9/24/2014

Game Review - #Gauntlet 2014 #needfoodbadly

I picked up the 2014 version of Gauntlet (available on Steam) by Arrowhead Studios. I've given the game 15 hours so far since its release so I believe I can make an honest assessment of game from both the nostalgic (I put at least $300 into the original arcade version) and modern game design and playing perspectives. Keep in mind I play this with a keyboard and mouse (Razer Naga).

The Good

1. The game play and design are polished with a few exceptions. The game feels like Gauntlet in 2014 and that is a good thing. The same run around, find keys, open doors, get potions, and the characters and narrator are all there from the original. What has changed is the fun factor and a much shorter game. The characters do more, they are flashier and more unique, and they feel solid when played. Questor the Elf definitely has the easiest playstyle, followed by Thyra the Valkyrie, Thor the Warrior, and finally Merlin the Wizard who is definitely the hardest to play.

2. I found myself enjoying Thyra for the best balance of defense and offense. Thyra has great movement, can block any attack (yes any, even the end boss), and has a great offense as well. I suggest for starting players if you want to get into the fray, choose Thyra first.

3. The mastery levels are nice touch and I really like how they build your character up. You have to choose before you go in whether you are going for no deaths or to dying a million times on purpose.

4. $20 is about the perfect price for the game. I can honestly say I am glad I bought it.

The (Somewhat) Bad

1. Numerous bugs still exist in the game (crashes at times, sound cuts out, visual bugs). Luckily these aren't game-breaking.

2. The camera tries hard to be there for you but currently it leads to more deaths than to give you a clear view of the game. In reality I wish each player had their own screen to look at (e.g. Diablo 3) versus the 3/4-view that traps players.

3. Not being able to check your mastery progression at any time in the game is very annoying. A key to do this needs to be added.

4. Merlin plays too much like Magicka (another Arrowhead product). I programmed my Razer Naga to switch between the nine spells he has and it then became much easier to play. My guess is a lot of other people are going to do the same thing.

5. Cosmetic items are essentially worthless. I'd rather see that you have to buy new gear with better attributes after finishing a difficulty to do better in the harder difficulties than have just a look that nobody cares about.

6. Mastery progression is way too high of a curve at times - it's a ploy for replay value. I do not want to go from 2,000 to 8,000 just for 5% more of an attribute.

7. The game is too short. Normal is completed within 5 hours with a halfway decent team of players. Hopefully Arrowhead now that they have our money have a plan for future content.

8. You are forced into being only one of the four characters. While this mimics the original arcade, in this day and age I shouldn't be forced to play Merlin if I don't want to. Again, this needs to be changed to allow multiple people to live out their Legolas dreams if they wish.

The Ugly

1. The game has no way to chat with other players so you spend a lot of your time in public games using the emotes to try and cajole other players to go the way they need to go, or for you to move due to the camera getting you stuck.

2. The world leader-board was hacked within one hour of release. Currently there are players hacking to over 1.9 trillion points in single player mode. Arrowhead has yet as of this review to respond to a plan to either secure the boards or (as I've suggested on the Steam forums) remove them entirely until they have a way to fix them.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a game that can help you pass some time and is casual, then Gauntlet is definitely the kind of game to lead to a night of fun. If you are looking for something more robust and long-term then this is not the game you are looking for; I would suggest another Action RPG such as Path of Exile or Diablo 3.

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