Capsule Review: Gauntlet: Slayer Edition

(A note on versions - this game was original released as simply “Gauntlet” but was later rebranded “Gauntlet: Slayer Edition”.)

A co-op dungeon crawl with hack-and-slash action for up to four players featuring surprisingly deep class design. The four classic heroes (plus a new one available as DLC) each play quite differently - the aggressive Warrior wades into groups of enemies and mows them down, the vigilant Valkyrie positions herself and her shield to prevent damage, the nimble Elf dodges attacks and picks off valuable targets from afar, and the versatile Wizard has a spell for every situation. Each class has its own playstyle that naturally leads to a particular combat role - my personal favorite is the Wizard who must read a situation, figure out which spell to use, and recall the correct button/element combination to invoke it. Sufficient mastery over your spellbook allows you to handle just about anything while feeling like a total badass.

Complexity elsewhere has been diminished to focus on the class and combat mechanics. The wacky variety of item effects and extended progression of Gauntlet Dark Legacy has been all but completely removed. There are new abilities for each character that can be bought with accumulated gold, but most replace existing abilities with different options rather than upgrading them. The main way to become more powerful is to practice your character and learn to use them well. Basing progression on skill rather than stats means that the game doesn’t serve as well as a casual experience - to be effective, you need to pay attention and work together. But it does enable drop-in multiplayer, as a brand-new player can be useful in later levels without grinding earlier levels first, and it’s very satisfying when everyone learns their class and comes together as a well-oiled machine.

The campaign is relatively short, though replayability is enhanced by three difficulty levels and areas being partially procedurally-generated so they aren’t the same every time and there’s also an Endless mode that remixes them further. Having more novel situations to apply your skills or perhaps some kind of PVP mode to refine your strategic teamwork against human opponents might have increased the game’s longevity further. As it is, you run out of new content fairly quickly and all that’s left is mastering your class - so it’s good that the classes are so deep and varied.

I Stopped Playing When: A friend (Elf) and I (Wizard) played through the campaign together over a weekend and also checked out Endless mode. We had a good time, but we felt like we’d basically seen what the game had to offer and didn’t feel compelled to keep going.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

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