Gryphon Knight Epic is a shoot-em-up that was kickstarted back in 2014; combining the genre with metroidvania like design. With the game out now, the merging of the two genres worked pretty well, but there were a few conflicts here and there.
Gryphon Knight Epic follows the exploits of Sir Oliver, after slaying the evil dragon with his friends and winning the heart of the princess, he retired from a life of adventuring until an evil ghost that looks like him begins terrorizing the land. It’s up to Oliver and his gryphon Aquila to stop the ghost and save the land from a variety of enemies.
Gryphon Knight Epic is different by the fact that the developers have combined the genres of shoot-em-up with the exploration you would see in a 2d action adventure game. How it works is that each level is played as a shoot-em-up with enemies of varying sizes and damage spread attacking you from all sides.
Unlike other shoot-em-ups, you can shift yourself to either be auto moving left or right at any time. At certain points the level will branch in different directions, allowing you to explore different parts of the level for additional treasure and runes that act as upgrades. Each level features two bosses, one mini and a stage boss, and to the game’s credit, the bosses are varied and require different strategies to take down. Before and after each stage, you can buy items to help you and upgrade your weapons.
The game is aimed at beginner to average shoot-em-up fans with three difficulty levels that affect checkpoints, health drops and your gold reward at the end.
With that said, even on the “expert” difficulty, Gryphon Knight Epic doesn’t come anywhere near the bullet hell-ness of other shoot-em-ups like Sine Mora. The game does a good job of mixing these genres to create something unique, but the shoot-em-up design and aesthetics do clash with the exploration side.
The first problem I have with Gryphon Knight Epic is how there is a clash between the shoot-em-up elements and the overall aesthetics of the game. The game features a pixel style aesthetic with enemies and environmental obstacles befitting each stage. The problem is that because things blend in together due to the unified aesthetic, it makes the shoot-em-up elements harder than they should be.
The issue is that in most shoot-em-ups, the bullets or projectiles are always completely opposite of the aesthetic of the game, so that they are easily spotted and avoided. But here, because everything blends in, it’s very easy for shots and projectiles to blend into the background and make them hard to spot until it’s too late. In one level, you have to dodge attacks from the background environment and it was very hard to spot the safe zones due to how the attacks were animated.
Another part of this is that the game features a character model where only certain parts are vulnerable to damage: Sir Oliver himself. When you’re busying flying around trying to take out enemies, it’s sometimes easy to forget where you should be positioned to let bullets hit the invincible part which is your gryphon.
Finally, the game is on the short side with only 8 levels. The developers did plan to make more via stretch goals, but they weren’t met. The exploration side of the design does feel a little downplayed as each level has only a few alternate paths that warrant exploring.
It feels like the developers were hoping for something greater than the sum of its parts, but ended up with less; the exploration side is limited to a few slight paths per level without any of the deeper mechanics in other games of the genre, and the shoot-em-up aspect doesn’t evolve or grow beyond the first level.
Gryphon Knight Epic may not be the most complicated or challenging shoot-em-up out there, but combining exploration does help keep things interesting. Despite my issues with the game, there’s nothing here that I would point out as bad or poor game design, I just wish that there was more content on the exploration side and growth on the shoot-em-up mechanics. Hopefully the game will do well enough for the developers to continue working on the series or add more to the game. For more on the game, here is a spotlight video I made and there will be a spoiler run of the game coming soon.