Review: Candle Knight – A Wicked Knight to Remember

Candle Knight by Dracma Studios is a 2.5D action platformer and marks the Mexico-based studio’s first published game. You play as a diminutive knight with a candle for a head, blazing your way through the dark halls of a massive Gothic castle. There are some light narrative elements, but the real meat of Candle Knight is in the combat and platforming. You jump and slash your way through various distinct areas of the castle, including standard elements like a dungeon and library and more esoteric locations like an alchemy lab and clockwork workshop. A palette of deep purples and vibrant oranges creates interesting visual dynamism, and in conjunction with the intricately crafted environments and backgrounds makes this game a living work of art.

You start out with nothing but your bare hands and a head full of fire, but you acquire a sword and shield pretty quickly after some brief tutorial elements. The sword slashes feel weighty, and thankfully the game lets you attack omnidirectionally. It makes it a lot easier to attack airborne enemies or to punish foes from above when you don’t have to be coming at them from the side just to hit them. The shield, on the other hand, I found to be hit or miss (no pun intended) as to whether I would be able to block an attack or not. One of the later bosses especially frustrated me, as it seemed like they were the only enemy in the game that simply couldn’t be blocked.

Candle Knight Shield
Ah yes, a shiny new shield that I definitely didn’t loot from someone who looks exactly like me. This is fine.

Candle Knight employs a dynamic difficulty system tied to the ignis gauge, which determines the amount of damage you deal and receive. You have the Warm state, with low offense and high defense, the Ignited state, which is equal parts offense and defense, and Ablazed, with high offense and low defense. This gauge is built up by attacking foes and is depleted when blocking, allowing the player’s actions to influence the difficulty in real-time. Additional ways to deplete the ignis gauge build-up include using ranged abilities and venting, though the latter leaves you temporarily vulnerable. Striking a balance between offense and defense becomes crucial since blocking without any gauge build-up stuns you, leaving you vulnerable to enemy attacks. Sticking to the Ablazed state is equally dangerous, though, since you take twice as much damage as usual.

As far as upgrades go, your sword and shield can be improved at the merchant’s shop. These upgrades change both the appearance and stats of your equipment, but they are entirely linear. There is no decision to make, no trade-offs to consider, just direct upgrades to funnel gold into. The only other items the merchant offers are two consumables, one to restore your health and another to build your ignis gauge. I found myself wishing for a little more variety, and was a little disappointed every time I visited the merchant and still had nothing new to buy.

Candle Knight Merchant 1
Can I interest you in the finest selection of… the same four items I always sell?

While you do have to track down the merchant at first and find him in dedicated locations throughout each area, you unlock the ability to fast travel after progressing far enough in the story. This comes after unlocking the Merchant Hub and being given the wanderlust ability, which allows you to travel between any chalices you’ve unlocked. Prior to this, the only way to quickly travel between different areas is through paintings that act as shortcuts you can jump between. While useful, the painting method is definitely a lot more complicated than simply fast traveling. They do sometimes lead to loot you otherwise might not find, however.

In typical Metroidvania fashion, you’ll open shortcuts that make return trips a whole lot easier as well as traversal upgrades that make it possible to reach previously unreachable areas. The traversal upgrades are pretty standard, including a wall jump, dash, and double jump. They add a nice variety to your toolkit and obviously help with getting around, which is a good thing with the number of chests scattered about the game. That said, you’ll typically only find gold and consumables in chests, along with the occasional armor upgrade. I found myself less interested in looking for loot as the story progressed since there wasn’t all that much variety to find.

Candle Knight Painting
Pretty as the paintings are, fast travel is simply more convenient.

Candle Knight features Souls-like elements, including a checkpoint system (using chalices instead of bonfires), challenging bosses, and overall punishing combat. It was not uncommon for me to be sailing through a level only to be cut down in a few hits by an enemy while my ignis gauge was full, or for a troublesome boss to overwhelm my guard if I haven’t been keeping the heat up. Platforming isn’t much more forgiving, and if you aren’t careful enough to remain in bounds you’ll find yourself right back at the start of the traversal sequence. Not paying attention, coupled with the dark environments, plentiful enemies, and rampant traps, is a recipe for disaster and setbacks.

Much like your standard Souls-like, the story of Candle Knight is told through environmental cues and cryptic, one-sided dialogue with the few NPCs scattered throughout the world. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the quality of the cutscenes that were present. They were generally just short introductions to boss fights, but they helped set the stage incredibly well. Our silent protagonist might not have much to say, but his expressive movements say everything that needs to be said.

Candle Knight Characters
NPCs will often have useful tidbits of info, even if some of them are rather… eccentric.

The soundtrack of Candle Knight deserves nothing but praise, featuring a stellar collection of tracks that create unique soundscapes for each area you explore. From haunting and melodic symphonies to energetic and upbeat compositions, the music complements the game’s atmosphere perfectly. Moreover, you gain the ability to replay these tracks at your leisure after the merchant hub becomes available, although unlocking them requires completing various platforming challenges.

While Candle Knight is a relatively straightforward experience, it successfully blends whimsical charm with an oppressive, brooding atmosphere. It manages to capture the nostalgia of the early platformers of my childhood, while still mixing things up just enough to provide a unique experience all its own. 

Austin played Candle Knight on PC with a review key.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments