A Knight’s Fee by Anders G. Jensen is one of the more compelling entries I’ve seen emerge from the Global Game Jam. What’s fascinating is that a talented character artist has chosen to make not one, but two games where they intentionally obfuscate the vision of the character as both a mechanic and a service to the atmosphere.
Compared to Blind Samurai, A Knight’s Fee is arguably the more playable of these two titles. Blind Samurai helps to establish the initial concept of having to rely on audio cues in the face of reduced stimuli which cause the game to feel quite spartan. This approach, however, pays off in how A Knight’s Fee manages to immediately establish a thick visual ambiance with adrenaline bleeding into the scenery in every direction.
Instantly dumped into a medieval battlefield, you’re a soldier of unknown origin with foes visible only through a deep shroud of fog. Overwhelmed by the initial charge, you rise to your feet, retaliating against anything that moves in this traumatic, grueling melee as you find yourself harassed by cavalry and nearly crushed beneath boulders lobbed by distant trebuchets.
An endless wave of soldiers continues to swarm around you until you’re inevitably overwhelmed, either slain at the edge of an enemy’s blade or put out of commission only to find yourself waking in a field hospital bed, where the horrifying reality dawns, you are no longer whole as your amputated limbs come into view.
And with every outcome, you are whisked back to your personal hellish Valhalla to relive these moments over and over. The all too familiar sight of pikes adorned with corpses of foes and countrymen alike in service of an unknown objective and a faceless king, your actions utterly absent of any glory or meaning, a Sisyphean field of bloodshed your only reward.
Rich sound design illuminates the true terror found on these proving grounds of yore, immersing the player in the bleak landscape and directionless furor. Clattering of arms, charging steeds, and the screams of men brought low instills raw emotion in any heart. I truly admire what Jensen managed to achieve with minimalist silhouettes and strong presentation chilling me to the bone. For as many games as there have been on the topic of ancestral lands under siege by feuding nations, few have captured the bleakness of such struggles as well as this.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice