Tappers are making a big indent into the mobile scene at the moment, with a tight focus on one-button press style control and drop in/out gameplay. Unlike ‘Battleborn Tap’, which sought to reproduce the feel of an RPG battle sequence, Nonstop Knight takes on the dungeon raiding feel of ‘Diablo’.
The product of Flaregames, the studio that produced ‘Dawn of Steel’ and ‘Evoker’, Nonstop Knight seeks to replicate the feel of a full dungeon crawling RPG for casual gamers. This takes a lot of the control out of the player’s hands but narrows down the experience to its core, that being the amassing of loot and the grinding of gear in order to progressively explore deeper into the games dungeon. Tappers in general are not for everyone, and seem to be aimed squarely at the casual gaming crowd, so don’t expect this title to scratch that dungeon crawling itch, but it does provide a flashy take on the experience that’s somewhat enjoyable if not terribly long lived.
Graphically the game is rendered in 3D with high quality assets and good use of lighting that presents a smooth and glossy feel to the environments. Characters are stereotypes you’d expect to find in a dungeon crawl, with blobs of slime, wolves and skeletons getting a lot of screen time and the lead character (male or female) re-skinning to display gear as you equip it in real-time. Buttons are well placed so as to be large and easy to use, showing cooldown of abilities and neatly tucking away menus that can be brought back with a quick tap of a tab. Sadly, whilst the game is gorgeous to look at it does lack in variety, featuring essentially the same dungeon area and layout over and over again without any form or randomization on show. Past level 50 you’ll begin to really wish that at least the skins changed on this square grid to give the game some variety.
In terms of music, Nonstop Knight makes use of a very well orchestrated (disney-style) theme tune that keep the game rolling with ease but does tend to loop as you start new floors frequently, which is a shame as it plays for a decent length and contains various pitches and tones to alternate through. Unfortunately this is the only piece of music on display in the title past a fanfare that play when a boss has been killed and makes the titles lack of variation all the more obvious. Sound effects are excellent and provide just the right amount of feedback without becoming over-bearing given the games combat orientated focus.
Sadly there’s no story included with the title to draw the player in, which could easily have been included at certain way-points in the games design (it keeps progress of how deeply you’ve delved over multiple playthroughs, so implementing occasional narrative segments when first hitting a milestone would have been easily possible). Even an introduction video to set the scene would have been welcome. Sadly players instead have to simply understand that you play as a knight, who never stops.
Gameplay shaves away many elements of what traditionally makes Dungeon Crawls great, but also manages to narrow its focus to push other elements to the foreground. Many gamers who would say that titles such as ‘Diablo III’ ultimately boil down to grinding the same missions repeatedly for loot and increasing its stats in order to go further before dying will understand the central premise of this game. Here the knight runs around a floor of an endless dungeon in a grid, looping automatically and fighting anything he comes across on the way. Three skill buttons with individual cool-downs are available to help him out on his quest, and these skills can be changed out or powered up using special stones that the player receives as a reward for levelling up. Skills range from the obvious ‘spin around and hit everything’ moves to the more fun and creative ‘create multiple shadow duplicates’ kinds and add a lot to the experience, though there’s only 6 in total to choose between. Coins and experience drop from downed enemies and experience counts to the player’s level rather than that of the knight, who only benefits from loot found in chests along the way. Chests come in various sizes and rarities and gear found inside is split into weapons, hats and cloaks. These all level up from 1 to 999 with the coins and greatly effect your character’s chances. The knight regens health as he/she goes and this helps to keep the flow of the game neatly paced, requiring you simply to occasionally tap a button or upgrade equipment. Turning the game off doesn’t stop the knights progress, and logging back in always lets you know how many monsters were slain in your absence and how much cash you earned in that period. At set points you’ll stop advancing up floors and have to fight a boss in order to continue, at which point your training of the knight becomes essential. Bosses drop special coins and rack up quickly in difficulty, meaning you won’t win the game in a playthrough. Instead you’ll take down as many as you can, collecting these special coins before ascending. Restarting the game from floor 1 with basic gear again and no money but now able to use those special coins to purchase permanent upgrades for the Knight that remain in later playthroughs. Bonuses to speed, damage and coin drops make the early stages suddenly fly by and you’ll soon be hitting triple digits in floor numbers. This system is the only real way to progress and works surprisingly well partnered with the auto-play when not online feature. Of course there’s a cash shop too where you can pay real money to try to get ahead (redundant in the face of the way the game works) and you can watch promotional videos to earn stacks of gold for quicker gear advancement, but remember gear is only temporary, it’s those permanent boosts that last.
Ultimately, the title is let down by its simplicity and its repetitive nature. Were you able to see different dungeon layouts or re-skinned variations of the existing one it would go a great way toward making the game fun , but as it is you follow the same path on the same square grid over and over again to the point of it becoming tedious. The lack of player control is tolerable in exchange for the depth on display in loot leveling and character build, but most people will play this for a week before deleting it from their phones and never thinking of it again, which is a shame.