Gauntlet: Slayer Edition for PC Review

Check out our video review:

The Gauntlet series has been around for quite some time. Since 1985 to be exact. And since that time the formula hasn’t really changed much. If you’ve played one of them, you’ve pretty much played them all. Apparently Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, released in 2006, is the worst but I’ve never played it so I can’t comment. This series is all about grinding. You kill monsters, collect gold to buy items, and level up. That’s pretty much it. The first Gauntlet game I ever played was Dark Legacy and I guess I enjoy the constant grinding because I really got into it. But that’s the thing, you have to like this kind of gameplay otherwise it’s going to be a boring drag. The new Gauntlet was developed by Arrowhead Game Studios, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and released for PC in September, 2014 and the Slayer Edition was released for the PlayStation 4, and I think the PC as well, in August, 2015 and I played the PC version for this review. The new Gauntlet definitely does a few things differently compared to its predecessors but the real question is, does it revitalize the series?

I don’t know who plays these games for the story but Gauntlet does have one. It’s very shallow and feels like a complete afterthought and I expected as much. As soon as you begin the campaign you’re greeted by a wizard named Morak. He explains that he’s the only wizard powerful enough to summon the Gauntlet and only the strongest will prevail. He asks that you obtain the three lost shards of Tyrfing and in return you will be rewarded with power and riches. That’s the whole the story in a nutshell. As you work your way down the floors Morak will occasionally comment on what’s happening as will your character, although the voice acting is horrible. The characters make stupid and obvious comments that just come across as corny and not in a good way.

Gauntlet really pushes co-op gameplay and there’s a few modes to play through, all of which can be played solo or co-op. Campaign, Endless, and the Colosseum. The Campaign is obviously the story mode. You must work your down through floors on the map screen. Each time you complete a floor another will unlock. There’s three major areas which are differentiated by themes – the Crypts, Caves, and a Hell themed area with fire and lava spewing everywhere. At the end of each area is a boss fight and after defeating the boss you obtain one of the shards. The floors become harder as you progress and the map will sometimes have branching paths but they don’t branch far and the gameplay never changes. In Endless you fight your way through a never ending series of floors and the Colosseum is a dungeon that’s randomly generated each day and if you win you’re granted special rewards.

I would call Gauntlet a hack and slash dungeon crawler because that’s really what it is. You move from floor to floor killing hordes of enemies and collecting gold. You go from one room to the next and they’re all monster closets – meaning you have to kill all of the monsters in one room to progress to the next. As soon as you enter a room, the doors usually lock so you’re stuck inside and enemies will come spawning in as well as summoning stones. Enemies will constantly spawn in unless you destroy the stones. As you progress the enemies become faster and harder to kill. At first you’ll be fighting hordes of mummies and skeletons but soon you’ll be up against demons, cultists, orcs, and spiders, and it won’t be uncommon to die from being overrun. Enemies will charge directly at you and you can get swarmed quickly so knowing when to move and attack is crucial as is knowing what attacks to use and when. I would imagine playing in co-op makes things a tad easier and the series has always had a focus on co-operative gameplay. Some floors contain what I’ll call sub-bosses like a Lich, Spider Queen, and Demon Horror. These are just larger and tougher enemies that do more damage and take longer to kill. The three actual boss fights in the game are okay, nothing too memorable, and the second boss is definitely the easiest of the bunch. One of worst parts of the gameplay is the whole Death/Grim Reaper thing. Select floors will have the Grim Reaper appearing and if he manages to touch you, it’s an instant death. You need to avoid him and eventually he’ll disappear for a brief time only to reappear a few moments later.

The gold you obtain is used to buy new weapons, upgrades, and appearance options at the character selection screen. You can buy items in between floors or before starting any of the modes and this shop system adds the only real form of replay value. Relics and Talismans add new abilities to your character’s arsenal and the appearance options are just cosmetic. Capes can only be acquired by completing the Colosseum events but they hardly seem worth it. All of the weapons you can buy change up your main attacks and are unique to each character. You don’t actually level up or get stronger in Gauntlet so you need to rely on skill and your arsenal to be successful. Some floors can be really challenging sometimes and you don’t have an infinite amount of lives, or in this case, Skull Coins. If you die you can use a skull coin to respawn but lose all of your skull coins and you have to start the floor over and just try to do better. Skull Coins can be obtained within the floors or by killing a specific amount of enemies.

Before you begin in any mode, you get to choose from one of five characters. The Elf is a ranged character that uses a bow. The Warrior wields an axe and is primarily a melee character. The Valkyrie is also melee character with a sword, shield, and spear. The Wizard focuses on magic and the Necromancer specializes in using undead minions to dominate the battlefield. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses and I can’t use the Wizard for shit. I would normally play as the Elf or Valkyrie. Each character does control a bit differently. For instance, when choosing the Elf you may feel as if you’re playing a dual-stick shooter but choose the Wizard and the control scheme is quite a bit different. There’s three difficulty modes – Easy, Normal, and Hard. Easy has fewer and slower enemies and Hard mode contains faster, stronger, and more enemies overall but also rewards you with more gold. Throughout each floor is food that gives you more health and you can also pick up potions to be used as powerful attacks. What I don’t like about these two things is that they can be destroyed by your attacks and most of the time it’s accidental. You’ll never want to stop attacking in Gauntlet so it’s inevitable that food will be destroyed and that can really suck if you’re in a tight spot.

The one cool thing about Gauntlet is that each character, their gold, and equipment carries over into each mode. If you manage to obtain a crown and finish the floor wearing that crown you will be rewarded with extra gold. I found that the Endless mode is the easiest way to collect a mass amount of gold quickly. Although it gets boring after a while especially because you have to start from the same area each time which means you progress through the same areas in the same order. You can’t select to start in any particular theme or choose any kind of customization options which would have added so much more replay value. Apparently, Gauntlet has this whole randomly generated level-thing going on but, unfortunately, it becomes hard to notice because you’ll frequently see the same chunks over and over again. Most of the floors have doors that need to be unlocked with keys which can always be found somewhere nearby. Every now and then you’ll come across a crack in a wall that can be blown open from an explosive found in the environment that must be carried and placed next to that crack. In my experience, I’ve noticed there may be more doors than keys which means some doors may not be worth opening because others may have better goodies behind them like gold and food. Very few floors have puzzle elements and they’re very simplistic. You’ll place statues in holes, push blocks, and turn cranks, but overall, each floor is very linear and there’s no real thinking required. After firing up the game for the first time a window appeared telling me Masteries have been converted to gold awards. I don’t know what purpose they served before but to unlock Masteries you need to meet specific requirements with a specific character like dying a certain amount of times or killing a specific number of enemies.

This series has always been about mindless grinding, whether playing solo or with friends, and I think Dark Legacy was the peak thanks to having plenty of content like a ton of characters, secrets, areas, and a leveling system. Unfortunately, for this iteration of Gauntlet, there’s only five characters and if you play this game religiously for a few weeks you can probably buy everything and that’s it, there’s nothing else to do. Dark Legacy had a shit-ton more characters and they would level up and get stronger as you progress so there was plenty of replay value. Granted, it was just more grinding, but at least you had the options. You don’t have these options here and the Endless and Colosseum modes are just not enough. The Endless mode just becomes boring and the only rewards really worthwhile from the Colosseum events is the capes but they’re cosmetic and meaningless.

When it comes to the presentation, Gauntlet looks pretty good for what it is. Nothing amazing by any means but it looks decent and runs smoothly. I experienced no technical issues or bugs so that’s always good. Enemies will tear apart in a gory and satisfying way with body parts flying in different directions. It’s nowhere near the satisfaction of killing enemies in Diablo III, but it’s good enough to keep you playing. The sound effects are also worth mentioning. Explosions sound pretty good, the sounds of attacks are satisfying, and the enemy roar and growls sound appropriate. The music is actually pretty catchy, too. It’s your typical fantasy orchestral stuff but it doesn’t sound too bad. It gets a bit repetitive after a while but the menu music did get stuck in my head for a few days.

I wouldn’t say this new Gauntlet is a bad game but even though it manages to maintain what the series is known for, it takes too many steps back. Eliminating the leveling and sense of character progression really was a bad idea and it’s one of the major reasons this game lacks in replay value. But there’s other problems, too. The randomly generated dungeons could be better, there’s a serious lack of diverse areas, and none of the equipment you can buy feels satisfying enough to be worth it. I would still recommend Gauntlet: Dark Legacy over this game any day of the week but it’s not a bad game and I would recommend it if you can find it on sale.

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