The Gangs of Sherwood, much like its chattering band of outlaws, attempts to compensate for its underlying inadequacies by presenting itself in a loud manner and making use of its propelling energy. This is a fast-paced, four-player shooter-slash-brawler game that has a beautifully painted alt-fantasy environment, a knockabout comedic tone, and gameplay that is lively and sometimes fantastic. It is unfortunate that these bright diversions disappear all too soon, showing Robin Hood searching through your handbag in an attempt to remove 35 pounds from it.
Surprisingly, the aspect of Gangs of Sherwood that I like the most is the one that I was least persuaded by before I played it: the location. The narrative of Robin Hood is retold in Gangs of Sherwood, except this time it is set in a different time period inspired by science fiction. Approximately five hundred years before the beginning of the industrial revolution, King Richard’s discovery of the enchanted Lionheart gem drove mediaeval England towards the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, this has not prevented the nefarious Sheriff of Nottingham from usurping the monarchy and transforming the nation into his own personal armaments factory.
To be honest, I’m not a fan of the game industry’s obsession with different interpretations of Robin Hood. We have not yet seen a game that does a good job of telling the classic story, despite the fact that it has been told numerous times in other forms of media. A Robin Hood experience that was similar to Kingdom Come: Deliverance and that made a determined attempt to imitate the life of a mediaeval outlaw would be something that I would really like. However, no one has yet developed that game. Gangs of Sherwood, much like Hood: Outlaws and Legends before it, gives the impression that it is attempting to find a solution to a problem that cannot possibly exist.
Having said that, Gangs of Sherwood swiftly won me over with its vibrant mix of steampunk and medievalism. It combines imposing stone strongholds and claustrophobic half-timbered townscapes with intricate industrial complexes that are stained with soot. There are a lot of dramatic backgrounds and some massive fighting venues in Gangs of Sherwood, which is a game that is plainly a budget release. However, the game still manages to eat through some magnificent landscapes. In addition, there are other enemies that have interesting designs, such as the low-level grunts that patrol the terrain while wearing gasmasks and Brodie helmets.
However, the user interface design is among the worst I’ve ever seen, which is unfortunate since the ambient creativity is so beautiful. The action is continually obscured by a terrible jumble of colours that clash with one another and text typefaces that are not consistent with one another. It gives the impression that Gangs of Sherwood is one of those questionable, phoney game advertisements that you could see before a video on YouTube. The only thing that is lacking is the obsession with pregnancy.
Gangs of Sherwood is not the only region in which it destroys excellent foundations; this is only one of them. The game takes on a comic tone that is very British, and it is conceptually situated midway between Fable and the games developed by Planet Moon Studios. Many times in the beginning, it made me laugh out loud. One of my favourite things about the briefings that take place before missions is the puppet show preparations. These have a deliciously silly quality to them, and they are more complicated than they should be. To our regret, the writing offers a dwindling number of comedic returns.
After a couple of hours, the humour runs out of ideas since the characters never stop talking, and the gags become more repetitive. This is because the characters never stop talking. One of the recurring gags in the show is that all of the employers are connected to Maid Marian, which gives the impression that her father, the Sheriff of Nottingham, is a rogue little scamp. The first few times you play it, it’s entertaining, but after you’ve encountered ten bosses with the suffix “of Nottingham,” it starts to get boring, and the absolute pleasure that Marian gets from killing her brothers goes from being comical to being disturbing.
In a similar vein, fighting demonstrates early promise. Different combat styles are possessed by each of the four playable characters in the game. The large club that Friar Tuck wields provides a significant amount of damage to melee attacks. Marian is a duellist with lightning-fast feet; Little John uses his fists to beat the thugs of the Sheriff; and Robin is all about remotely turning adversaries into pincushions.
The goal of fighting is to cause huge damage to foes by building light and heavy strike combinations, regardless of the character you are playing as during the game. By way of illustration, Robin’s default moveset consists of using close-range melee strikes to produce magical star arrows that float in the air and move about the battlefield. You are able to launch these purple arrows at adversaries all at once if you strike an adversary with a charged shot from your bow after you have attacked them. A drill arrow that delivers damage over time and an explosive arrow that propels foes into the air, allowing you to play human keepie-uppies by shooting them repeatedly, are two examples of the additional skills that are swiftly added to these fundamental powers by the game.
Having completed just a few missions, you will be able to do some delectable movements thanks to this system, which is both brisk and gratifying. Even if the user interface content is terrible, there is some visually appealing flare behind it. The screen comes alive with shimmering arrows, flying opponents, and the explosive ability to attack effects even when the game is played by a single player. When other players are added to the mix, the spectacle is elevated to an even higher level. It has the potential to get rather chaotic, but in most cases, the turmoil is more enjoyable than irritating.
So, what exactly is the issue? There are a few of them, to be sure. First, Gangs of Sherwood is a game that is just too simple. Through the course of the game, your characters will not just level up. There is a distinct levelling mechanism that is implemented into the task itself, and it steadily improves your health as you make your way around the map. This indicates that missions are always more difficult in the beginning, while dying requires deliberate effort once the halfway point has been reached. Furthermore, the fighting system is so structured around arena-based confrontations that it gets quite monotonous. Characters initially have a skill development that is pleasing to the eye, but subsequent skills tend to be less useful or intriguing.
As you get farther into Gangs of Sherwood, you will notice that its mechanisms become more mundane. The game does include treasure, but it is quite simple. It consists of either money, which can be used to purchase abilities and the occasional outfit, or relics, which may be used to get modest stat or effect bonuses. There are sporadic conversational encounters with non-playable characters (NPCs) or side tasks, but they do not mesh in with the game’s forward pace in any way. Most of the primary objectives are fun enough to complete in a short amount of time, but the tale itself does not leave much of an impression. There is a possibility that you will not have unlocked all of your character’s powers by the time the credits roll since the game is just five hours long and it concludes so quickly.
Even at the reduced price of £35, Gangs of Sherwood is difficult to market because of its inadequate and pointless cooperative combat. This is especially true in a year that is filled with so many wonderful games. It is not completely devoid of any kind of worth. In the event that you are able to assemble a full complement of players, you will almost certainly receive your money’s worth for a price that is half that amount. Most of the time, however, Gangs of Sherwood made me hope that someone would develop a true Robin Hood video game. One that would do away with the multiplayer gimmicks and instead focus on creating a devoted roleplaying experience centred on the character. For the simple reason that, let’s face it, nobody really wants to play the role of Little John, regardless of how competent he may be at punching.