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Indie Game Review: Gauntlet (2014)

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The Gauntlet franchise is revered as the Godfather of dungeon crawling RPGs. Most gamer’s fondest memories reside in Dark Legacy, like mine. Classic Gauntlet had a much more…retro appearance. Nonetheless, we haven’t had a Gauntlet title in a few years, that has now changed thanks to WB Games and Arrowhead games. I have fond memories of Gauntlet, and playing this reboot gave me a great feeling of nostalgia.

The Gauntlet has been opened and four heroes must defeat the monsters within to gain riches beyond their wildest dreams. Traditional storytelling here folks. This is the setting, this is the mission, now go kill monsters. Gauntlet’s atmosphere is fantastic despite being simple. It doesn’t attempt to be a grand epic. It doesn’t try to sell you off with gimmicks and backstories. It wants you to fight monsters, and that form of modesty is a huge bonus.

Level design is geared around clearing rooms of enemies to progress to a new area. Once you kill all the enemies, a door opens. Certain areas have their own puzzles to access new areas and while they are not incredibly common, they are fun to come across. Each “Act” has four levels to complete, every level has three stages and depending on the act you are in, the second level is different. For instance, the first act is all Egyptian themed, so the second level is about escaping the manifestation of Death while collecting gold and killing monsters.

Every character is efficient at killing monsters, but in their own way. Personally I found the Valkyrie and Warrior to be the most fun with the Wizard being the most complicated. The Elf is more of a team player compared to the other three. They have have their own special skills to use, Valkyrie throws her shield, Elf shoots a bunch of arrows, the Warrior spins, and the Wizard has a bunch of spells to use. My first issue with Gauntlet is actually the Wizard. He is incredibly complicated to use. You must use a combination of mouse clicks, shift, and the space bar to combine elements to created a wide array of offensive and defensive spells. He is incredibly complicated and his controls are poorly mapped.

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A new feature has been added to this game, relics. Think of them like equipment with active abilities. As you progress through dungeons you will pick up potions, potions give you the ability to use relics. Some buff you and your allies, some debuff enemies, and some even spawn monsters to fight with you. However, potions are limited to a certain amount per level, so using relics is more of a strategic resource. You collect gold to purchase relics and upgrade them. This is a welcome addition to the game and it makes every character unique. Seeing which players use which relics online is something else that makes every playthrough different.

The final problems with Gauntlet are ones that are pretty obvious when it comes to Co-Op driven titles. Gauntlet is incredibly dull by yourself and some bosses are crazy difficult alone. As such, the game also becomes cripplingly repetitive. Not to mention there is little replay value outside of achievements. This game MUST be played with other people if you wish to enjoy it for more than a week. If you love Gauntlet, you will love this game. Fans of the classic version have nothing to worry about. Arrowhead Games was able to stick to the source material without diminishing creativity and originality.

I give Gauntlet for the PC an 8/10. You can pick it up on Steam now.

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