Review by Mestevron

"The day this game hit stores, its development house closed down."

When Midway announced that Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows was going to be headed by veteran game designers Josh Sawyer (Icewind Dale) and John Romero (Doom), there was much reason to be optimistic for the Gauntlet franchise. In a number of videos, Sawyer talked about the new gameplay elements that would be found in Seven Sorrows. On-line play, a story mode and an advanced mode, light RPG elements, item trading between players that involved a heads-up display during gameplay, limiting healing to the amount of enemies a player has defeated, and two new characters in the Lancer and the Tragedian were all good reasons for Gauntlet fans to look forward to this title.

But something happened.

During the summer of 2005, both lead designer Josh Sawyer and creative director John Romero left Midway a week apart from each other. Rumors and speculations were abundant on the internet. Gaming websites reported that there were personality conflicts, upper management being disappointed in the work of the duo, financial problems and creative differences that led to the departures. However, the one thing that was not speculation was the departures of Sawyer, Romero, and former executive producer Hugh Faulk. When the project changed hands, the majority of the great ideas that Sawyer and Romero brought to the table were dropped. In developing Seven Sorrows, the new team cut countless corners and produced a rushed game that felt like a bad rip-off of EA's Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The only great idea that was used from the Sawyer and Romero era was the on-line mode. As a result, Midway produced an embarrassment of an unfinished game that will in all likelihood make gamers shake their heads.

The Gauntlet series is basically a cooperative multi-player third person hack and slasher. There are four classes that players can choose from, each with a unique ability: the Warrior (strength), the Valkyrie (armor), the Wizard (magic), and the Elf (speed). The idea behind the series is that up to four people can mash their way through enemies, solve environmental puzzles, and collect power-ups such as weapon upgrades and gold. In Seven Sorrows this premise is still preserved, but much has changed. The player has four main attacks: the self-referencing hack and slash attacks consists of a horizontal and a vertical swing with a weapon, the nostalgic attack comes in the form of a projectile, and the enemy launch is this game's new attack. The left thumb stick is used to move, while the right thumb stick can be used to dodge or jump attack. The L1 button defends against enemy attacks, the R1 button will interact with the environment and the R3 thumbstick will zoom the camera in and out. The directional pad and the R2 button unleash mana attacks similar to Gauntlet: Dark Legacy's turbo attacks. However, not only has the mana meter replaced the turbo meter, but it has also replaced magic potions. This becomes an enormous frustration when Death appears and the mana meter is depleted, as only the R2 mana attack can defeat Death.

Unfortunately, there are many more frustrations in Seven Sorrows beyond the lack of magic potions. Two of the most noticeable unwelcome changes include the almost non-existent puzzle elements and the complete absence of power-ups. Past Gauntlet games have managed to mitigate the game's redundant mashing by adding puzzles and power-ups. Seven Sorrows has almost no puzzles because the key system has been almost eliminated. Only the scarce important doors and force fields will require a key, and all treasure chests can be opened by simply pressing the R1 button. The beloved power-ups found in Dark Legacy are nowhere to be found. The only upgrades that are available are the combo and mana attacks that can be bought between levels with gold. Early in 2005, Seven Sorrow's executive producer Hugh Faulk said the following about the game: "Combat's not just drudgery you're trying to get through in order to level up your character or to get a new skill. We want the moment to moment fighting to actually be fun." In an ironic twist of fate, the new Seven Sorrows team managed to do the exact opposite of what Faulk intended, thus making the game a complete chore to play.

Also contributing to the overall lack of quality of Seven Sorrows is the level layout, especially when involving the respawning of enemies. As if to deliberately spite the player, enemy generators are frequently placed on higher grounds where the player can not physically reach. To defeat these unreachable heavily armored generators, the absurdly weak projectiles must be utilized. This would not be such a problem if the projectiles were easy to aim, and if the screen was not saturated with enemies that get in the way. In some areas of the game, enemies do not come out of generators. They appear to just jump over a fence or some debris and keep coming non-stop. The respawning is at its absolute worst when it comes to interacting with the environment. In Dark Legacy, all a player had to do was walk up to a switch, and it flicked automatically. In Seven Sorrows, the player must use the R1 button to either push a giant block of stone, or to crank a dial so that a door can be opened or closed or for a bridge to be lowered. The problem in this case is that the enemies keep respawning and attacking the player, and if the player is cranking a dial it will ruin all the cranking progress. Once that enemy has been defeated, the player must go back to crank the dial, as enemies respawn and start to attack the player again.

As bad as everything listed above may sound, there is still one heinous crime that is completely unforgivable. This crime is none other than the absolutely inexcusable length of Seven Sorrows. The game can easily be finished in just a matter of hours. To make matters worse, there is also a noticeable amount of repetitive level geometry and some necessary backtracking. For a game that costs full price, there is no justification of why it is just a fraction of the length of Dark Legacy.

In all fairness, Seven Sorrows is not a complete failure, as there are some new contributions to the Gauntlet series that should stay. Having fall back points, as opposed to getting kicked out of the level when dying is a nice addition. The same can be said about the somewhat amusing launch attacks, the almost epic music, and the attempt at photo-realistic graphics. The game's final boss is what Dark Legacy's Garm or Skorne should have looked like. That is about all that Seven Sorrows brings to the series.

In conclusion, this game is defined by seven sorrows:

#1 - The departures of Josh Sawyer and John Romero.
#2 - The members of the replacement development team are complete idiots.
#3 - Magic potions are not in the game.
#4 - The gameplay is painfully repetitive.
#5 - Redundant level geometry.
#6 - Seven Sorrows is incredibly short.
#7 - The day Seven Sorrows hit stores, its development house got closed down just two weeks before Christmas.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Originally Posted: 12/16/05, Updated 12/21/05

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