Editor needs rest badly!
Although I am not from Missouri, I still claim the battle cry, "Show Me!" You can talk all you want about a game's graphical eye-candy and cutting-edge technology, but is it fun to play? Some of the best games I have ever played were some of the worst looking. Broken Helix, Need for Speed II, Blast Chamber - these are just a few of the games whose aesthetic quality was definitely not runway material, but the gameplay offered by the ugly ducklings was fun and addictive.
Midway's latest installment in the Gauntlet series, Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, reminds me a lot of those aforementioned games. The gameplay is solid and involving and the linearity is kept at a relative minimum. However, the camera can be a pain, textures look anything but detailed and the overall appearance of the game is more like high level PSX quality. An even more crippling hinderance is the repetitive gameplay and the absolute need for friends to be in on the action. One is the loneliest number.
In a land known as the Eight Realms, a foolish young mage named Garm has become jealous of his older brother's power (who oversees the realms), and hopes to usurp that which he covets. By unleashing Skorne, the demonic commander of a seemingly infinite army of evil minions, Garm thought it possible to command the demon to do his bidding. But without the proper number of Runestones, Skorne became uncontrollable. Now the demon and his minions must be vanquished from the Eight Realms, which leads Sumner, Garm's older brother, to call forth the strongest and most powerful warriors of the Eight Realms. Nerdy nerdy nerdy!
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy is a 1-4 player 3D action adventure game played almost exactly like the original arcade smash. Even the ominous and ubiquitous voice returns to remind you of the obvious: "Dwarf is about to die." "Wizard needs food." Ah, the nacho-infested arcade memories are back!
You can play as a character from eight different classes. There's the speedy (Jester and Archer), the heavily armored and skilled (Knight and Valkyrie), the brute strength (Dwarf and Warrior) and of course the magical (Wizard and Sorceress). Just pick your class and character skin and you're off to the first of the Eight Realms.
Anyone familiar with Gauntlet will feel right at home with the gameplay. Traverse the levels acquiring power-ups, enchanted weapons and crystals that allow passage to the remaining realms. Kill as many grunts, ankle-biters, trolls and golems as you can. The more creatures you kill, the quicker your character's experience level will rise. As with most experienced-based games, higher levels mean more magic, armor, strength, health and increased speed. Nothing new there.
But each class has special abilities that are level dependent. For instance, when a they reach a certain level, the Wizard or Sorceress will be able to turn poisoned food into edible food, the Warrior and Dwarf will be able to turn "junk" into treasure, etc. This adds an interesting element to Dark Legacy, as I find myself scouring each area for every possible item, trinket and piece of treasure.
Often life teaches us that the rich get richer, and that's certainly the case here. The more treasure you collect in the field will allow you to purchase food, power-ups, armor and many other items at the shop in between missions. This is a pretty cool feature, since your life doesn't regenerate itself after you complete a realm. And once you get to some of the higher levels where your max health is above 1500, it can get exceedingly difficult to maintain that without purchasing nutritious fruit and chicken legs'mmm, chicken.
One thing I really like about Dark Legacy is the relative lack of linearity. Since finding the multicolored crystals is all you need in order to open other realms, you will often find that you have been permitted to travel to a new realm without having completed the previous one. I like that.
Still, it's not without its drawbacks. Many of the realm protectors (all of which you must face in fierce combat) require some sort of tome or weapon or trinket to defeat them. And of course these items can only be found in the field. So search carefully, or like me you'll be doing a fair amount of backtracking to spot what you missed.
The biggest problem is the fact that it's just no fun if you don't have some friends to play with. The multiplayer was part of the lure of the classic arcade version and still remains an integral part of the game. Grab some buddies or grab another game, no question.
Yet even if you have some roommates to play with, Dark Legacy can get redundant. While the levels and monsters change, the simple gameplay doesn't really advance, leading to a somewhat shallow experience. You won't be up all night with this one.
As I stated earlier, GDL is not a very impressive looking PS2 title. Characters and textures are brutally devoid of any detail. Character animation is passable but wins no awards whatsoever. Particle effects for magic and enchanted items are just not up to snuff. In a nutshell, it ain't pretty.
But the gameplay is enjoyable. And quite frankly, that's what matters most. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy has more than enough items, upgradeability and weird creatures to keep your attention for more than a rental, but only if you have a few friends to play it with. At any rate, I wouldn't pay more than 30 bucks for this puppy.