Platform: Steam, Windows
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Hack ‘n’ Slash, Adventure
Players: Single player, 1-
Written by Whistler 28th September 2014
“Blue knight needs food badly!”
I vividly remember one early Christmas day, thanks to my father’s discovery of a mystical shop in the streets of Glasgow I grabbed myself a copy of Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy and whatever else I bought was overshadowed by those three.
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy was surprisingly one of the most played PS2 titles in the entirety of my catalogue being a Co Op focused hack ‘n’ slash that I played with almost every single one of my friends from the age of 12 -
Sadly I never really got into Gauntlet’s original home console inception for the NES but when I heard that Arrowhead Game Studios’ (most notably known for the multiplayer extravaganza that is Magicka) was attempting a reboot of this series I was glued to any news in regards to this title while I eagerly awaited it’s release.
Gauntlet much like it’s original release, is a top down hack ‘n’ slash with a heavy emphasis on Co Op gameplay where one to four heroes (Thor the warrior, Thyra the Valkyrie, Merlin a powerful Wizard, and Questor the Elven archer) will face the trials of the Gauntlet to gather 4 pieces of a magical broadsword to save Morak, bring home riches and glory.
I was actually surprised how faithful Arrowhead have been to the IP where they’ve pretty much fully recreated the feel of the original almost to a tee. This does mean that the game quickly becomes a little constrained by its box however, credit to the devs though as they did manage to mix the formula up just enough keep things interesting.
Each hero plays fairly differently from one another so changing heroes is a really effective way to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. While there’s the obvious differences like Questor’s ability to keep his distance and Thor can dish out some serious physical damage; Thyra on the other hand plays like a rather agile tank and Merlin plays much like the wizards of Magicka with a few constraints.
However while three of them are easy enough to learn, Merlin does require a fair bit more attention to master as while he plays like a twin stick shooter pulling off the spell combinations just doesn’t seem as responsive and often fails the combination due to the millisecond timing needed to activate the spell once the combo is inputted. This is and only having one of each hero in a party are small complaints though as you’ll likely find your niche amongst the four heroes and from there it’s just a matter of joining a party which is made nice and simple.
While the visuals aren’t MGS V gorgeous they have a real charm to them, encapsulating that old school Dungeons & Dragons feel with some nice lighting, clean visuals and some surprising amount of detail etched into the dungeons and characters. However whether online or local, a glaring issue in my eyes was the camera; while this may be just my poor eyesight, with the camera pullback as far as it is (further than any Gauntlet to date I believe), it barely contains a full party of four and I was often finding it difficult to keep track of where I was even with the colour coordinated heroes.
Sharing the screen, while reasonable, often became an issue as well since should one player stand idle the party cannot progress.
Dungeons do tend to feel a bit samey though and I could only stand to play Gauntlet in chunks as opposed to my usual don’t stop till you drop approach to games which is a shame; the gameplay is simple yet enjoyable but I just doesn’t engage me enough to keep playing. There’s plenty of levels to be done and difficulty levels to up the challenge but with armour changes being purely cosmetic and a lack of any real character progression besides small upgrades through masteries, it quickly becomes a bit of a grindfest for what is a fast pick up and play hack ‘n’ slash.
As mentioned Gauntlet is heavily Co Op focused and it shows, solo play is rather lonely and just doesn’t engage much and online play with randoms just doesn’t hold a torch to the times playing the older titles with buddies. Local play is an option luckily and as long as you can grab a friend or two to join you online Gauntlet has enough substance to at the very least get your money’s worth.
Thankfully while there’s not a huge range of levels to delve into, there’s enough challenge even from the get go to test your mettle. Similar to Dark Souls on normal and above difficulties you can’t just rush in and hope for the best; even the smallest of grunts in number can have you sucking your thumb in a matter of seconds if you misplay. Health drops are also rather scarce, instead of potions you regain health via food scattered throughout each floor; while on normal death only means losing a percentage of gold and a short respawn, on harder difficulties you can only revive so long as you hold a skull token but you’ll burn through those fast which if you’re party falls it’s an ambulance back to the first floor of that chapter.
Gauntlet isn’t anything new but it revitalizes the franchise and definitely deserves a look at for those in need of a simple Co Op game on Steam. The simple to pick up and play style is fun and so long as you can grab a friend or two it’ll last you as long as you’re willing to switch roles and take the game in bits rather than huge chunks. Sadly it’s replay value is let down by its repetitive nature of its framework, but as much as I do hate to say this, there’s enough legroom for DLC so Gauntlet can expand with more unique heroes and levels with different patterns to break that repetitive formula.
Both enjoyable local and online Co Op gameplay,
Somewhat limited replayability,
Lack of any noticeable character progression,
Repetitive level structure.
Gauntlet strikes a balance of classic gameplay with a modern frame and scores a 6/10.