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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Preview: Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows (Xbox, PS2, PC)

By Michael Palisano

Reborn as with some new RPG elements in place, Midway's classic medieval brawler returns to consoles and PC this winter with the release of Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows. Once again, players select one of four main characters as they battle an endless swath of enemies. Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows will also feature massively multiplayer online battles for the first time. Visually, the game is already looking amazing, with richly detailed environments and beautifully designed levels that should give the visuals quite a punch. Fans of the arcade classic can commence drooling, since this looks like the best Gauntlet revival yet.

Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows begins as an emperor who has been tormented by his dreams and nightmares releases four prisoners he's held for hundreds of years. They are the only ones who can save his soul and bring back peace to their tormented land. These four immortal warriors include a wizard, an elf, a Valkyrie and a Warrior. Each of these characters has a dark past and Gauntlet Seven Sorrows will feature a richly developed backstory that details their own struggles and tragedies, allowing players to follow them on their paths to redemption. These are the main characters, though Midway is promising six playable in all - details of the others haven't been released yet. Players can choose to play the game as any one of these four characters. The basic mission is to defeat the enemy hordes who have over-run your world. This isn't as easy as it sounds, and you'll face many types of enemies including the classic skeletons among other foes. Each of these characters brings a unique set of abilites to the battles and can unlock additional powers by collecting power-ups and other items along the way.

During the intense battles, you can choose to use your main weapon, which varies depending on character, or cast a magic spell to wipe them out. Which weapons you have depend on which character you'll use. For example, the Warrior has his trusty battle-axe, the Wizard conjures fireballs and the Elf can shoot arrows. However, the combat system has also been refined to allow a more dynamic style that increases the number of choices as you progress through the game. While the gameplay resembles the classic Gauntlet in many respects, Seven Sorrows introduces a deeper, RPG style elements. These allow you to power up your character with new weapons, equipment and magic spells. These character attributes are called and offer Weapons, Class and Iconic Skills, with each offering plenty of room for your character to change. Players will be able to progress deeper into the levels by using their magic spells to unlock additional areas and levels.

The developers at Midway have obviously played the earlier games and some of the misguided revivals, and this is evident in the game design, which takes the best of the classic and updates it without losing the essence of its appeal. Seven Sorrows will implement a much more expansive approach than earlier titles in the series, with large open environments that should allow for a greater sense of freedom. These open areas also mean that enemies will attack you from all directions that should make the battles much more intense than before, with each character given more destructive power. Midway is promising to unleash a refined version of the classic game's hack and slash play mechanics, which should make the game play faster than before. One of the more exciting changes in the new game is the ability of players to band together to form Junction Attacks, which will allow them to defeat unsuspecting enemies much quicker. As one of the most innovate titles of it's day, the original Gauntlet was the first title to offer four player co-operative play simultaneously. Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows takes this approach and expands it to offer internet play to create a richer and more elaborate online experience. Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows' online community will also allow players to form a community with other internet players, allowing them to trade, barter, collect additional items and play missions with other players online. This should foster a much stronger sense of companionship and camaraderie amongst players, making for a much deeper experience while adding plenty of replay value to the title.

From a visual standpoint, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows should take full advantage of today's rendering technology and graphics cards with advanced shading and lighting effects being implemented. The environments are much larger than in previous games, offering a much larger area for players to traverse with a lot more variety. The angled-top down perspective should make it easy to keep track of the action, without losing the detailed, rich graphics. The smooth animation and fast frame rate should keep the action to a brisk pace throughout. Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows' production values are already looking fantastic, with excellent character and creature design that creates a beautifully realized game world. Its deeper storyline will also help to immerse players further into the action, making for a deeply satisfying experience that should engage players throughout.

While the older title's solid play mechanics remain evident, Midway has added a many intruiging elements to the series that should make for an excellent game. The combat system is going to offer more intense battles, with deeper RPG-style elements that will allow the characters to grow. The game's co-operative play has been enhanced with the ability to play others online for the first time, which should make for an even more robust gaming experience. Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows is also promising some highly polished visuals, with beautifully rendered environments and character designs that should make this a solid addition to any gamer's library. Judging by the progress made at this stage this stage of development, it looks like these added elements will enhance the gameplay's depth without overshadowing the fast-paced action that lies at the core of the series' enduring appeal. Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows looks like a solid revival of a classic series from Midway and should please retro fans and contemporary gamers alike with its mixture of action and strategy.

Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows

Platform: PC, Xbox, PS2
Developer: Midway San Diego
Publisher: Midway
Release: Winter, 2005


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