Gauntlet: Slayer Edition is the ultimate Gauntlet game. While it may not be perfect, it's a brilliant crescendo for a series that pioneered multiplayer dungeon crawling 30 years ago, staying true to the roots of the franchise, yet chopping, changing, and evolving into something so much more.
Like many games of old, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition – a PlayStation 4 port of last year's Gauntlet reboot, with added extras – favours raw gameplay over story, giving you a simple synopsis and letting you get on with the game. You play as an adventurer who enters the Gauntlet created by wicked wizard Morak to succeed where others have failed and find the countless treasures that lie within – including the legendary sword Tyrfing which will grant Morak freedom from evil.
There are plenty of ways to gather gold – the game's currency and main collectible . It can be found strewn across the ground and inside vases as per usual, but there are other methods, too; in every level is a crown to be found, and if it's worn until the end of the stage, it grants a gold bonus. Skull Coins, which act as extra lives, can also be cashed in for gold at the end of every chapter.
The fact that we mentioned gold first and foremost is because of how important it is in Gauntlet – it's used to buy new relics, abilities, and weapons that come in handy when the devilish difficulty ramps up. The items available at the merchant vary depending on your selected class – as does the gameplay.
Gauntlet: Slayer Edition's biggest strength by far is how diverse and different the classes feel to each other; changing class from a CQC-oriented Warrior to a Wizard (a class heavily inspired by developer Arrowhead's previous game, Magicka) turns the title on its head, forcing you to be more cautious, passive ,and patient in taking out the droves of undead enemies. Each class has its own set of special abilities that change the course of the battle – for better or for worse. In one instance, we used our Warrior's spinning attack to escape from a swarm of skeleton warriors, yet spun right into the path of the Grim Reaper, dying instantly.
Speaking of the Reaper, you'll be dying a lot, thanks to the hellish difficulty of this title. Even Normal Mode is unrelenting at its easiest – you'll very much be on low health for a large portion of the game, scrapping until you can get your hands on some food. While this will put many people off, the stress and tension makes completing a chapter all the more satisfying.
In true Gauntlet fashion, every section of every level is filled to the brim with swarms of foes that can quickly overwhelm if not taken care of. The best way to beat Gauntlet is to try and use the monsters to your advantage: that pile of bones may spawn deadly ghosts, but it can be used bottleneck enemies and buy some valuable seconds; those exploding zombies may be deadly, but trigger them and they can take many others with them. While this game is very much a button-smacking hack-'n'-slasher, it doesn't mean that strategy can't be applied to it.
This is exemplified in the Coliseum mode, a daily challenge-type mode in which there are four sections of a circular arena that all need to be conquered. One day they could be full of lowly undead, the next packed with enraged trolls, with each section being closed off from one another, and each containing a piece of food. Once one section is completed, you've got plenty of time to formulate a plan of attack for the next, and so on. For every Coliseum completed, you're presented with a cape for cosmetic customisation – a nice extra.
There's also Endless Mode, which does exactly what it says on the tin. This mode is best played on Hard difficulty with friends; seeing how many floors your team can go until you're all dead is more fun than it sounds, and is one of the better couch co-op experiences on PS4 – experiences that are sadly few and far between.
In general, multiplayer is an absolute blast in Gauntlet: Slayer Edition. The fact that the classes are so varied means that teamwork is essential – in our case, one player stood on the perimeter as a Wizard, casting spells and rounding up the undead, while another, a Warrior, used their spin attack to cut them down.
What's so great about this game is how cheeky and light-hearted it is. The voice acting is stereotypical yet self-aware, and you'll find humour in the most obscure places. Sure, there's some typical banter in the cutscenes, but our first loading screen boasted the helpful tooltip, "Don't drink and drive".
Still, the art style doesn't reflect the game's personality at all: every procedurally generated environment in the game is all doom and gloom, which, although fitting, is a bit boring to look at. The music is also forgettable adventure fare, but when the gameplay is as fun as it is in Gauntlet, you'll barely notice it.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Gauntlet: Slayer Edition. While playing single player can be fun, this game shines at its brightest when played with friends at its hardest difficulty. Simply put, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition is a great lark about with buddies, and Arrowhead almost hit the bullseye with this one, if only the visuals and music were a bit more interesting.