The name Gauntlet alone conjures up all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings within me (read all about it in my Gauntlet: Dark Legacy review.) So the release of “Gauntlet Seven Sorrows” had me literally chomping at the bit, despite my misgivings about sequels.
“Seven has always been an interesting number” I thought to myself, and "sorrows" sounds like fun, maybe these "Seven Sorrows" is worth checking out. And it has the name Gauntlet attached to it; a series that has never failed to deliver the goods – until now that is. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Classic Takes Another Swipe- First Sorrow
I am going to assume we’re all familiar with Gauntlet (if not stop right now and go read my Gauntlet Dark Legacy review) and we all know the drill.
Yes, the Wizard, Elf, Valkyrie and Warrior are all back hacking and slashing their way through hordes of enemies in order to restore peace to their medieval world. Yes, there are keys and treasure chests. This is where the similarities end however.
“Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows” ironically makes a fitting title for a game that was riddled with bad luck from the very beginning, in fact I almost feel bad saying anything negative about it…almost.
So moving on, it was a game plagued by development problems, with tons of axed features and a big walkout by the games project lead John Romero. This is truly one game that spreads its theme of sorrow straight to the player with its repetitive gameplay, boring characters and a sense of doom within every level. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
So what does Seven Sorrows bring to the table? Not a whole heck of a lot, actually.
A Tale As Old As Time
The story is oddly complicated and strangely out of place for such a basic game. Centuries ago, 4 heroes were gathered together to serve an emperor. He trusted their advice, but sought their immortality, and so his 6 great advisors used this against him, and tricked him into crucifying the heroes on a great tree at the bottom of the world. Afterwards the emperor regretted this act, although he committed 6 other sorrows before he was killed by his trusted advisors. However, before his death he undid his first great sorrow and freed his loyal heroes from the tree. The heroes now must set out to destroy the twisted advisors and set right the emperor's 6 other sorrows. If the ancient heroes cannot undo the emperor's deeds, his maniacal plans may tear apart the world.
Jeez, who writes this stuff? It feels as if the people at Midway just threw any ol’ story together just to have something tying the levels together. No matter, once the action starts the plot pretty much takes a backseat anyway.
Fatal Flaws A-Plenty-Second Sorrow
Go ahead and pick a character it’s as easy as deciding if you want to be a dude or a chick, that’s really about all you need to know about the characters.
You see, they all play in almost the exact same way as each other! Yes, you earn experience points for leveling up, yes you unlock new moves, yes you can upgrade your weapons, but there is nothing original about that, EVERY action game nowadays does that. Yeah sure the Warrior is a little stronger than the others, the Valkyrie has some acrobatic skills, and the Elf is a tad faster than the others, but other than that, they all have the same speed/power/magic. But then again it really doesn’t matter because there isn’t much in the way of combat anyway!
Sure there are different enemy types to run into and battle with, but none are at all that interesting, unique or pose much in the way of challenge in terms of their attacks.
Basically this how the game is played, you move, you spot an enemy; you keep hitting the X button until it dies. Enemies will appear in one of two ways: either by a generator, which you must destroy to stop the spawning, or by coming through an invisible opening off to the side that you can't see and therefore are unable to stop the spawning, wtf?
I have found that the easiest thing to do in this case is to just run away. I can’t tell you how much time I wasted just standing there attacking a bunch of minions that guess what, will never go away, they seemed to be on some kind endless loop or something. So just venture along destroying all the generators and enemies that you can see. The X button here is your friend.
Reunited and Feels So Good?-Third Sorrow
“Gauntlet Seven Sorrows” attempts to pay homage to the old school Gauntlet Dark Legacy with updated graphics, RPG elements and yummy looking food items such turkeys, hams and giant wedges of cheese. Hey, and that’s cool and all; it’s great seeing the old gang together again (a hack n’ slash reunion of sorts.) except that in 2007 that just isn't good enough!
The Gauntlet series is a classic and was one of the first of its kind to feature cooperative gameplay, but "Seven Sorrows" fails miserably in bringing the franchise into the modern day gaming world. Unfortunately in its attempt to update Gauntlet with a shiny new presentation Midway took away all of its past charm. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s Slay Together - Fourth Sorrow
Unfortunately there are no saving graces. Everything is bad; not just sorta bad, but really, really bad. Even playing with friends doesn't save it. In fact, you may even lose a few friends if you insist they play this mess. If, however, you are desperate for some co-op play and you can no longer physically force/beg/ threaten your so-called friends in joining you on your quest , you can always hop onto Xbox Live.
Here you can jump into a quick game, create your own, and hook up with up to 3 new, faceless buddies… you know the usual Live stuff.
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Gauntlet was always best played with others and was clearly meant to be a social experience. While the single-player mode often get repetitive, multiplayer was always a blast that let you team up with friends to take out enemies in a bunch of different ways. The bosses, which were frustratingly impossible to beat alone (at least for me anyway), was at least do-able in multiplayer .Here the bosses are easy-almost too easy, even in single-player.
In fact, they don’t even deserve to be called bosses, more like 2rd assistants to the executive assistants (in other words one step above the mailroom guys.)
Furthermore, Midway removed what made the classic game such a hit in the first place - the risk/reward aspect. You see, Gauntlet worked because you had to rush, fight over food and kill everything that moved. Not so with "Seven Sorrows", where you have the luxury of leisurely strolling around a level because the bad guys are so scarce, and food fights are irrelevant because the enemies simply drop food when killed.
Unlike in “Gauntlet Dark Legacy” in which the 4 heroes often made hilarious comments and sound effects (especially when they ate), the 4 heroes here are pretty much mute. They don't speak or have any personality whatsoever. This makes the main characters almost seem like bystanders in their own story; there is no way to relate to them and no reason to care about what happens to them. What a shame, Red Valkyrie and I used to be BFF!
What I missed most in this game however was the booming narrative from the legendary Wizard throughout the game. Yeah sure he’s back except now he sounds like he'd rather be somewhere else (me too dude, me too!) The first time I heard "Red Valkyrie is about to die!" I immediately started looking around for food, only to realize that I still had half a life bar left. For some strange reason the damage indicators have been set really high, so unless you always keep your health maxed out, the announcer will constantly nag about your impending doom. At times he is downright incomprehensible, for example when he says "Death has appeared" it sounds more like "Death has a beard" which is the opposite of scary.
“Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows” is by far the prettiest Gauntlet game ever made but it’s certainly nothing to gawk over. The graphics would have been awe inspiring had it been released 2-3 years ago, but against the heavy hitters out today, it doesn't look all that impressive really.
Oh and never mind the fact that moving on from one area to the next is a total mish- mash of different themes. You’ll start off in an underground dungeon, then move onto a village, then move onto a Chinese pirate city, and then onto a forest. It just makes no sense. The character designs are kinda boring, nothing special or memorable at all about them, they're just...there.
Each level consists of merely getting from point A to point B, and killing everything in between. You'll run around the linear maps pressing the same attack button over and over again.
Sure, you can buy combos with the gold you'll acquire from the treasure chests scattered around the fields, but why bother, you won't need to use them because the enemies just run at you blindly and like I said before, the X button is your friend.
Sadly it just all feels so empty and shallow. The levels themselves were very forgetful and they tended to look blah and muted. There was often only one path to the exit, and the hidden items from previous Gauntlet games have all been removed.
Keys are no longer needed to open treasure chests this time around, and there is no need to search for hidden areas to access secret routes, and so forth, because everything is out in the open. Players simply attack a rush of enemies until they run into a dead end or a switch, they then press a button to automatically perform the “action;” like lowering a bridge or pushing a statue. There is an annoying sense of repetition, you fight, you open a gate, you fight, you open a gate. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Long and Short of It-Seventh Sorrow
Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows’ biggest issue is its length or lack thereof –it’s too short! Sure the game sports 16 levels, but each level can be completed in about 10 minutes-10 extremely repetitive minutes that is. But then again you probably won't particularly care anyway given how so not fun this game is!
Unlike in past Gauntlets, there is no hub to pick and choose levels; players must tackle each realm in a preset order, one after another. Gone are the legend items, potions or power-ups like temporary invisibility, or the cool x-ray glasses of yester-year. Why take away the cool booby traps, hidden items that we all know and love while still giving us a shiny and new Gauntlet for the millennium I ask?
Am I getting ahead of you? Well, can you please try and keep up, we’re coming close to the end here!
Midway included ridiculous “puzzles” (and I use the term puzzles lightly) to each level for instance when you walk into certain rooms, you'll hear a little bell and a message will appear advising you to “Destroy all generators”! Wow. Didn't see that one coming!
So even if you’re not good at puzzles, finding a way out is easily done by killing every enemy in sight, and then a magic key or a hidden switch appears. Really, whenever you are in doubt about what to do, just kill every enemy in the area. The fact that Midway even attempts to disguise these situations as puzzles is, well, puzzling.
Overall even with its new and advanced presentation, "Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows"seems archaic and primitive with it’s dumbed down gameplay.
While it does somewhat hold true to the hack n’ slash feel of the original, (if you consider effortlessly smashing the enemies using the X button combat) it felt rushed and poorly executed.
In closing, the graphics were decent enough, the story was pure malarky, the sound was abysmal, and even though it was nice catching up with some old friends (keep in touch Red Valkyrie okay?) this didn’t deserve to have the Gauntlet name slapped on it.
Word of advice Midway, just because you’re allowing us to swing a sword around in co-op setting alongside a bow wielding elf doesn’t mean you’ve captured the heart and soul of the classic game. Sadly, "Seven Sorrows" was a mistake.
There's simply no good reason to bother running this Gauntlet.
Every once in awhile you will hear some uppity parent or politician say that video games are worthless and are responsible for the corruption of our youth. I consider this a great big lie myself. Sure, most games won't teach you anything about reading, writing, or arithmetic. However, video games can teach you some important lessons in life.
Gauntlet has certainly taught me a lot.
1.Don't waste your food you'll need it later on.
2.If you hang around long enough, all kinds of doors will open for you.
3.You should always know where the exit is in case of emergencies.
4.Having reliable friends around is really important.
5.Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
Get Gauntlet:Seven Sorrows Here
Posted by oxyjen on Apr 20, 2007
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