Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gauntlet III - The Final Quest

What happens when you meddle with perfection? You ruin it of course! That is exactly what has happened here with the third instalment of Gauntlet.
. . . If it ain't broken!

There isn't much point reviewing Gauntlet all over again, so instead let's see what I liked (or didn't) about our "Final Quest". The first thing to notice is the sudden change in graphical style. Gone is the top-down view in favour of isometric visuals that look rather nice and initially help create a spooky medieval scene.

However, this view cannot support the same overwhelming number of monsters which the original games easily handled. So Gauntlet 3 fails to deliver that same claustrophobic feeling of being overrun within the nightmare dungeons. Sure, the new graphics look nice but it's no longer Gauntlet, therefore, traditional ingredients which helped make it such a success are now all but gone. Gameplay has also seen a change in style from the frenzied monster-bashing antics in favour of a sedate exploration through defined environments. Perhaps the most peculiar new feature is a poisonous "thing" which randomly pops up from out of the ground, fun at first, but soon becomes tedious and rather pointless. Thankfully, Gauntlet 3 still has some of those old characteristics we love: the generators, familiar baddies, treasure and I'm grateful someone is still leaving food for me to nosh on!

Controls are a mixed bag of various disappointments. They feel slow and laborious plus flawed mechanics seem to do whatever they can to hamper any sort of snappy and decisive movement. The locations may look nice but I soon wondered why my musclebound warrior wasn't able to hop over a tree log or stomp through a mushroom patch. Throw in a dollop of dodgy collision detection for good measure and the chance of fun has disappeared!

For those who may feel I'm being unnecessarily harsh - good!  The Gauntlet name is ginormous and anything less than fantastic is going to be a disappointment and that is exactly what we have here. Sadly, it has the potential and I really wanted Final Quest to be great but the agonisingly tedious gameplay spoils any chance of long term enjoyment. I, therefore, cannot recommend Gauntlet 3 and advise you play either of the original games instead.

A GLIMMER OF HOPE?

I contacted Peter Putnik of 8BitChip (Atari ST wizard) and asked about a hard drive adapted version with support for faster computers. Once again he came through with the goods and I've enjoyed playing Gauntlet 3 for a few weeks on my 16MHz Atari STE (yes, you heard correctly - enjoyed!!) Sure, it still isn't perfect but if you have a faster computer then it will help to eliminate some of the frustration to do with the laggy controls.

LINKS

 - Floppy disk images are found using Old Games Finder.
 - I highly recommend Peter's adapted version for hard drive installation. ( video )
 - Joy Of Sticks recorded a fantastic video.
 - Gauntlet Wiki page should be very interesting for newcomers.