Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gauntlet III - The Final Quest

Oh, dear...

Sorry, I meant to say, here we have Gauntlet 3 developed by Software Creations for US Gold. Yet another sequel to the incredible arcade original, only this time somebody decided that the winning formula of speed and action wasn't enough. So it was decided a modernized version with an isometric viewpoint was instead needed.

Please note that I did try to keep an open mind throughout. Rather than being a grumpy old man wondering why his favourite game had been so drastically changed. Anyhow, it's not all bad surely? Of course not, but why change a winning formula? Erm, anyhow let's crack on...

So, gone is the top-down view in favour of a funky isometric 3D perspective which isn't actually too bad if I'm honest. It looks different but in a good way. I liked how we begin the opening levels in a spooky forest, this looks the part alright. All the familiar Gauntlet ingredients are lurking in the woods: ghosts, generators, treasure and food. The idea remains much the same as we hack and slash through to a medieval church... And this is just the first level. This game is pretty big!

The ruins of an old church deep in the woods. That tree looks scary so let's get inside quick!

Let's kill monsters!

Before we begin, decide who you wanna be and there are now a lot more to choose from - Warrior, Wizard, Rockman, Lizard Man, Elf and more. One or two players can team up (definitely better with two) but the basic gameplay mechanics remain pretty much the same. We're still throwing axes, arrows, magic and more directly into the faces of ghosts, goblins and other hideous creatures that emerge from their generators.

The levels are big and split over a number of small areas which you can visit at any time. Blast the generators as quickly as possible and then follow the same rules as you always have - collecting treasure and noshing on food to stay alive. Shooting potions will clear the screen of baddies or they can be collected to use later. Escaping to the next realm can only be done once humble tasks are completed - keys to collect and that sort of thing.

Essentially, they wanted this to be Gauntlet but with an isometric point of view. Sadly, it isn't really if I'm honest. What made the original games such instant and timeless classics was their immediate ability to blast monsters (either solo or with others) and the action was fast and furious. This isn't the case with Gauntlet 3. Not even close.

Inside the church are many ghosts and awkward objects to try and walk around...

Fighting in slo-mo?

Gameplay is now a lot slower, so gone is that instant enjoyment of mass killing that we love, for a more sedate exploration with some killing thrown in. That's how it feels to me. That frenzied action simply isn't here and that's made worse thanks to its level design and terrible control mechanics. Even walking is a bit of a problem...

The opening levels are littered with objects that need to be walked around. That might not sound much of a big deal, but it is because I was sick & tired of getting stuck in the scenery. This also applies to your weapons which are often blocked so can't hit their target. Heck, even the ghosts suffered from this problem!

Even worse are the controls which are so sluggish and make walking tiresome. Plus the rate with which we attack the monsters is far too slow and that means we can't destroy any generator unless you choose to walk through lots of ghosts to get a closer shot - and thus lose energy. A faster rate of firing would have fixed that instantly...

Looks like we've just walked straight into an ambush. Shoot the generators, if you can!

The CryptO'pinion?

Gauntlet 3 was programmed by Bill Barna of Software Creations and I wonder if his job was to rush through a quick and nasty Amiga port? It certainly feels like it, which is disappointing when you consider this is the same company that proudly gave us Bubble Bobble, Ghouls & Ghosts and Bionic Commando! What went wrong?

To be honest, the entire "Gauntlet" aspect was destroyed from the moment the isometric idea was born. That doesn't work. And is made worse thanks to the clunky gameplay with sluggish controls. Okay, with a friend, it's better but it's still not Gauntlet. Forget this third game was ever released and boot up either of the other two instead.

Downloads available for floppy and hard drive.


Update: I have contacted Peter Putnik (8BitChip) to ask about a hard drive version that supports faster Atari computers. Once again he worked his magic and I've been enjoying Gauntlet 3 on my 16MHz Atari STe and yes, I said the word with enjoy in it!! Sure, it isn't perfect but, if you have a faster computer, then this update will help to eliminate some of the problems, especially with the unresponsive controls.

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