Gauntlet review

Gauntlet is just as chaotic as its predecessors, but more refined and less haphazard too.
Gauntlet is just as chaotic as its predecessors, but more refined and less haphazard too.
Gauntlet is just as chaotic as its predecessors, but more refined and less haphazard too.

Highs

  • Fun, old-fashioned co-op
  • Varied character skills
  • High replay value

Lows

  • Riddled with bugs
  • No drop-in/drop-out co-op
  • Quite brief

Before the Internet (gasp!) people had to actually be in the same room to play video games with one another. It seems hard to believe now, but it’s true. Gauntlet is a relic of that time, but it’s also proof that the past is alive and well.

There’s definitely something to be said for sitting down with a few buddies and four controllers and conquering a game like the good old days, and Gauntlet lets you do that—in one sitting, if you’re inclined. That will be the appeal for many players. But with online matchmaking, four playable characters with extremely varied move sets, multiple difficulties, and a satisfying (if shallow) progression system, Gauntlet could also potentially keep you coming back, despite its relative brevity.

Gauntlet is a relic of a time before the Internet, but it’s also proof that the past is alive and well.

Gauntlet is a frenzied, fast-paced and cutthroat game that can be played solo but is infinitely better with other players (and absolutely best if those other players are friends). The plot, such as it is, is irrelevant, despite some funny dialogue; suffice to say it sends four adventurers questing down a 12-level rabbit hole filled with traps, treasure and a few challenging boss fights. No one element of Gauntlet is going to win any awards by itself, but when all is taken into account it’s a solid old-school multiplayer RPG that puts a few fun twists on a very old formula.

It wouldn’t be Gauntlet without the warrior, wizard, archer, and valkyrie characters to choose from. Each class has several unique moves, including regular and strong attacks, plus even stronger moves that take several seconds to recharge between uses. The valkyrie can throw her shield in an arc, lunge forward with her spear, and block enemies’ attacks; the archer has a powerful sniper shot and a reusable bomb, while the warrior can barrel into enemies or twirl his axe around.

The wizard bears separate mention here. His abilities are drastically different from those of the other three characters, although anyone who played Arrowhead Game Studios’ previous title Magicka will find it familiar. The wizard has access to three magical elements—fire, frost and lightning—that you can combine by tapping a controller’s face buttons (Gauntlet is definitely best with a gamepad) to create a large number of offensive and defensive spells. The cooldown on these varies depending how powerful they are. The wizard is the most versatile class, but also the hardest to master, particularly when it comes to memorizing what all the different button combos do.

You choose your class in the lobby before each session begins, whether you’re creating a game or joining someone else’s. There will only be one of each character during every session, so if you’re the fourth into a lobby you may wind up as a class you’re unfamiliar with or haven’t leveled up, which is fine—you’ll rarely feel underpowered except on higher difficulties.

Each character has its own set of challenges, like killing certain numbers of enemies with specific skills, and unique items that can be equipped, plus “relics” that grant certain effects when used by consuming the potions you find lying around each level. These range from laying traps for enemies to increasing movement speed and even turning enemies into consumable food that restores health (or gets destroyed, if you’re not careful or if you’re in good health and want to screw over a friend—and just like in classic Gauntlet the narrator will always let you know who the culprit who shot the food was).

Gauntlet is a frenzied, fast-paced and cutthroat game that can be played solo but is infinitely better with other players.

With four players in a game, these items can seem scarce, especially with everyone racing to grab every treasure in sight. Gauntlet may be a co-op game, but you’ll never stop competing with your teammates, and your totals—including kills, gold collected and a bonus for finding and wearing a special crown in each area—will be tallied and compared at the end of every level. Thankfully there’s never a shortage of enemies; you might even be impressed by the number that can be on-screen at once. Thankfully, Gauntlet‘s signature rhythm of being ambushed by a huge crowd of foes, taking out their spawners, and mopping up the remnants continues in this iteration. This was never broken, and Arrowhead rightly felt no need to fix it.

It is unfortunate that there are only three groups of four levels, each of which is divided into three separate areas. These span a crypt filled with mummies and other undead, a network of caves inhabited by giant spiders and various beasts, and a hellish forge occupied by cultists and demons. With how much you might want to replay these areas to try out different characters and unlock new items and skills, you may start to wonder why Arrowhead didn’t just make the new Gauntlet procedurally generated, so at least there’d be some variety.

But the environments become more complex as the game progresses, and you’ll appreciate the design of certain levels that double back on themselves and span multiple layers. There are no puzzles to solve per se, but there are plenty of keys to find, blocks to push and cranks to turn. The structure of these levels varies as well, with arena-style endurance brawls and chase levels featuring a pursuant grim reaper interspersed to shake things up.

Gauntlet screenshot 2

There are two main things holding Gauntlet back from being really great: a number of hard-to-ignore glitches, and the inability to drop into in-progress co-op sessions. The former issue ranges from tolerable to extremely annoying, especially when these bugs hamper progression. Sometimes a gate will simply fail to open, or one character will inexplicably disappear for the duration of an entire area, unable to respawn, or blocks pushed by non-host players will appear to stay still and kill you if you come near them.

But more than those glitches, the lack of easy drop-in co-op really stings, especially in a game that relies so heavily on multiplayer. You can only hook up with other players before a match begins, and your lineup is locked as soon as you press “start.” If you lose a member halfway through a level—some of which can take more than half an hour to complete—you’re left playing with however many choose to stick around. And there are any number of non-malicious reasons why another player might leave, not least of which is the fact that if your controller gets disconnected from your PC you have to restart the game to get it to recognize it again.

These problems shouldn’t exist in 2014, even in a small game like Gauntlet, but for fans of the series or those looking for some fun and challenging co-op, they’re definitely possible to overlook.

This game was reviewed on PC using a copy provided by the developer.

Highs

  • Fun, old-fashioned co-op
  • Varied character skills
  • High replay value

Lows

  • Riddled with bugs
  • No drop-in/drop-out co-op
  • Quite brief
Gaming

From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Product Review

The Division 2 brings the most fun we've ever had to Washington, D.C.

After 55 hours with The Division 2, it’s clear that Ubisoft has improved on the original in almost every way. The world is richly detailed, the story missions are wonderful, gunplay and enemy design are great, and the endgame content is…
Gaming

Sony to launch State of Play videos for PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR

Sony will debut a new video program named State of Play on March 25. The first episode will focus on new PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR games, and it remains to be seen if Sony will tease the PlayStation 5.
Gaming

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bug lets Link ignore temperature effects

A newly discovered bug in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild allows players to max out both hearts and stamina. The glitch also disables temperature effects such as the heat of Death Mountain and the cold of Hebra.
Gaming

Report: Nintendo will release two new Switch models in 2019

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo will unveil two new Switch models at E3 and release them this year. One of the models will target hardcore gamers, while the other will be budget friendly.
Gaming

Twitch streamer somehow beats Bloodborne, all the souls games without getting hit

A Twitch streamer named The Happy Hob has managed to play through all Dark Souls games, Demon's Souls, and Bloodborne in a row without getting hit a single time. He has been attempting the feat for months.
Gaming

Here are the best items a Shinobi should buy in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a brutally challenging game that requires persistent focus and a lot close calls with death. You can make things a bit easier on yourself with by purchasing important items from vendors.
Gaming

Here’s everything you need to know about MLB The Show 19

MLB The Show 19 launches on PlayStation 4 on March 26. If you're interested in finding out what's new in the latest iteration of the annual baseball sim, we've got all the details, from new gameplay mechanics to Road to the Show changes.
Gaming

Newegg slashes prices on PS4 accessories and AAA games like Anthem

Newegg is currently offering big savings on a number of games for PS4 and Xbox One, including Anthem, Metro Exodus, The Division 2, and Kingdom Hearts 3. Accessories including headsets are also on sale.
Gaming

Apple Arcade might be the new game subscription service worth signing up for

Apple Arcade will launch this fall bringing a new game-subscription service with cross-platform support for iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. At launch, the service will feature more than 100 exclusive games, with more added to the service regularly.
Gaming

Fortnite World Cup kicks off April 13 with $1 million in weekly prizes

The Fortnite World Cup kicks off on April 13 with the start of Online Opens for solo play. $1 million in weekly prizes will be awarded during the Online Open Finals, so get practicing!
Gaming

These Xbox One exclusives are the definition of quality over quantity

Xbox One has a prestigious collection of handpicked titles that you can't play on other consoles. Here are the latest and greatest Xbox One exclusives, including some that are also available on PC