Rival Knights Review - An explosive game for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8

Rival Knights is a new action game from Gameloft for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. The game puts you in the saddle of a horse, jousting your way through medieval knight after knight.

The fast-paced game has tons of equipment upgrades and horses to purchase with your winnings and the 3D graphics are rather spot on. Game play reminds me a bit of the drag racing games where you tap to shift gears in order to pick up speed. However with Rival Knights you have the opportunity to knock your opponent on their keister at the end of the race.

The game is available for 512MB devices and is a fantastic way to pass the time.

Kicking butt medieval style

Just a quick note before we get too far. Rival Knights requires a data connection to play. I imagine it helps minimize the storage space the game takes up (110MB) but it would be nice to an offline gaming mode available.

Once everything loads online, when you first launch Rival Knights, you will be taken through a tutorial that covers not only game play but also helps you set-up your character. You will participate in a training joust and begin your journey to conquer the lands. Once you've made it through the tutorials, when you launch Rival Knights you will find a main menu that has options to view the online leaderboard, access the settings, participate in the weekly player vs. player tournaments and jump into game play.

Rival Knights' settings cover sound and music levels, language selection, notification settings and access to the player manual. Oh, for those who Facebook you can also connect to your Facebook account through the settings as well.

Throughout the game, you will find a series of icons scattered across the top of the screen. From left to right they include:

  • Email: Any in game messages such as event status can be accessed here.
  • Social Seals: These blue seals are used as entry fees in the weekly events.
  • Royal Seals: These red seals are used as entry fees in the jousts in the game's story line.
  • League Banner: At the top center of the screen is a colored banner representing which League you are currently competing in. You start in the League of the Rose and work towards reaching the League of the Dragon.
  • Coin Count: Coins are earned during game play and used to buy new gear or upgrade your current inventory.
  • Gem Count: Gems are also earned during game play and are used to buy power-ups prior to the start of a joust.

While Social and Royal Seals serve as the price of admission to jousts, they will automatically replenish over time. If you are so inclined, you can convert gems into seals or ask your Facebook friends to loan you a few. If you need a boost in coins, you can convert gems into coins. Don't have enough gems, there are in-app opportunities to buy gems that in turn can be converted to coins, used to pick up some store items and pick up power-ups before matches.

Quick digression...

There seems to be a growing trend with games to have an in-app price to play the game. We've seen it in several of the Disney Windows Phone games and while at first I didn't see this feature as much of a bother, it can get annoying. Requiring a token to participate in game play does help you pace yourself but it really sucks if you're competing in a best-of-three tournament and only have two tokens. You tend to lose all gaming momentum while waiting the five minutes for a Royal Seal to replenish.

Now back to the game…

A tale of two games

Rival Knights has two gaming modes. You have the weekly events that pits you against other players in a tournament and the main story line where you battle your way through the five leagues.

The game store is only available in story line play but your gear does carry over into the events mode. The store has purchase opportunities for helmets, armor, horses, lances and emblems (your banner crests). If your funding is slim, you can always upgrade your existing gear (and horse) to keep things competitive.

Opponent selection in the events mode is simple. Just choose an opponent off the player list and have at it. Opponent selection on the story line mode is laid out on a map with your opponents progressively becoming unlocked. Each league has five champions that are a bit tougher to beat than the lesser knights you face in between the champions. Some jousts are winner take all while some are the best two out of three styled matches.

Game mechanics are consistent throughout Rival Knights regardless which gaming mode you choose. You have three factors that come into play - defense, speed and power. Defense is determined by your armor, speed by your horse and power through your lance. At the start of each joust, you can use your gems to buy boosts for one of these three factors.

Jousts begin with an III, II, I, GO! countdown that appears at the top of the game screen. When you see 'Go" appear you need to tap the screen to get your horse running. A meter will appear to the side of the screen with an arrow that will rise up the meter. When the arrow reaches the green section, tap the screen. As long as you tap in the yellow or green sections of this meter, your horse will increase in speed, which will translate into more power.

The mechanics reminds me of the drag racing games where you have to tap the screen at the right time to shift gears.

At some point in your run, the screen will transition to allow you to face off against your opponent. The sweet spot for un-horsing your opponent will be highlighted and your job is to position your lance tip in that spot. Just tap and drag on the screen to do so. The sooner you get your lance positioned, the more power is transferred and the better odds you'll win.

Upon impact, Rival Knights transitions to a slow motion view with either you or your opponent being knocked off the horse. The animations are rather nice, especially when the lances explodes into tiny toothpicks or when the other Knight hits the railing square after spinning a few times in mid-air.

It sounds easy but remember you are traveling 15-20mph on horseback and the game does a really nice job simulating the bounce of being on a horse. Getting a perfect start (tapping right as the 'Go' appears) is also a tough task. Don't get too discouraged if you're too late or too soon out the gate. More times than not, you can make up for it with a few perfect gear changes.

Win or lose you will walk away from a joust with a little extra coin but if you win, the purse is obviously larger. Win a joust and there is also extra prizes available such as free power-ups, a free re-fill on your Royal Seals, new gear becoming available in the store and more.

Overall Impressions

Rival Knights is one of those games that is visually appealing, fun to play and has that addictive draw that keeps things from growing stale too quickly. Game mechanics are simple enough but the pace of the game makes their simplicity somewhat challenging.

The need for tokens to participate in game play is quickly getting old. While these tokens (Social and Royal Seals) will replenish over time, having to wait can kill the gaming experience. I would have rather seen Rival Knights cost $.99 or even $1.99 and drop the token requirements. It is not a terminal issue but can suck some of the wind out of the game's entertainment value at times.

Another nit I have with Rival Knights is the lack of an offline gaming mode. While requiring a data connection does reduce the amount of storage space the game occupies, it would be nice to have a practice match available for the times you need to conserve data or in an area that has crappy wireless coverage (yes, they still exist).

As far as stability is concerned, I did have a few crashes after matches. The crashes seemed to occur more after longer gaming sessions and while noticeable, I can't say the instability was a deal killer but can be a bit of a wet towel.

If you prefer gaming on a larger screen, the Windows 8 version plays best on a tablet but it doesn't suck wind on a larger desktop or laptop computer either. The downside to having both a Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 version of Rivals Knights is that the two versions aren't linked. That is, your game progress on Windows Phone 8 doesn't transpose to the Windows 8 version. Which kinda sucks.

Still, overall, Rival Knights is a fantastic Windows Phone game for the times you want to blast someone off a horse. It's a great gaming option for the times you only have a few minutes to kill or are in the mood for a little longer gaming session.

Rival Knights is available for 512MB devices.

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.