In the land of hack and slash action games, the Gauntlet series is king. The original had gamers pumping quarters in tremendous numbers. Over the years the game has experienced some graphical overhauls, but one thing has remained constant. That incredible “Oh my god when will these things stop coming” gameplay. When Midway released Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, many fans of the series were in heaven. It combined the twitch action the series was renowned for, with a deep RPG like collection and enhancement system, to create a long and rewarding game. I was hoping with the release of Seven Sorrows that they would build on this foundation. What I got was a title that retained the top notch gameplay of the series, but stumbled in several other key areas.
The story of Seven Sorrows follows the path of 4 immortal heroes. The narrator, a fallen emperor, betrayed the heroes on the advice of 6 advisors. You see, the emperor wanted the heroes immortality, and the advisors convinced him he could take it if he bound the heroes to magical tree. Now the advisors have grown powerful, and the Emperor is helping the heroes defeat them. While an interesting concept, the story really feels kind of tacked on, and the title’s brief length makes it near impossible to flesh it out in any detail. The bottom line is, anyone who goes into this game expecting epic storytelling is sure to be disappointed.
Warrior is about to get WTF pwned!
Graphically the title is a nice step up from Dark Legacy. Animation is incredibly important in titles like this, and I am pleased to say it looks fantastic. The combo’s especially look good in motion. Enemies look good for the most part, even if they are a bit repetitive, and the boss characters look great. Levels are also well designed, and varied enough to remain interesting, while retaining enough commonality to flow from one area to the next.
As is typical for the Gauntlet series, the gameplay is pretty intense. The screen fills with enemies who keep coming until their generator is destroyed. This is accomplished via a simple set of controls, including a traditional hack, slasch, launch and a magical attack buttons. Anyone who’s ever played a title in this series will instantly feel at home, and the controls are incredibly responsive.
There are 4 characters to choose from, although other than a few minor differences in range, speed, and power, you won’t notice a huge play style difference among them. Enemies are not exactly geniuses, but tactical AI behavior isn’t exactly what you expect from a game of this type. It’s more about throwing as many bad guys against you as possible. The boss battles are generally pretty traditional, and not that different from fighting regular enemies, although there are several that are innovative in form and approach.
In an attempt to add depth to the fighting system, Midway has included combos and special moves that can be purchased using gold earned by killing enemies. You also earn experience points the same why, which are used to upgrade your abilities. While I appreciate the effort, and the unlockable special moves are top notch, you will probably find yourself blindly tapping the same button over and over again rather than using the different combos available for purchase.
The audio contains all the familiar sound bites for fans of the series, so you’ll always know if your “Red Elf needs food badly”. Music is pretty good overall, and matches well with the mood of the individual levels. The narration of the story is also well done.
Rise chicken, chicken arise.
The Gauntlet series has always been best played with friends, and Seven Sorrows is no exception. The multiplayer aspect does add a bit of longevity to the title, and it’s brief length means that you won’t have to keep dragging your friends over to the house to beat it. You’ll have a lot more fun fighting with your friends over who gets what then you will playing the single player over again, so if you have the friends and the equipment, bring them along.
Sadly the one major flaw in this title is it’s length. I beat the game on normal difficulty in just 3 hours. Granted, there are 4 characters, but without character specific stories or endings there is little incentive to beat the game with each. Special moves and upgraded statistics are easy to build to their max, so there is no need to beat the game over and over again to “max” yourself out. As a matter of fact, only halfway through the game I had unlocked all of my character’s combos. After the depth of Dark Legacy, this abbreviation has to be seen as a disappointing step backward for the series.
In closing, while it is a solid hack and slash action title, Seven Sorrows has to be seen as a disappointment for many fans of the series expecting a deeper, longer experience. While I would definitely recommend checking it out for the fun gameplay, several innovative boss battles, and the multiplayer action, the lack of any real motivation to beat the game over and over again means that most people who are not die-hard fans of the series will probably be best served renting this title. Time will tell what kind of direction the series takes, but hopefully the next title will go back to the more RPG like experience of Dark Legacy.