Insert Disk collects Gauntlet Slayer Edition for the PC.
Today’s retro game review is Gauntlet Slayer Edition for the PC. This retro gaming classic is the focus of part 9 of the 10 part Insert-Disk Gauntlet Mini Series Where we will take a look back at Gauntlet, Gauntlet The Deeper Dungeons, Gauntlet 2, Gauntlet: The Third Encounter, Gauntlet 3, Gauntlet 4, Gauntlet Legends, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition as well as a bonus look at the Gauntlet origin story in Dandy and Dark Chambers.
Welcome to the Gauntlet retrospective part 9 of 10.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. It’s part 9 of this Gauntlet Mini series. Welcome to the Gauntlet! You join us at the end of our quest together. This series has explored the classic era, the Legends era and we now conclude our journey with the modern era.
In 2005 The Seven Sorrows may not have been to everyone’s tastes but it did at least show the limits of the series as a 3rd person hack and slash. It was at this point that most fans of the series would have slowly moved on to other series. With games such as God of War and Devil May Cry making better efforts there was no room in the gaming world for Gauntlet. 2005 would see the series shut up shop for some time. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later in 2014 we saw the release of a game simply known as Gauntlet on the PC. This had been the longest ever period in the series history of no new title being released. Most commonly known as Gauntlet 2014 to avoid confusion with other titles the game is also often referred to online as the Slayer edition. This is largely down to the DLC pack now included in the base game set. It had been a long time since Gauntlet was relevant to gamers. Those of us that played the original Gauntlet first time around were now in our 30’s and so many other series had become far more engaging.
However, never underestimate the power of nostalgia. The last top down perspective Gauntlet had been Gauntlet 4 all the way back in 1993, some 21 years ago at this point. It seemed as if the gaming world had missed a trick. The preoccupation with polygons had led Gauntlet down an un-natural route, or at least a route that would only ever lead to a dead end. Where was the modern Gauntlet for all those children of the 80’s that wanted an update on the formula?
Enter Arrow Head Game Studios and a publishing deal with Warner Brother Games who now held the rights to use the Gauntlet trademark. Arrow Head Game Studios were not exactly a household name and very much an independent studio. Their biggest mainstream success being Magika, released through Steam. Incidentally a great game and inexpensive to purchase. Magika is 4 players set in a fantasy setting in a co-operative campaign. Sound similar to another series you may know? You can definitely see the potential in a Gauntlet game in a similar style. And that is pretty much what happened. Using the Bit Squid engine Gauntlet went through yet another reboot. Now it has to be said that I was a little bit sceptical how the game would turn out. How many times do we hear the story of a reboot only to be disappointed and fans we’re used to being burnt by this point. It has to be said though that Gauntlet 2014 was not quite what I expected yet also excellent in its own right. On one hand it is certainly fair to call this game a reboot, in some ways almost a fan made game reboot. On the other hand though the game is different enough to be considered a reimagining. There’s enough here to say yes, this is a Gauntlet game but importantly there’s enough here to update the formula whilst staying true to the source material. The best I can communicate this is if you took the sentiment of the classic era and squeezed it in to modern technology. The result is somewhat superb and just what I was looking for. It’s very much as if the developers went back to basics and reimagined the original Gauntlet concept but executed with today’s technology. A philosophy that worked very well for this type of game. You can play the game with a joypad but I’ve elected for key bindings for that classic feel. There’s a lot of great customisation and options to play with if you enjoy that sort of thing.
You’ll have access to our old favourites of the Warrior, Elf, Wizard and Valkyrie. All have been updated and the Valkyrie in particular looks very battle hardened.
Playing the game you are encouraged to pick up treasure and gold. This in turn allows you to invest in relics that can add extra short term power on the battle field or upgrade to other skills. It’s a well tried and tested mechanic of killing, leading to treasure leading to the ability to kill even more and so on. The game also encourages you to play with all of the characters. Each character has its own gold and experience points so there’s actually an incentive to try out all of the content. There’s another really good reason to do this too when it comes to the multi-player. There can only be one of each character class in any given game so if you join late you will have to choose from the remaining available character. So, there’s a very good reason to level up all of your characters. You can play the game in a campaign mode, endless mode or a daily challenge. Either way the best way to experience Gauntlet 2014 is in a group.
So, how is it? Well, quite frankly I think it is a really well put together homage to the classic era. The enemies are here, the generators, the keys, the food, the treasure and of course the frantic action as you’re overwhelmed by the enemy. Not since Gauntlet 4 has a Gauntlet game truly felt like a Gauntlet game to me so I’m very pleased with how this game turned out. There’s some really great humour and vindication that a simple idea done well can succeed. In the earlier Gauntlet entries it was really only the dragons that you could call bosses. In Gauntlet 2014 there are actual bosses, each with their own strengths. At times you’ll be jumping chasms and at others blowing up walls to find secret rooms.
Oh, and Mr Death is back and he’s larger than ever. When Mr Death arrives you run because if he touches you. Well, you can guess what happens. The game also has some unique features to encourage progression in the way of skull keys. After killing an enemy of generator you earn skull points, these turn in to a skull key once the bar is filled. These skull keys act as shared lives for the group. So, you’re all going to want to stay alive as long as possible and kill as much as possible to ensure you can resurrect yourself. Overall the game really is quite epic, the musical score and presentation just make it all feel very solid. It’s a game that regularly goes on sales so I can’t recommend it highly enough. It has nowhere near the complexity of a Diablo game but it has the best of both. Simple game play without all of the excessive grinding and creation of new weapons and gems. It’s just good old fashioned stripped back fun.
So, we’ve been on quite a journey in to the world of Gauntlet over these past few episodes. From an un-assuming Dungeon crawler from Atari, to polygon based adventure and full circle to updated top down graphics for a modern audience.
The quest concludes…
Hold everything! What you think you know is a lie. Our timeline shows Gauntlet originating in 1985. This is true but not the entire origin story of Gauntlet. You see, we have go back to 1983 to a game called Dandy and a 1988 sequel called Dark Chambers to really wrap up the Gauntlet story.
Join me in the concluding episode of this quite frankly ridiculously long marathon of Gauntlet games in the series finale where we examine Dandy, Dark Chambers and try to make sense of the series as a whole.
The quest continues…