Gryphon Knight Epic Review
In Gryphon Knight Epic, you play as the Gryphon Knight in the game's title, Sir Oliver, who goes into battle on the back of his flying steed, Aquila. At a time in his gloried past, Sir Oliver teamed up with a group of valorous warriors to take down an evil dragon. Once the dragon was defeated each of the victors claimed a prize from the dragon's treasure trove, but unbeknownst to them their prizes were cursed. Sir Oliver claimed an amulet that separated his evil half from himself, ala The Enemy Within, but the other warriors each took a weapon that turned each one of them into a completely evil version of themselves. Now it's up to Sir Oliver to save his friends, but to do so he will have to best them in battle first.
In some ways Gryphon Knight Epic reminds me of the side-scrolling shooters from the 16-bit console days. It's a shmup that never crosses into total bullet hell territory and that sends you through themed levels that culminate in a face-off against a boss. There's a bit of a Mega Man touch to the game as well as the level-ending bosses, Sir Oliver's former friends, each possess a unique weapon that becomes available for you to use in later levels once you win the battle. You're free to take on the levels in any order and some of the weapons you'll earn are better suited against some bosses than others , so you may have to try another level and revisit the one you're on later if you're finding that you're having trouble defeating a particular boss. There are also special runes to be found in the levels, some of which will open a new path in another level. For example, obtain the water-breathing rune in one level and then you can return to the pirate-themed level to travel underwater and discover another rune.
In addition to your peashooter primary weapon and the more powerful weapons that you collect from your vanquished former friends, the game gives you the ability to equip a "squire" companion. Each one provides you with a special bonus ability, such as giving you a shield that will absorb a shot for you or giving you the ability to leach health from enemies. However, they require "squire power" to provide you with their benefits and the recharge rate is painfully slow.
Despite Gryphon Knight Epic's connections to classic game motifs, I didn't find myself feeling that Gryphon Knight Epic was all that, well, epic. Part of the issue is that Sir Oliver and Aquila together are enormous, eating up a disproportionate portion of screen real estate and impacting the way that the game plays. Probably the main reason that Gryphon Knight Epic isn't a true bullet hell shooter is that if it were there would be nowhere for Sir Oliver to hide. Bullet patterns in the game need to have larger spreads simply to let the oversized Oliver through. Even so, it can still be tricky to determine when you will be hit. The game's tutorial level informs you that Aquila is invulnerable and that only Oliver can take damage, but this doesn't seem to be consistently applied. Overall the hit box doesn't seem to be completely consistent, so it could be the case that the game sometimes doesn't register the shots hitting Aquila as hitting Aquila and applies them to Oliver instead. This inconsistency really makes it difficult to enjoy the game as a shooter - recognizing shot patterns and watching for the safe spots to form is difficult when you're never really confident about the size and shape of the spaces that you need to get through untouched.
I was also disappointed in the special weapons. Like the squires they require power to use, that power is quickly depleted, and the recharge rate is slow. It's annoying to only get a few shots off and then have to switch back to your regular weapon while keeping an eye on the special weapon charge meter, an exercise made more cumbersome by the game's awkward control layout.
Lastly, the cost for upgrades and potions in the game is disproportionately high compared to the amount of gold that you earn while playing. This forces you to return to the game's opening levels time and again to simply grind for gold in order to have enough potions available to tackle the other levels the game opens once you've completed the initial two levels. Weapon upgrades and new squires are priced so high that they are essentially unavailable unless you do commit to grinding levels for gold.
Gryphon Knight Epic has a certain nostalgic vibe to it and it delivers a style of gameplay that's in short supply these days, but it fails to nail the gameplay both in terms of mechanics and enjoyment. There are some good ideas at work behind the game, but they need more work to make Gryphon Knight Epic a good game.
Final Rating: 60% - Gryphon Knight Epic falls short of the promise it makes in its title.