Picture of the game title 'candle knight' featuring teh lead protagonist a night lunging with his sword and a candle at the top of his helmet

Candle Knight Review

Game: Candle Knight
Genre: Action, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) (Also available on PS4 & Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Dracma Studios
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £12.99 | US $14.99 | EU €14,99
Release Date: May 31st, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to Game If You Are. 

Light Up 

Candle Knight is a 2.5D adventure game with hack-and-slash combat, puzzle solving and a unique approach to its difficulty. It delivers a positive first impression with its pleasant graphics, but some of the designs to its gameplay have a few rough edges. However, this is still a title I would recommend for those worthy enough to take up the sword and keen to light up the darkness.

candle knight is holding up his shield to the sky. A fallen knight lies next to him
The hero will save you.

Candle Knight The Enchanted Candle Holder

Set in a dark and dilapidated castle, you play as Candle Knight. As the enchanted candle holder, you wield the power of flame and begin the brave journey to restore light to the castle. The quest won’t be easy; the castle is now teeming with traps and enemies consumed by the darkness.

The game does feature text dialogue for the opening cutscene and boss encounters, but part of me felt a lot of this was unnecessary since the whole light and dark dynamic was pretty clear from the game’s art style. That was until I met the merchant. This is a well-dressed NPC you encounter every so often to upgrade your sword and shield and buy health. He also offers interesting and witty advice if you want to humour him. Candle Knights’ plot is vague but doesn’t take up much time. Whether or not you take in its story, the gameplay is the main focus.

The art style is impressive. Utilizing 3D graphics, the castle feels grand in scale despite the game playing on a 2D plain. So long as you have the graphics turned up to the higher settings, you will experience some detailed environments to various parts of the castle, from the cold stony floors to the libraries with books pushing outwards acting as suitable platforms. Lighting is used excellently, with some lovely reflections stretching through small cracks in the walls.

Candle Flame

The most prominent light is the candle flame from the top of your helmet. I felt I was this little warrior attempting to light up this overwhelming darkness. Considering you’re navigating a dark castle, the levels and platforms are easy to identify and navigate.

My favourite graphical moments were during cutscenes or when you invaded paintings. Here the design shifts to a living tapestry or painting with the texture of the canvas prominent on the page. It’s rare to see a developer attempt this traditional feel and pull it off so well. It appropriately suits the Medieval castle setting. The score is pretty good and relaxing. It may not be the most welcoming castle, but it features a relaxing melody as you navigate.

candle knight is moving across a bridge with blue orbs shooting towards him. A light his glowing round him
A bright light in a dark castle

Combat and Exploration

The general formula of the gameplay is par for the course for an adventure game. Explore a large map with many areas inaccessible until you have unlocked new moves and abilities, usually obtained after boss fights.

Combat is a hack-and-slash affair with the sword and blocking with your mighty shield. Hitting with the sword is simple enough, but I found the shield very difficult to get used to early in the game. Mostly because you encounter an early boss that performs attacks which can’t be blocked, making me question the point of even having a shield in the first place. As the game progressed, I gradually learned which enemy attacks could be blocked and which couldn’t, even if it seemed like a bit of a tedious learning process.

Controls were easy to pick up when using a controller. Tutorial prompts are clearly shown when you unlock a new move. The platforming was a bit of a mixed bag, with some moves working better than others. Moves like the wall jump were quite fiddly, making it hard to get a bearing to where you would attach to a wall. Whereas moves like the dash were comfortable, flowing well into the combat and platforming segments.

I died a lot in this game, whether it was on one of the epic boss fights or making an oopsie with the platforming. It was never to the extent that I got super stressed. This was helped by these handle chalice checkpoints, which tended to be placed in the appropriate spots before taking on one of the harder sections. Gold is the main source of upgrading your sword and shield. I did appreciate that the cosmetics of your sword and shield change with each upgrade. Gold is obtained by defeating enemies and finding hidden chests around the castle. By exploring the map, you can find hidden armour pieces that permanently upgrade your health. 

Merge into Paintings

One of the most interesting parts of the game is these small moments where you enter paintings. These act as a sort of warp point to return to an earlier part of the castle and enter a new area or just find some secrets. They are small platforming sections which are pretty straightforward but provide a nice break from the castle setting. In a way, I wish the entire game would use the graphical design. It also features some nice puzzle sections when exploring the castle, my favourite being one that requires you to read three books and solve a basic riddle to drop some platforms.

Another unique moment that I don’t often encounter in adventure games. Backtracking is typical for adventure games but Candle Knight makes it a bit of a chore by providing no map to keep track of your progress. It’s not too difficult to navigate the castle for the main quests since it mostly involves progressing to the right, but I did find on plenty of occasions I got a bit lost when seeking out secrets.

Candle knight is preparing to fight a giant boss which looks like a mix of a spider and a scorpion with one one eye
I see you

Adaptive Difficulty

The unique hook to the game is its adaptive difficulty system. Basically, your knight has three levels of flame displayed clearly in the top left of the screen (yellow, orange and red). You increase this level by attacking enemies and lighting candles dotted around the castle. If you reach the red level, your attacks are stronger but your defence is severely decreased, meaning enemies can take you out in just a few hits. At the smallest yellow level, your defence is stronger, but your attack is weaker. Orange in the middle is a nice balance of the two.

Block Attacks with the Shield

As the player, you can hold down a holder button to cool the flame down and deliberately tone down the difficulty, but it takes a while to do this and is not easy to achieve in a boss fight. The easiest way to quench the flame level is to block attacks with the shield, but as mentioned earlier, blocking doesn’t always feel like the best strategy in combat. It’s an interesting way for players to have direct control over the game’s difficulty, but it doesn’t feel fully utilized. If you are in the red level, it does mean even hazards can cause increased damage which seems harsh since you are not in combat.

During platform segments, I spent much time tediously cooling my flame down when navigating a tricky spike pit. The other main trouble is it’s hard to keep track of the flame level during combat. It’s easy to get carried away hacking on a boss, and then before you know it, you’re in the red and can potentially die in a single hit. While an interesting take on difficulty, many players may still appreciate some accessibility features in the options menu to make things easier. 

candle knight is navigating a maze which in set within a painting
Paints an interesting picture

Conclusion: Candle-Lite Gaming Night

Candle Knight is a solid game with some interesting ideas. This is definitely a title that fits into the category of a diamond with some rough edges. I liked how it tried changing the familiar adventure formula with its adaptive difficulty and balancing combat and exploration. This is helped further with good visuals and a soundtrack.

The trouble is many of its elements feel a bit clunky, much like if you were wearing a suit of armour yourself. Combat is hard to grasp at times, particularly when blocking, and some of the platforming is a bit fiddly. But the game isn’t unplayable. Most players should easily see past these issues and enjoy a nice candlelight gaming night (actual candle optional when gaming). If you have room in your gaming schedule for another adventure, then Candle Knight may just be the light you are looking for.

Final Verdict: I Like it

I like it

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