There is a rich history in the Gauntlet series. Starting way back in 1985 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it’s a staple in hack and slash arcade gaming. Last year, Arrowhead Game Studios released an updated version/reimagining in 2014 for the PC. Now, the game has been re-released with new content and tweaks to the core gameplay, known as Gauntlet: Slayer Edition. Released for the PlayStation 4 and a free update for PC players, it’s a fun game for a group of friends or even solo, but the solo experience seems to have a small handicap attached to it.
The core of last year’s release on PC is still the same and you can read a more in-depth analysis in a review of the original PC release. The game focuses on four warriors stuck in Gauntlet, a labyrinth by the wizard Morak. The adventurer must gather the treasure within, including a sword which will release Morak from the Gauntlet. The story is just there to give some sense of direction for the player. Players go through the different floors and battling various monsters to collect gold to upgrade the four characters. The four adventurers are all unique, offering different combat strategies. It does change up the gameplay a little, but not to the point where the game plays differently.
There are two new modes available for play in addition to the campaign in the Slayer Edition. The first is known as Endless Mode. As the name suggests, Endless Mode is run of infinite dungeons and monsters to rake up the gold. The only way for this mode to end is if the player or players, depending if this is group play or not, to die. Each floor offers a chance to buy items and spells at the end, changing up the gameplay for every floor. This is the game’s horde mode and it can be fun in bursts. However, unless one is skilled in playing alone, tackling the mode alone can be a bit of a hassle. There’s also the daily Colosseum challenges, also offering more gold and new clothing options for all the characters. They’re a decent distraction from the main game and offer a chance to upgrade the different characters through a different avenue.
The issue Gauntlet suffers is the heavy repetition in the gameplay mechanics. The game soon fell into familiar territory. Despite giving each characters unique abilities, going through the different floors all felt formulaic. Defeat enemies, gather gold, upgrade the characters when it is possible and repeat. It doesn’t feel like there is any real strategy to it. More often than not, while playing as the Valkyrie, for example, it boiled down to swinging the sword and using her unique abilities, throwing her shield like Captain America. That’s how every level was tackled. There needed to be an opportunity to offer more strategies to tackle the game.
Of course, the game is first and foremost meant to be played with friends, whether it is with a few friends on the couch or over the net with complete strangers. So it’s disappointing to see that, while it can be played with one person, it does feel like there is a handicap to solo players. There was a missed opportunity to provide computer allies for solo players to provide the full experience of playing in a party. Expect to die a lot as well, as even on normal difficulty, it can get a little difficult. It’s not because of excellent AI but a number’s game. It gets more difficult when playing solo, as swarms can get too much.
The level design is dreary and dull. While it does fit the purpose of the story since the adventurers are trapped in a labyrinth, they felt lifeless. The actual layouts are quite basic, but that’s expected. The art design is decent enough, but don’t expect anything on a high level. The soundtrack is forgettable, but it’s nothing but white noise when one plays the game. Every character is voiced and it’s hit and miss. With the focus on the co-op arcade gameplay, it’s no surprise these areas of the game aren’t up to a high standard.
Gauntlet: Slayer Editions adds to the original release on PC last year. As someone who played it for the first time with this version, it still needed to be a little bit more polished. It’s not recommended to play Gauntlet solo because there is a slight handicap. However, playing with others makes it a better experience. Of course, the game is focused on mulitplayer gameplay. The grind to make the characters better adds to the frustration, but the different avenues to obtain more gold does alleviate some of the frustration. The game is quite fun with others, but the solo experience could have been better.
Gauntlet: Slayer Edition is now available on Playstation 4 on the Playstation Store, which is the version the review is based on. It is also available on PC via a free update to the original game. A review code was provided by publisher WB Games Australia for the purpose of this review. The reviewer focused on the single player experience due to no PlayStation Plus subscription and no one to join in on local co-op play.