I’m not usually a nostalgia fan, I tend to go for the newest of the new style games, but there is a special place in my heart for dungeon crawlers. Flash-back to days at the arcade, or as I remember, the skating rink, to play a remastered version of Gauntlet. A top down dungeon crawler with nostalgia and newness abound. With the popularity of the Diablo series it’s no surprise to see the rebirth of more games like it.
Gauntlet (2014) keeps true to its roots with four playable characters: Thor the Warrior, Thyra the Valkyrie, Questor the Elf, and Merlin the Wizard. New to the game is Lillith the Necromancer, and is available as downloadable content (DLC). The characters are given new power and shiny new makeovers compared to their modest root. This is quite a good game in terms of quality. The effects are pretty and the characters all have quirky lines and interactions.
The gameplay is simple enough, if you’re a tank get up in the enemy’s face, if you’re a damage dealer, stay away from the enemy’s face. In my playthrough I enlisted three friends to experience the game with me, two whom had played it before and two of us were fresh to the scene. I played the Elf as I like to sit in the back and pick people off, but once I found out that gold is not shared I became a loot whore and rolled in front of my team until I spotted enemies. At which point I would plant a bomb on the ground and roll away. The simple tactic of rolling anytime something came at me seemed to be paying off because I only died a few times. I also found out that as the Elf I could augment my bow to power up with my bombs and I could shoot them at people rather than just drop them on the ground and run away. The Elf has two uses for his bow, short ranged constant auto attacks, and long ranged sniping. If you activate a bomb while trying to snipe it will send the arrow flying with a bomb attached waiting to hit a target and then explode, very useful in most situations. The Elf is very good at taking down people, but not so good at taking down structures, and if there is a shield involved then you’re not going to do any damage.
Fluffy, one of my teammates, played the Necromancer. He’s played Gauntlet before, but hadn’t used the DLC yet. He raised hordes of skeletons from the bodies of our fallen foes which caused a lot of chaos among the group as it was very hard for us to spot enemy units in the mess of skeleton warriors he raised. We actually missed killing several enemies and had to search for them because of how many undead servants he awoke. He commanded them forward and they would surround our enemies taking them down easily. He commented often on how he felt the character was very broken, but lots of fun. The Necromancer is not a tank, but needs to be in the midst of battle to easily use her minions and to raise more. She dodges through them and gains soul power which allows her to keep using her magic. The skeleton’s she raises only last a short time and after fighting a bit they seem to develop a fit of ADD and collapse.
Yumi played the Valkyrie. Which she decided to do once she noticed she didn’t own the Necromancer and that the only other girl was Thyra. She was the one who ended up dying the most in our group. Which was fine since that meant she was taking all the damage and that was her job. Thyra is armed with a shield, which can stop her from taking damage, or it can be thrown for ranged damage, much like a Captain America shield, but her main weapon is a lance, which she uses to hit many targets at one time. She was constantly darting around in the crowd of enemies. The dangerous thing about throwing her shield is that she is vulnerable to attacks more-so at that time as she can’t use any of her shield abilities.
Finally, in our group of four, we had Andrew playing Thor the Warrior. As in any other game the Warrior is all about damage. Run in and mess things up. Slaughter your enemies quickly. He wields a battleaxe and spins around with it for even more area damage. The first upgrade that Andrew bought was a pair of speed boots that left a trail of fire behind him. He’d run into the chaos leaving a trail of blood and flame behind him. The only way to play the Warrior is to just keep attacking. If it moves it needs to die.
Now, with group of heros we cleared each level relatively easy. It’s not a terribly hard game, however we did only play it on normal level so if we were to turn it up a notch I’d probably be biting my tongue. We did miss out on playing one character as we substituted Merlin for Lilith. Merlin has a lot of spells available to him and at Andrew’s word, he is a high skill character. I imagine he’s just as playable as the others, but he probably has a lot more choices to him and choices make things more complicated, which really this game doesn’t need to be complicated. Gauntlet is fun as it is.
This game is your average dungeon crawler. If you ever played Champions of Norrath, you’d probably enjoy this game. Amazingly fun with a group, but I don’t imagine I’d ever want to play it alone. Get three friends together and work your way through the rooms, each has three levels with different objectives. After the room is completed you get the chance to buy. Make sure everyone is done buying things before you walk into the next room. Walking into the next room before you team is ready will pull them out of the shop, not let them buy anything, and you will get yelled at. Don’t make our mistakes!
To score this game I look at three elements, the originality of the game, the play of it, and how it looked. This can’t be that original of a game since it’s a remake and there are many like it. I’ve played way too many dungeon crawlers to give this a high score, but it does add elements of newness and quirkiness that I hadn’t seen before. The fact that health is given back by turkey dinners rather than little red orbs is interesting. The abilities are fun and add new elements to the game. Then there is the DLC which creates a whole new character. I don’t recall a Necromancer class that I thought worked out in a game, but this one makes it successful as it requires bodies to create his units and it lets her push the limits on being too powerful. However if there is a game for that kind of play style this is it. You never fight other players so there is that area of allowance that is offered when playing against AI. Overall I give the Originality a 6. It’s a reimagining of an old game.
Now for how it looked I’d say it’s spot on. I’ve mentioned the abilities looking pretty and really the walls have nice detail and barrels fall apart so nicely when you roll through them for their gold. I never had a doubt on what was what in terms of items. The purchase window is a bit lacking, but that’s about the only thing I have to complain about. It’s exactly what you would expect from a game that came out in 2014. I don’t mean Call of Duty or The Last of Us quality, but it does have an art style that wins out against most MMO’s. I give this game an 8 for art. It’s really good, but not actually mind blowing.
Then when it comes down to gameplay there are a bunch of points to consider. The controls are easy enough. You use WASD (keyboard) to move, left mouse click is a regular attack, right mouse click is an ability attack, and spacebar is used to activate the special abilities. Later on you buy relics which are activated with the Q and E keys. Everything remains pretty simple as long as you dodge around a bit and keep attacking. If your weapon isn’t hitting the enemy then you’re doing something wrong. The restricted character choice is something that is becoming rarer as games are allowing the player to make more choices. This game has a very linear style. You get abilities as the game requires you to. Relic selection is limited and more focused around leveling up the relics you buy than getting new things. It doesn’t offer much wiggle room for gameplay once the game has started. For all these things I give it a 6.5. It’s fun, but restricted.
This gives the game a 6.8 rating in my book. Understand that anything past a 5 is a pretty good game. Get this game if you are into co-op games, dungeon crawlers of any kind, or if you’ve played any of the games I’ve compared it to. It really is fun and easy time killer with friends. Sit back and relax to this game as it doesn’t take much time, but still offers the thrills of running away from death and killing a ton of enemies.
Sidney Shackleton | @Shacksi