Finally, scientific proof that Smash Bros. would be better with shotgun-toting crabs

Lobster with a rocket launcher
(Image credit: Prima Materia)

When a game developer asks "Do you play Dark Souls?", they're usually going to follow that question with a demo of a densely interconnected game world or a punishing combat system, something clearly influenced by FromSoftware's RPG series. This is the first time someone's asked me if I've played Dark Souls and then showed me a game about crabs with M16s.

Marine biology fact: Big crabs are scary, but they'd be even scarier if they could use M16s, bazookas, or anti-tank rifles. Knights of the Deep has all of these things, alongside magic wands, baseball bats and katanas that can slice through a hard carapace in a single killing blow. It's an absurd riff on Nintendo's Super Smash Bros., but with crustaceans, and it might be the single most popular booth at Brazil's international games festival. I love it.

Knights of the Deep is the best kind of surprise: at a glance it looks like a fake game someone would make for a 10 second gag in a stoner comedy—Seth Rogen takes a bong hit and then yells at the TV as ShrimpLord69 picks up his crab and throws him off the map. But it has way more to it than first appears, with multiple types of attacks and counters against them. That Dark Souls line wasn't a joke: the combat here pulls a few things straight from those games, including a heavy attack on a controller's triggers, holding a button to run and tapping it to dodge roll, and another button to parry.

Yes: Your crab can parry. Sekiro may be a 92/100, but it'd be at least a 98 if you played as a crab instead of a ninja.

I quickly took to using the grab button to pick up other crabs and either hurl them off the edge of the arena (tricky, because your opponent can quickly break free by mashing buttons) or bury them in the sand, which gave me a few seconds to wallop on them. Heavy attacks are slow but powerful, and locking onto enemies gives your crab a different set of attack animations, which vary between crustaceans. There's even a freaking taunt button, which you can use in front of an enemy to steal charge from their serotonin meter that powers up their crab. Of course taunting leaves you vulnerable, and I spent a good chunk of my time with Knights of the Deep getting destroyed by the developers who weren't afraid to show me up.

Some of the power-ups scattered around the arena are straight out of Smash Bros, like the bat you can use to smash someone out of the stadium arena or the fan that lets you deal damage as fast as you can mash a button. But then there are also the guns and bombs and magic wands—it's a chaotic mix that absolutely makes the game. Knights of the Deep's developers unabashedly put in whatever the hell they wanted with zero regard for thematic consistency, and it kicks ass. More games should be shitposts that are 100% committed to the bit.

As silly as it is, the surprisingly involved controls, mix of attack types and counters, and unique abilities between crabs left me thinking Knights of the Deep could have some real depth (heh heh).. The developers likened it to the way Smash Bros. is a light party game for some people and a complex fighting game for others, and they want their game to be the same. There's a lot more planned before Knights of the Deep is finished, including about a dozen playable crustaceans and competitive modes like CTF and team deathmatch. 

It's already a lot of fun, and has working online support for 4-16 player matches, depending on the level. You can get a beta key for free right now from the Discord, which currently has just over 1,000 members.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).