-executed sections of the game. You just never feel bored while fighting, each battle is challenging enough to keep it interesting. Even  apparently easier fights can have a devastating impact on your party. Luck (in the form of dice rolls) plays a major role, which is both a good and a bad thing; bad because usually you don’t want luck to be a deciding factor, good because it makes  each fight unpredictable with some harder fights getting incredibly tense.

Character creation/customization is a bit lacking though. While you can customize your character to a degree by increasing your attributes manually when you level up, you can’t create your characters from scratch or choose other characters other than the pre-defined ones. Not only it takes away a lot of replayability from the game,  as it would be fun to start a new game with different characters, it’s also something that I believe will displease most RPG purists who probably expected a Dungeon Master clone.

There is a reason why this apparently obligatory feature didn’t appear in Frayed Knights though. In his interview with TPG, Jay Barnson, the main man behind the game, stated how he didn’t want party members to feel like a collection of stats and rather have a personality. Now whether this was a good design decision or not is up to you.

The Ugly Duckling of RPGs

What I don’t think will attract a lot of people is the visual component of the game are  bad animations, poor models, low resolution textures, inconsistent art styles, badly placed lights causing all sorts of issues from weird shadows to excessively lit places (especially  exteriors) etc. and the list goes on. What’s worse is that these problems aren’t all that noticeable in specific locations but then you go to the village or some other place where these problems are all present at once and the difference is hard not to notice, distracting from the gameplay.

I know I know, the creators are indie developers who did what they could with the budget they had, but at the end of the day what matters to the customer is the product they paid for, not behind the scenes factors leading to the final product being good or bad. Especially in this case, since Frayed Knights is significantly more expensive than the average indie game.

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

In spite of all the flaws I pointed out, Frayed Knights is still a very enjoyable game. It’s one of those games you feel compelled to play until you are finished with your current quest so you can go to the next one without things ever getting boring. It shows a tremendous potential and since Rampant Games stated this is the first game in a trilogy that means there are two more games I’ll definitely be looking forward to.

The $22.99 price tag might seem a little steep but the game has a pretty large longevity, so if you are looking for something different from modern offerings and you like RPGs, I highly recommend Frayed Knights.

Frayed Knights Technical Summary:

  • Time Played – 12 hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • 5.1 Audio – No
  • Bugs – Only small visual glitches with misplaced lights
  • DRM – None
  • Control Scheme – Mouse and Keyboard
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Rampant Games
  • Demo – Yes
  • Review Specs – Core 2 Duo, Radeon 4550, 4GB RAM

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2 thoughts on “Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon Review

  1. Pingback: Desura, Dreamscape, Thailand, Game Bundles, and Frayed Knights

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