Gauntlet: Darkness Calls
Earlier this week, Warner Bros. Interactive announced a new initiative to revive its classic franchises, starting with arcade favorite Gauntlet. In a brief demo featuring all four classic heroes, we slaughtered mummies, hoarded gold, and yes, shot the food.
Unlike the classic game, the four heroes (Warrior, Elf, Wizard, and Valkyrie) function very differently. I took my favorite (the Elf) out for a spin and wasn't disappointed by the updates developer Arrowhead Game Studios (Magicka, Helldivers) gave to the class.
The ranged characters are controlled like a twin-stick shooter, with arrows and spell bolts firing in 360 degrees with the right thumb stick. The elf can also fire a targeted shot and an explosive arrow, the latter of which is on a cooldown.
The valkyrie can dash and throw her shield. The Warrior can slam the ground and spin for an area of effect attack. The wizard has access to three schools of magic. On display was a vacuum bomb, fireball, and chain lightning.
As our four-player party progressed through the crypt, we encountered a number of classic Gauntlet features. While mummies lumbered at us as we entered rooms, we also were surprised as generators sprung up from the ground. The first of these we ignored and suffered the consequences. The room became filled with the undead quickly, and when we finally stemmed the tide, the floors were covered with blood.
Yes, mummies in the new Gauntlet bleed.
The classic Gauntlet key conundrum returns. There are never enough to unlock all the doors, so maneuvering for the best look at what's behind each door is the best bet. It's still a gamble though, and you never know quite what will be waiting for you.
As I mentioned earlier, you can shoot the food (though there is no announcer to chide you for it). The lack of the voiceover certainly helps with immersion, but it's a classic Gauntlet feature that I was hoping might be included (especially since he used to warn players when they were low on life).
The good news is that your health doesn't automatically drain (no one is trying to get you to pop in the next quarter) and gold is shared amongst the party. Relics, however, are not.
We found speed boots and an ice shard on our quest. The former gives players a temporary burst, with the latter seemingly causing an area of effect attack. These are triggered abilities with their own cooldown.
Right now Gauntlet is on track for Windows and SteamOS this summer. There are currently no plans to bring it to console, and it supports four players locally or online.
As a fan of the original, I was pleased to find most of what made Gauntlet such a wonderful experience in my youth intact. Arrowhead is using its experience with top-down combat and blending it with one of Warner Bros.' many Midway acquisitions, and so far, the formula is working.