Having played the game for over 300 hours, seeing many iterations of the game, and seeing the general direction of where the game is headed, I honestly can't recommend it for most players.
There's a lot of problems with the way the game is run and how it is being developed that are more than a little concerning. Over the course of the two years I've played this game, I've gone from having a lot of hope for it and being really excited to see how it develops, to being sorely disappointed with the quality of the updates and actually feeling sad for all the squandered potential the game had.
Let's get into details now shall we?
Pretty unique in its gameplay. Haven't seen any other MMO that plays quite like it. A good take on translating the top-down Legend of Zelda style play and turning it into an MMO. It's easy to understand and play, with some advanced techniques to pick up along the way.
The randomly generated levels also add a bit of replayability to the game.
The music for the game is pretty good. Though generally upbeat and calm, it can get hectic or atmospheric when it needs to.
The sound effects are also pretty decent and add a lot of character to the colorful cast of enemies you'll find yourself beating down.
The absolute biggest positive of the game in my opinion. Virtually every art asset is well designed and rendered in a very unique and eyecatching style. They're also very well animated to boot!
Granted, there are some exceptions where lazy design or lackluster work sticks out (an example being a certain line of upgradeable helmets only has 2 textures between all 6 of them), but overall the art is what stands out the most to me.
Honestly one of the nicest MMO communities I've seen. There's hardly any hostilities towards other players and most players are genuinely helpful towards one another. The glaring exception being the PvP minigame, Lockdown.
One of the most disappointing things about the game is the general lack of content brought by updates. It is understandable that updates aren't frequent when you realize how small the OOO dev team is, but the amount of content released over the course of the two years I've played is pitifully small. A lot of the "new" content is just rehashed older content to pad out the game or one-time bosses, enemies, and set pieces put into single Missions while the rest of the gameworld (which is played VASTLY more than most single Missions) is in sore need of more variety.
And that's not even getting into the annoying cash-grab updates dedicated solely to costumes.
Being an MMO built on Java, there's definitely going to be performance issues unless the game is perfectly optimized (which it isn't). An abundance of entities on the screen can slow the game to a crawl no matter the quality, which wouldn't be a problem if there weren't also an insane abundance of levels that use huge hordes of enemies and particle effects. The game lags a lot and that's not even getting into the extremely small number of servers causing problems for those that can't get a decent connection.
Then there's also an inherent problem with the game running on Macs which further harms performance. Not as pronounced a problem, but definitely noticeable.
One of the biggest breaking points for me. The balance of the arsenal of weapons and armor is abyssmal. Some weapons are inexplicably far more powerful and useful than others. Others are so painfully useless or weak that it's a wonder if they get used at all.
Example: Any armor that "emphasizes" defense doesn't offer much more defense than other armors that also offer major attack bonuses. Even then, most of the defensive sets only allow you to take a single extra hit or maybe two incomparison to the offensive sets. Essentially, any armor set that doesn't boost your attack power in some way is obsolete to those that do.
It's been this way for YEARS, with the community clamoring for balance and suggesting ways to balance things out. Some balance changes were even promised for underpowered or broken weapons, but after more than a year on some of them, no changes have been made.
It completely baffles me why the devs can't simply change numbers around on the equipment, but it apparently is too tough for them to do so.
Speaking of broken balance...
The broken balance certainly doesn't help things in Spiral Knight's PvP mini-game. Aside from equipment making it hard to take seriously, it's a PvP game and generates all the toxicity that a PvP crowd can. Unless you're really into PvP, it's best to steer clear from this unbalanced mess.
Being a Free-to-Play MMO, grinding is to be expected. However, with the limited number of randomly generated areas and how little moneyand experience some areas offer in comparison to the boss levels, it gets incredibly dull, incredibly fast.
And then there's the issue of the Forge, a mechanic that slows down a player from levelling their equipment. Aside from needing the game's equivalent to experience, you also need a rather big number of rare items for a CHANCE to bring your euipment to the next level unless you use a LARGE number of said rare items to get that chance to 100%. Then there's the fact that you can't access the Forge from everywhere in the game, which creates a disconnect between gaining a level and that rewarding feeling of leveling up.
I don't quite agree with OOO's idea of difficulty being to add more health and damage onto monsters or to throw so many monsters at the players that damage is nigh unavoidable. It just reinforces the superiority of the offensive sets of equipment since they can deal with both sitautions faster and more efficiently. More diverse groupings of enemies or improving the AI along with the general power given to the players is the more fulfilling and strategic route to go, in my opinion. Giving the mosters more health and damage just makes battles long, grindy, and extremely frustrating should they touch you.
- Revive system
This used to be a big plus for the game until the mechanic was completely overhauled earler this year.
Before, players could pick up any allies that got incapacitated at the cost of half of their health. It encouraged teamplay and helping each other out, while also making most players cautious with their health since it could save a teammate as well.
Now, you can't offer your health to revive your team. It instead relies on a rare item that you can either get from treasure drops or purchase with your own money. If you want to revive a teammate it's going to cost you one of your own revive items and to even do so you have to open a menu and select to revive said teammate. It takes a lot more time and is never even mentioned as an option in the game as opposed to the old method where all you had to do was stand near your teammate, see the revive icon, and click.
This change really broke the teamplay aspect of the game for me. Instead of your team making daring rescues to revive one another, now you have your team lying on the floor begging for a revive because they don't want to use their own.
- End game
The end game has been stagnant for more than a year now. Once you have your 5 Star equipment set and reach the end of the Missions there honestly isn't much to do unless you have money to pay for the Shadow Lairs. Even then, the Shadow Lairs are seriously just rehashed boss levels with hordes more enemies to make it more "difficult." What's worse is that you have to pay an exorbitant amount of Energy/real money to even enter one of them ONCE. All for useless, gimmicky pieces of armor.
And that's my review for the game. Feel free to give it a look (it is free afterall), but be warned that there are a LOT of problems with the game.
Personally, I'd recommend trying out another free MMO like Warframe or maybe Vindictus.