Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows Updated Hands-On
We hack and slash our way through a work-in-progress version of Midway's upcoming action game.
Currently scheduled for release on December 12, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows is a third-person action game that promises to combine the classic team-based gameplay of Gauntlet with current-generation visuals, online play, and a character progression system. We recently got our hands on a near-finished PlayStation 2 version of the game, and although we've not been able to check out its online features yet, we have spent some time putting the playable warrior, elf, wizard, and valkyrie characters through their paces offline.
The first time you play Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, you can choose to play on one of four difficulty settings: beginner, normal, difficult, and impossible. You'll also be required to create your first character profile, which is saved to your memory card separately from your progress through the game so that you can take your character to a friend's house or play with him or her online. The four aforementioned playable characters aren't radically different at the start of the game, although each does begin the adventure with different ratings for health, damage, and mana regeneration. As you progress through the game, you'll unlock additional moves for your characters that make them far more varied. However, at the outset, they're essentially all using different-looking versions of the same basic attacks. The only exception to that rule is the wizard, whose most basic attack hits enemies in all directions rather than just those he's facing.
Although the environments you'll be fighting your way through in Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows look noticeably better than any that have appeared in a Gauntlet game to date, the gameplay has a lot in common with that of the original 1985 arcade game. Seven Sorrows incorporates something resembling a storyline that's told via cutscenes between levels, but your goal is essentially just to find the exit to each level while killing as many enemies and generators (which continuously pump enemies out until they're destroyed) along the way as necessary. Regardless of your character choice, you'll start the game with the same basic array of moves. You'll have a basic hack move; a slash move, which is effective against enemies carrying shields; a launch move, which throws enemies up into the air; a projectile attack used for hitting enemies at range; a powerful mana blast attack that can only be used when your mana levels are high; a block; and a dash move that can be used to charge at enemies in any direction simply by tapping the right analog stick. Your enemies in Seven Sorrows, like those in the original arcade game, aren't a particularly bright bunch, and the preferred tactic for most of them is simply to charge toward you in a straight line. There are exceptions, of course, but these are mostly just enemies who like to hide behind their shields, who like to attack you from range, or who are boss characters.
At the end of each level, you'll be able to spend any experience points that you've accumulated on increasing your health, damage, and mana-regeneration attributes. Additionally, any gold that you've collected can be spent on learning powerful new moves for your character. Many of the new moves you learn are used in-game by entering a simple sequence of two or three button presses, although a number of them are tied to directions on the otherwise superfluous D pad. The moves that you acquire as you progress through the game are what really separate the four playable characters. One of our favorite moves for the wizard, for example, is a powerful area-of-effect attack that hits all enemies and generators in a relatively wide radius. Meanwhile, our favorite warrior attack is a simple two-hit melee combo that sets enemies on fire.
The majority of our time with Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows thus far has been spent playing the game solo, which won't necessarily make the game more challenging than playing with up to three friends--though you don't have to share items with anyone. We did spend a little time checking the game out with two players on the same screen, and once we nailed down the fact that cooperation is key, we enjoyed it more than single-player. The only real downside to having multiple players using the same console, based on our experiences thus far, is that you're forced to stick closely together so that the camera doesn't have to zoom out very far to keep you all in-shot. Furthermore, we found that it was possible for one character to become trapped behind an environmental feature if he or she, for example, wandered off to grab some treasure while his or her partner did all the hard work, because the camera would keep both players in view but would force the only route around said obstacle off the screen. These issues presumably won't be a factor when playing online, which will almost certainly be the best way to experience Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows when it arrives in stores next month. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.