Like an old man reminiscing about the days of WWII or Pearl Harbor, many of us (myself included) can remember the hours lost in Ye Olde Arcade. We remember pockets full of quarters, the loud beeps, buzzes, whistles, and dings of wall to wall arcade machines, lighting up the place like we were in Vegas, and that time you were challenged by a stranger and you came out victorious. Arrowhead’s reboot of Gauntlet has managed to capture that same great experience we remember from the 1985 classic and breathe new life into the game – while still adhering to the mechanics, style, and gameplay that had us spending our entire allowances those many years ago.
Not at all ashamed to both maintain and pay very due homage to the original, Gauntlet sets it off right from the beginning by introducing us once again to our four great races. Thor, the bloodthirsty Barbarian; Thyra, the brave and deadly Valkyrie; Merlin, a skillful and wise Wizard; and Questor, the quick and cunning Elf. Each race has specific strengths and powers that make them formidable against the hordes of enemies they will face. Thor and Thyra are the melee characters, wielding a deadly axe and razor sharp sword, respectively, while Merlin and Questor are kiting races, allowing the player to take advantage of distance with the help of Questor’s arrows and Merlin’s dark magic. The game supports both controller and keyboard and mouse, however this game screams to be played with a controller, especially if you really want to experience that same classic style of gameplay. The action gets thick in many places, and I personally found the keyboard and mouse to hinder more than help.
Once the player has picked his or her hero or heroine, the game quickly takes off, sending you into the accursed dungeon. Zombies, skeletons, ghosts, mummies, and even Death itself are all waiting to strip your life away and leave you a bloody streak on the gauntlet floor. There is tons of gold lavishly laid all over the dungeons, and friends will soon turn to enemies as you all try frantically to grab it all for yourself. When your hero is dying and “needs food badly”, you’ll find plates of turkey in various spots. Just like in the classic, don’t go swinging your axe too close to the food, or you’ll slash it to oblivion and have to hope that the gods will favor you with more sustenance later on.
Although the game is labeled as an RPG and contains many elements of your standard role-playing game, I’ve always felt like Gauntlet played much more like a classic Beat ‘Em Up than an RPG, and the 2014 version holds up to that as well. Although not a side-scroller like most Beat ‘Em Up games, the player(s) are quickly dispatching large hordes of monsters, and aren’t able to progress past that point until all creatures are exterminated. Players also do not level up in the traditional RPG sense, but can use their bagfuls of gold they’ve held onto to purchase different powerups.
If you tend to be a Lone Ranger like myself, you’ll find a great solo experience here, with tons of challenge and replay value. However, to truly get the most out of Gauntlet, this sword shines brightest with three other friends present to aid you in your quest. Most of the baddies are roaming around, ready for you to take them out, but some appear out of nowhere, and there are huge hordes that are being held back by doors, waiting to engulf you and eat you alive once you release them. If you get too cocky and you let them surround you, you could very well be killed, and your gold will be up for grabs. With a full team and a little planning and communication, you can clear each area pretty quickly… or you could just wing it, go in there just slayin’ like crazy, throwing caution to the wind, stealing your buddies’ gold as payback for them eating your much needed turkey earlier, and basically just having a blast. However you play, it’s always better with friends, even if you just hop into a match with a bunch of strangers.
Gauntlet is easy to pick up, hard to put down, casual, yet challenging. It’s an excellent reboot of the classic quarter-swallower, whether you have a team full of heroes with you or if you prefer to go in alone and test your might. Grab Gauntlet on Steam now for $19.99, round up your D&D coven, and go forth and slay!