Games that change your entire outlook on a genre are important. Despite liking a few dungeon-crawlers and roguelikes over the years, I’ve never considered myself a fan of the genre. I rarely pick up games in which that’s the main selling point. And yet, Asobism’s Vivid Knight has me rethinking those past decisions. With a rather simple premise, Vivid Knight tasks you with making your way through multi-floor dungeons to collect gems and defeat the boss. Like I said, Vivid Knight is simple until you really consider its gameplay mechanics.
That simplicity is one of Vivid Knights strongest points. The combat system is neither varied nor complicated. You set your party members and when skills are off cooldown, you make your avatar set up a shield, randomly attack or cast a buff. Party members cycle through their skills automatically until the battle is done. That’s really it. Well, sort of.
Every dungeon gives you 30 crystals as a first-time completion bonus, and it’s possible to find more crystals within dungeons and their treasure levels. After clearing a dungeon, you’re pushed back to the home screen to either spend crystals on Kingdom Grimoires, which function as a sort of gacha system, or to start a “new game.” New games are just new dungeons. From there, you head right back into the action.
The interesting and fun part of Vivid Knight comes from all the behind the scenes work you have to do. The biggest mistake I made when playing became obvious during the third dungeon. The first two were easy enough that I didn’t feel the need to pay much attention to the gems I was picking up or any of the rules regarding upgrades and party composition. I assumed I could go through levels aimlessly. I took the lack of in battle choices as a lack of difficulty, rather than the game slowly introducing you to its systems. So, I failed the third dungeon three times before realizing Vivid Knight’s gameplay was a lot more involved than I previously thought.
There are just over 50 characters to unlock and find, and they each have a color and symbol attached to them. This is a key element, and ignoring it because the first few dungeons lacked difficult battles is what caused my party to lose multiple times. Mixing colors and symbols provides your party with different attributes and effects. These make a huge difference in battle. The buffs provided range from support shields and effects to preemptive strikes and AOE magic damage. It’s up to you to remember the units you have in play and in your storage while figuring out what your party needs to progress and ultimately beat the boss.
I absolutely loved (and sometimes hated) having to manage mana within dungeons, as running out of it meant taking damage with every movement. Deciding if I wanted to prioritize small enemy fights to unlock more party members or get to the boss with what I had as quickly as possible created an interesting predicament. Even the challenge that comes with often having a different, randomized party in every dungeon is a joy. All of these things add another layer onto a game that seemed simple and prone to repetition at first glance.
I like when a game can surprise me, and that’s exactly what happened the first time I picked this up. Vivid Knight’s gameplay loop is fast and dungeon layouts change with each level, making the game incredibly easy to play for short bursts during those in-between moments.
Vivid Knight is available on PC via Steam, and the Nintendo Switch.