Party games balance on a tightrope. If they’re too rooted in chance, everyone will be at each other’s throats within a round. (See: Mario Party.) If they’re too basic, they’re boring, and if they’re too complex, well, there’s no fun for a party. Every so often, a game comes along and nails the balance, like Knight Squad 2.
Developed by Chainsawesome Games, Knight Squad 2 popped up last summer as part of Xbox’s Summer Games Fest Demo Event. You and up to seven other knights (with bots filling in spots not held by humans) are dropped into a maze-like arena viewed from above. You roam around the map and pick up various weapons—like a boomerang, a bow and arrow, or a bazooka—and try to take each other out. Knights are extremely fragile, and tend to go down in one hit. First to a set number of kills wins.
Today, the rumble royale is officially out for Xbox, Switch, and PC. If you caught that demo last summer, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. The game’s full release is fundamentally the same as what Chainsawesome Games made available with the demo, except with far more categories of game modes.
Better yet, many of the game’s rounds are more creative than just “kill stuff.” One requires you to “paint” the floor a certain color by walking over tiles, all while fending off opponents trying to flip those tiles to their color. Another mode replicates soccer. There’s also a race mode, but I’m not too fond of it, an opinion that I swear is not influenced by the fact that I still haven’t ever won a round. (Okay, maybe it’s a little bit influenced by that.) But the best is a mode called Payload, a sort of tug-of-war in which you’re split into teams of four and have to push a train cart loaded with dynamite into your opponent’s territory.
All of these new rounds are wrapped up in a fast-paced progression system. As you play rounds, you unlock new variants, each of which switch things up in minor yet notable ways. A new soccer course, for instance, may spawn weapons closer to the center circle, while a new Payload map features an icy landscape. You can also unlock new knights by completing various tasks. (These unlocks appear to be purely cosmetic.)
Though Knight Squad 2 supports up to eight players, either locally or online, I’ve only played with four on the same couch, using my Switch. Online play hasn’t appealed to me: This game’s just not the same when you can’t scream in the same room as those you’re playing with. Even so, every round is a blast. I can only imagine how ridiculous these matches get with a full party of human players. Once we can all gather in-person again, I’m looking forward to slotting Knight Squad 2 into the party game circuit.