The dungeon crawler video game genre really does owe it all to 1985’s Gauntlet. The top down multiplayer title has been copied ever since with similar titles in the action/RPG genre, most notably the new genre king, Diablo III, which has built upon Gauntlet’s sturdy foundations.
So yes, if you’re a retro fan or recently found yourself absorbed by the world of Diablo III on PC or consoles, there’s certainly fun to be had with this PS4 update of the recent PC remake. The graphics are slightly shinier than the PC version and there are new items to unlock, but realistically, there’s no reason to double dip unless your mates never wanted to play on PC.
As ever, Gauntlet works best with friends, either online or with local co-op. Characters include the typical tropes. The muscled warrior, the charging Valkyrie, the arrow-slinging elf and the spell-casting wizard. The warrior and Valkyrie are your close range bruisers while the other two are much more comfortable at range (terrible at close quarters).
Beginners would do well to play with the first two, as timing the ranged attacks can take some getting used to and the wizards spells that combine the elements for different results like ice blasts, fire mortar bombs, fireballs, teleporting, thunder shields and so on can take a while to learn and their rather slow fire-rate doesn’t suffer fools in the more packed dungeons.
The game itself is very simple, travel through dungeons and kill everything in sight and occasionally find a key. Enemies like skeletons, ghouls, wizards and spiders soon swarm the screen, making it all too easy to lose yourself in the mess. The camera is placed way too far from the action, making it difficult to see when you’re being attacked and you’ll only really notice when you realise your health bar is teetering on the edge of the abyss.
Extra lives are earned by racking up kills, but they’re shared between the team, which can be annoying when playing with careless types. It’s worth noting though, that if the team is close to the exit, a dead player can respawn for free at the next stage, which is often a better tactic. Competitive players will enjoy stealing gold from under the nose of other players and comparing kill counts is always fun at the end of a stage.
There’s no avoiding the comparisons with Diablo III, and sadly Gauntlet comes off a distant second best in every aspect. Your moves list is disappointingly short and the only loot available is the expensive shop items that give you a different special attack for your weapon or a magic blast. With no ‘try before you buy’ though, you’ll often be disappointed with the effectiveness of your latest pricey spend. This is offset by the surprisingly fun way some spells combine with other players. For example, the warrior’s freeze blast is supported by the Valkyrie’s shield throw, which is usually straight, but now arcs around to smash the frozen crowd.
There are cosmetic pieces to buy, but they make no statistical difference, making the experience feel all the more shallow. On the plus side, the lack of a levelling system means you can play online with random people and never feel underpowered compared to people with new spells. Because that’s just it, after you’ve unlocked a few specials, newer ones are often just different and not necessarily better.
The main campaign will only last a few hours, but there are daily challenge rooms and an endless mode to slog through on the long journey to meeting the high Trophy unlock requirements. £15.99 is quite a lot to pay for something so brief, especially as there’s a good chance you’ll only want to play as half of the characters. What’s worse, the fifth character, the Necromancer, will cost you an additional £3.99, rather than be included in this new edition. No thanks.
If you are looking a basic action dungeon crawler though, without the constant obsessive quest for loot, to play with your friends, then Gauntlet could be worth a look. The netcode was stable throughout for me, with the only issue being booted back to the menus if the host leaves rather than the game migrating to another player.
- Pick up and play fun
- Multiplayer matches are fun
- Netcode seems solid
- Camera is too far away
- Only four characters included for £15.99
- No levelling or loot drops kills longevity
The Short Version: This could have been much better if it had made a few more modern day concessions like random loot drops and a proper XP system. Still, if you’re a retro gamer who fancies a change to Diablo III, it’s undeniably fun for an evening session while you catch up with friends or even with randomers online.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | PC
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive