reviews\ May 5, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Gauntlet Dark Legacy - XB - Review

Take elements of fantasy, role-playing and first-person shooter games, mix well and serve up in a cooperative-multiplayer setting.

That about sums up Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, an Xbox release from Midway. Despite a few minor setbacks – like the camera angle – this game trades off a storyline to send its players on a variety of quests through a bevy or lands, each with some unique opponents. And to defeat the boss monsters of each realm, you may actually have to journey to another realm to get a magical weapon, which will help you defeat it.

But more on that in a moment.

The story behind the game is as follows: For centuries, the eight realms were ruled peacefully by Sumner, a great and powerful wizard. The seat of his power is the Tower, which has portals to the five areas within the realms. Sumner has a younger brother named Garm. Seeking to increase his own magical standing, Garm tried to gather the 13 legendary rune stones, and using them, wished to tap into the power of the Underworld. He only was able to collect 12, but undaunted prepared his spell nonetheless. All he succeeded in doing was unleashing the demon Skorne, the ruler of the Underworld. It seems the 13th stone would have helped him control Skorne, but whoops, that didn’t happen. The demon crushed Garm, and banished his spirit to the Underworld.

Skorne summoned his legions of Underworld minions and scattered them, and the rune stones,  across the realms. Sumner was horrified at what happened, and he fought off Skorne, forcing the latter to seal himself in the Desecrated Temple. Once inside, Skorne sealed the temple with eight magic shards, and entrusted one to each of his most powerful warriors.

Sumner has summoned heroes to travel the lands, battling Skorne’s creatures at every turn, to recover the rune stones, defeat the guardians of the shard in each realm and then, finally, to confront Skorne.

Gameplayers have a wide range of heroes to choose from. With a variety of looks for each class, they are a wizard, warrior, Valkyrie, archer, sorceress, dwarf, knight and jester. Ok, you are wondering about the jester character. Well, if you want speed and some nifty surprises, the jester is your avatar.

The game features cooperative multiplayer gaming, which means up to four players can travel in a pack, working together to defeat the enemy. Of course, more players mean the tougher the going gets. One thing in players’ favor though is that the enemy AI does not evolve. You may encounter a great number of enemies, and they may try to attack on different flanks, but the actual method of attack is the same – straight at you, with little subterfuge. The tougher monsters always seem to go after the player with the highest level character, which opens the door for some strategy work.

But don’t be mislead: even at the easiest level, this game can present a challenge, and there are three levels of play.

Now about that boss monster realm crossover ... Each realm features a stepping stone progression to the final setting, where the boss monster sits waiting for the heroes. You won’t have to go looking for it, it is waiting for you in a one-room chamber. As you journey through different levels, you will run across barrels and boxes that hold power-ups and hints. As you fight through one of the realms, you may come across a parchment that warns you that trying to fight the three-headed monster without first visiting the forest realm is certain death.

The three-headed monster is the Chimera, which resides in the Castle realm, which is the third realm you will visit (the first two are the Forsaken Province and Mountain). If you defeat the Chimera, you will receive its shard, which is one of the puzzles for getting into the Desecrated Temple.

Now here is where is gets interesting, or convoluted. In order to visit the Forest realm, you have to collect enough of the green crystals to unlock the room with the portals. But you won’t find many of the green crystals until you get into the Sky realm, which is the realm that follows the Castle realm. And while the doorways to the Forsaken Province and Mountain realms are in the main Tower chamber, you will need to collect other artifacts to open up other hallways wherein lies the doorways to the other realms. To get to the Castle and Sky realms, you will need to collect Golden Fangs to open the doorway to the wing of the Tower that holds the entrance to the two realms.

The magical item you are looking for in the Forest realm is the Scimitar of Decapitation, which when thrown will take off the lion’s head, which means you only have to fight against two of the heads.

Each realm has five chambers, and each – with the exception of the last room in each realm – has big areas to explore, with unique looks, puzzles to solve, traps to avoid, a multitude of enemies to conquer, and booty to recover.

Not only will you have to contend with an assortment of enemies, but death pops up quite often, lurking in corners. There are two types of death, red and black. Red death steals life while black death steals levels. Magic can kill death, and magic (in the form of potions) can be wielded by any character.

There are 60 levels in all, 30 powerups and unique character combination attacks.

The game controls are set up to be very user friendly, but players may experience a learning curve of about 20 minutes before being truly comfortable with the control elements. The manual, while giving a good general outline of the controls, fails to expand on some of the more basic elements. For example, the directional pad accesses inventory items. To scroll through you go up and down; to activate, you press down on the middle of the pad.

The sound elements contain a variety of musical themes for each realm, as well as a bevy of effects noises, narration and character chatter. The music is solid, the vocal effects are merely standard and the effects sounds are what one would expect.

As for the graphics, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is a solid performer when it comes to environments and animation. The special effects are very well done. Where the game has some problems is in the camera angles. This is a floating camera, which cannot be controlled. Your party may be journeying down a hallway, and the camera is panning to follow. Suddenly your party is engaged by the enemy and the camera stops, behind an element of the environment. You can’t see what is happening very well. Or your party is moving toward the bottom of the monitor screen, and the camera is watching their approach without giving the game player a sense of what is in front of them. You may not know there is a trap ahead until you walk into it. And because members of the party (in multiplayer mode) are all seen on one screen, you cannot get too far away from each other. If you do, and continue to try to go in opposite directions, you will run into an invisible barrier, which prevents you from too much separation.

Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is as much a shooter game as it is a fantasy role-playing game. You can engage in hand-to-hand combat, but you can also shoot from your weapon (including axes and swords) indiscriminately from a distance. While not a drawback, it does provide more of an arcade flair to the game.

However, this game is enjoyable and a challenge. While the single-player game is fun, the multiplayer cooperative quests are where it really is entertaining.

This game is rated Teen for blood and violence.

Gameplay: 7
While the environments are a nice size, the limitations put on by the camera creates some problems. Each scenario is like a maze. Players begin at one end of the mapboard and have to get to the exit point to return to the Tower. Collecting the artifacts along the way is the challenge. The only save points are at the end of scenarios, when players’ avatars return to the Tower to shop for new potions, food (for health) or other necessities.

Graphics: 7.8
The animation is well done, the environments are different for each setting in a realm, and the action is almost a constant. There are some minor clipping problems, and aiming for a target – at times – doesn’t work if your enemy is lower than you are. The latter happened infrequently.

Sound: 7
Overall this can only be thought of as average.

Difficulty: Medium
The control elements will take a little getting used to, and players will have to keep track of what is needed to move along the path. The boss monsters are quite tough, and you may have to visit two realms away to get the weapon needed to defeat it. The AI is a little simplistic, but the game doesn’t lack for a constant stream of enemies, which will regenerate if you revisit the scenario.

Concept: 7
This is a game that can’t seem to make up its mind what it really wants to be, so it has combined a bunch of different elements. Strangely, it seems to work.

Multiplayer: 7.5
This is where the game is at its best. Unfortunately, some of this action is spoiled by the unrelenting, and – at times – unfriendly camera angles.

Overall: 7.2
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is certainly entertaining and challenging. The diversity of the realms is solid, and the action is intense. The game does have some minor setbacks, but still is worth the price of admission. The multiplayer setup is certainly one of the strongest elements of this game.


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