Earlier this year Lies of P offered a very different take on Pinocchio. It was interesting to see these beloved characters in a new setting. Instead of trying to figure out who they are, I was curious who I would run into next. While Robin Hood is as well known as Pinocchio, his legend not so much. Still, Gangs of Sherwood hopes to offer their own take on the legendary outlaw in a more modern setting. With the potential to be something special, along with the ability to play with up to three friends, does it live up to the name, or is it an interesting idea for a lackluster experience.
How much you get out of Gangs of Sherwood‘s narrative depends on your familiarity with the source work. In this adventure you need to stop the Sheriff of Nottingham by slowly weakening his forces so you can get close. It’s a rather vague adventure that doesn’t feel entirely sure what it wants to be.
Each mission starts with a brief puppet show. These scenes are often under a minute, and set up the mission in a rather silly way. During the mission Gangs of Sherwood is like a modern adventure game. Each character has their own brand of snarky remarks as you slowly complete objectives. At times there might be an establishing scene like bring these explosives to the cannon, or Robin Hood telling you his brilliant idea to catapult you to the next location, but that is about it.
This is why I think familiarity is important. There are a lot of named characters that I don’t know, nor does Google offer an explanation of why I need to know Jackson, or Jeffery’s name. Main bosses link to notable characters, such as Guy of Gisbourne, or Prioress of Kirklees. However, there isn’t much to sink my teeth into. It isn’t like Professor Moriarty where even if you don’t know much about Sherlock Holmes his importance is known. It’s an odd choice, through far from the only found in Gangs of Sherwood.
Instead of getting a running start, Gangs of Sherwood slowly introduces new powers and abilities as you progress. This doesn’t sound like a bad idea, though when the narrative is comprised of 10 stages, and the tutorial stops on like stage five, or 50 percent of the experience. Worst of all there is about as much depth as Dynasty Warriors.
Character starts with a basic combo with the ability to buy additional moves. Each move completes a string, so there is a light heavy combo, two lights and a heavy combo, and you get the idea. Later there are modifiers that change how these characters function. For Little John I can have certain attacks hit twice, more likely to set foes on fire, or for some reason add lightning to my repertoire. It’s a neat idea that falls short due to how Gangs of Sherwood is designed.
Since there is very little depth, Gangs of Sherwood relies on lazy tactics to increase difficulty. Come the final mission almost every encounter has an invincible shield generator of some kind. Most enemies also had shields that give them juggernaut, along with enemies that force you to play around them. I appreciate the effort, but it makes things feel oddly cheap.
I don’t mean this in regard to difficulty per se. To be perfectly honest, Little John manages to feel absurdly overpowered, a confusing feat given builds consist of a mere 128 options. To help illustrate this I included my first attempt to defeat Jackson of
Almost as Short as the Snarky Dialogue
This boss lasted 20 seconds on normal, a large portion of which was defeating the invincibility shield enemy. I might view this as okay if I just found a game breaking combo, as I like to think the play testers tried three lights and a heavy, or was playing on story difficulty. Even in co-op the difficulty was so low my friend agreed we should try hard while playing on the highest difficulty at the time.
That isn’t to say Heroic, or the post game Tyrant difficulty offer no challenge, though it varies wildly. For the sake of this review I did The Ram, the optional boss unlocked at the end of act one, on Tyrant and it was a joke. In addition to taking a lot less damage than I expected, I still scored an S rank despite playing poorly to see how high my margin of error was. Difficulty aside, other situations/enemies can easily kill you on Heroic, or even Normal under the right circumstances.
Not only is combat dull, practically every mechanic in Gangs of Sherwood is poor in its own way. Levels are largely constructed of linear paths, with specific character types having the option to go down a different linear path. I appreciate the attempt to make runs varied, as there are also character specific collectibles, it just isn’t inviting enough to warrant that many play throughs.
Unlockable costumes are also present, complete with the ability to mix and match. It takes a while to unlock, and once you do most costumes cost 100,000 gold to purchase. Later stages and higher difficulties offer up to 29,500 gold, but even farming that is 40 attempts on top of unlocking skills/abilities for each character. Worst still, gold can’t be shared between characters.
It also doesn’t help that there is less content than meets the eye. Outside of the 10 story stages, there is the optional Ram boss, Tyrant’s Pit (a whole three boss rush mode), and The Last Stand (endless hoard). I appreciate adding The Last Stand, as I can see four friends having a blast trying to see how long they can survive , but for everyone else it’s just a weak offering.
Before getting to our verdict I wanted to touch on some of the issues I encountered playing on PlayStation 5. While it did not personally affect me, my friend/co-op partner was unable to fight The Ram, or complete story. He mentioned another associate of his had the same issue. Even with different characters, offline, hosting/joining he found would crash at the same two points every time. These were errors I could not replicate, though I am hopeful this will get corrected, or isn’t wide spread. Still, I wanted to mention it as it can have a massive negative impact on your experience.
Gangs of Sherwood Review Verdict
Gangs of Sherwood: I don't think Gangs of Sherwood is a bad game, but I don't think it has much going for it. At best it's a mediocre story that lasts a couple hours with fairly forgettable enemies/stages. The only real positive is gameplay is fun in that mindless Dynasty Warriors kind of way, and online co-op. But, even with this it's a really hard sell. At best it's the type of game I would say is worth a go on Xbox Game Pass, or PlayStation Plus. – Grant
Editor’s Note: Gangs of Sherwood was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided for review purposes.