In the game, the player controls a knight of the Spiral order, which has crash-landed on the mysterious planet Cradle. Knights cooperatively battle monsters throughout the Clockworks, the dungeon that fills the planet's interior. They also battle each other in an optional player-versus-player mode.
Spiral Knights reached one million accounts in its first three months and three million accounts in its first thirteen months. The game won Best Online Game Design, and was nominated for three other awards, in the 2011 Game Developers Choice Online Awards.
Gameplay and plot
The Spiral Knights are a spacefaring army from the planet Isora. Their ship, the Skylark, has crashed on the planet Cradle. The interior of the planet is filled with a mechanized, continually reconfiguring dungeon called the Clockworks. Operating out of the town of Haven on the planet's surface, the knights descend into the Clockworks, with the goal of understanding the mysterious energy source at the planet's core. They hope to exploit this energy source to resurrect and re-launch the Skylark. The player controls a single knight, and may play solo or with other players. When exploring the Clockworks, knights cooperate to defeat crowds of enemies of various types, while dodging traps and solving simple puzzles. There are four main bosses, each with an alternate "Shadow Lair" variant, and numerous mini-bosses. In addition to this player-versus-enemy mode, there are two optional player-versus-player modes: one that is similar to Clockworks play, and a Bomberman-like mini-game that differs substantially from the rest of the game.
When they are not battling enemies or each other, knights train, shop, trade, and chat in Haven. Character progress comes not through the improvement of personal statistics, but rather through upgrades to equipment. Weapons include swords, handguns, and bombs offering various play styles and characteristics.
Spiral Knights is massively multiplayer, although each player interacts with a small subset of other online players at any given time. Clockworks parties are limited to four knights and player-versus-player contests are limited to six-versus-six. and friend lists are capped at 250.
The entire game is free-to-play. Energy can be exchanged for other commodities and currency, to accelerate a knight's development. Real money can also buy certain costumes and promotional items.
Spiral Knights has been in development since around 2007. The game was released to advance testers on November 12, 2009 and to the general public on April 4, 2011. It was also made available through gaming web sites such as Kongregate and Armor Games.
Critical response to Spiral Knights was positive. Ars Technica's Andrew Webster wrote, "The quality of free-to-play games continues to rise, and Spiral Knights is proof of this. It's fun, addictive..."
The game was nominated for the 2011 Game Developers Choice Online Awards in four categories: Best Visual Online Arts, Best Online Game Design, Best Audio for an Online Game, and Best New Online Game. It won the award for Best Online Game Design. However, the energy system was redesigned in the July 30, 2013 game update, and this criticism no longer applies.
Nick Popovich was the lead designer of Spiral Knights for all of its early development. On January 16, 2014, Popovich resigned his position at Three Rings, leaving the continuing development of the game to the rest of the Spiral Knights team.