Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows - XB - Review
A Wizard, a Warrior, a Valkyrie and an Elf walk into a dungeon … this isn’t the start of a joke only Tolkien fans would find funny but rather the situation that four champions of good find themselves in as they band together to stop the evil forces once again. This is the same situation the same four have been in before when it was an '80s arcade game called Gauntlet. Several years later, the series returns with Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows for the Xbox. Ah, it’s just great to get the old gang together for a good old-fashioned hack-and-slash party.
Seven Sorrows is a tale told by the ghost of a fallen Emperor who, in his days, had the loyalty of the four immortal heroes that served him well. Yet even he admits that greed and other dark dealings had led him to commit unspeakable crimes, seven of them to be exact (hence the title), with one of them being the ultimate betrayal of his four champions. Tying them up and leaving them for dead in the Great Tree, he regrets his crimes and quickly frees them in hopes that they will put right all the evil he has unleashed on the Realm. Once again, the four heroes fight against monsters, spirits and other magical hordes that will put up quite a spectacular fight.
I should add here that the original Gauntlet was a game best played with four players in total, although you could play on your own. The reason: the game didn’t just throw a handful of enemies at you but whole armies of them on the screen at once. Seven Sorrows, on the other hand, does toss dozens of enemies at you but not to an excessive degree as the original. What this means is that the game can be comfortably played on your own but with the ability to play this one using a single Xbox or through Xbox Live (complete with voice chat thanks to the Xbox Communicator) you’ll really want to play this one with other players assuming the role of the heroes.
Gameplay-wise, nothing has really changed from the '80s original. Depending on who you chose to be you are tossed into the game’s level and will immediately be thrown into the fray against a large number of foes. Even the monster generator, this time appearing as a glowing shrine made of stone, is back so you’ll have to bring it down if you want to stop the flow of monsters that come out of its mystic portal. If you’re playing with others the hordes will feel less of a strain and, much like the original, teamwork will get you through each level. Alone, though, you’ll have to depend on your character’s unique abilities. The Warrior, for instance, is a powerful hero who wields a battle axe and depends on his brawn to survive. The Elf is less powerful but he is swift and uses his sword and bow just as quickly. Meanwhile, the Valkyrie is acrobatic and can slice through enemies with her short sword while the Wizard can cast a number of powerful spells. Alone they’re tough but together they’re a force to be reckoned with.
What has changed, though, is the fact that each character has a collection of combo moves and specialty attacks. The Wizard now has an even wider selection of spells that either knock enemies down, rain fire on them or pull them close enough for Warrior or the Valkyrie to slash into them more easily. Like the arcade original, the controls are simplistic since this is just a hack-and-slash game after all. You’ll still go through level after level fighting off hordes while discovering teleportation portals (remember those?) while opening treasure chests, finding keys and smashing stuff. You can purchase upgrades for your characters with the gold you find in treasure chests but they’re mainly to upgrade armor, weapon and combos. While you do level up in experience, the results are hardly noticeable like they are in most RPGs.
Graphically, Seven Sorrows will not dazzle you with gorgeous Xbox graphics nor will it impress you with detailed characters and monsters. We’ve seen games of similar genre look much better than this but, for what it’s worth; the environments in this game really stand out. With loads of environmental details, many of which you can destroy, each level looks pretty good. The character models are decent and the monsters, even the big ones, really could have been rendered a lot better than this. At least the visual effects work nicely.
The game’s sound is actually slightly better than the game’s Ok visuals, especially when it comes to the game’s score. The soundtrack just works beautifully with the game’s action and that it sounds wonderfully cinematic. There are even some excellent sound effects, from the clanking of swords, the crumbling of fallen monster generators and the breaking of shields and destructible environmental objects. The Wizard’s spells even have that satisfying crackle while the Warrior’s growl is a great touch. There’s even some voice acting in the beginning but mainly you’ll hear a return of the announcer who will tell you who needs food and who is about to die. Unfortunately, much like it did back in the day, the announcer is way too annoying and, thanks to the new HUD that tells you if you’re low on health, he’s not really necessary anymore.
In the end, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows is merely a simple hack-and-slash action game that’s a worthwhile experience but it doesn’t really rise above the familiar 80s formula that made this such a classic back in the day. Yes we’ve played better games of similar genre - like Hunter: The Reckoning - but there’s a reason the original Gauntlet shows up in everything from the PSP to the Xbox 360. This is a classic that gets a slight gameplay and visual upgrade but if you’re looking for something altogether new you won’t find it here.
|Review Scoring Details for Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows|
This is pure hack-and-slash fare that, while slightly updated, hasn’t really changed from its original source. The four characters don’t add a lot of variety unless you play as the Wizard but there are lots of enemies to smash and its all the more fun with a friend or, better yet, three of them.
While it’s not the prettiest Xbox game you’ll play this year, the game does display some excellent visual effects and the environments do look good. The character models aren’t the most detailed but at least they do have their own distinct personality.
The game’s score is definitely a highlight and it’s wonderfully cinematic. The sound effects are nicely detailed as well, particularly when it comes to the monster smashing. The voice work is really minimal; unless you count the hundreds of times the narrator announces that the Red Valkyrie needs food badly.
Alone you’ll be surrounded by hordes that can easily cut you to ribbons if you’re cornered or if you don’t destroy the monster generator. With three friends taking up the role of the other characters, though, you’ll find it more bearable.
It’s a prettier and fiercer version of the original coin-op classic using four very familiar character classes. There are enough levels, secrets and monster bashing to do in this game on your own but this game was always meant to be played with a group and you can no do so online.
Gauntlet always had multiplayer written all over its arcade cabinet and thankfully so does Seven Sorrows. You can play this one using a single Xbox but the really good news is that the game can be played online and boy is it good.
Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows ends up being a straight-forward hack-and-slash action game that isn’t a bad way to spend it with friend but if you’re looking for the next evolutionary step in the genre this isn’t it. Still, with solid action, decent levels and loads of monsters, the game is still fun enough for new fans as well as those who fondly remember the original.