Our Gangs of Sherwood Review. Is Appeal Studios' Coop action spectacle worth your time?
*Tested on PC. Review Copy was provided by the Publisher.*
Gangs of Sherwood wants to be so many things. And while it has some redeemable qualities, it feels like the game spreads itself so thin that none of these qualities manage to shine through properly. We put some hours into this upcoming Coop action title and will let you decide if it's worth your time.
Robin Hood and the Gang
Credit where credit is due, Gangs of Sherwood wastes no time throwing you into its action spectacle. After a short tutorial that teaches you the ropes, you're already off to races. That also means that if you're here to enjoy the swashbuckling take on the Robin Hood story, the game assumes you're already familiar with its plot.
Both the story and characters are paper thin and at best serve as flavor text for the levels you'll be going through. The voice acting is fine but the dialog only got the occasional eyeroll out of me. It has this weird Borderlands-esque quality just with less cursing and the occasional attempt at drama to remind us of all the better versions of this tale.
I really don't want to knock it but the game cooked up this weird steampunk meets medieval fantasy meets magic world set to the tune of British legend but doesn't do anything with it. It's serviceable, it's fine but it could've been so much more.
Stylish Rebellion or Dismissal Uprising?
For a game whose characters lack character, they do have a surprising amount of character in their combat style. Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian, and Friar Tuck are all decently realized action characters once you unlock some of their core abilities.
Midway through the game you even unlock alternate versions of their special attacks that will switch up the way you play them. Personal favorites are Marian who uses throwing knives and a rapier that can quickly turn into a whip and Little John with his mechanical arm that requires timed inputs for maximum damage.
You got your dodges, blocks, and parries that all work really well together. But there's a problem, the enemy design is extremely basic, and after the first act, you've seen pretty much everything the game will throw at you at regular intervals.
Enemy groups are supposed to be annoying with a bunch of ranged foes keeping you on your toes. But going after them first or having your combos be reset after getting cross-bolted out of nowhere is just that, annoying.
The game also features a style meter which should be in every action game. It's just a shame that this cool mechanic which is linked to your progression is very cheesable.
See, in Devil May Cry the style meter forces you to change up your combos and avoid attacks to score higher. Even if those scores don't mean much, the adrenaline rush of getting that SSS ranking is usually enough for players to experiment.
In Gangs of Sherwood however, playing Marian I mostly resorted to running around, dodging attacks, and throwing my knives at enemies, only to kill them off with the special throw. I could also cheese almost every boss fight (many of them become regular enemies/side bosses later) because of the ridiculous damage output. At some point, it just became an experiment to see how much I could get away with.
All the characters feature some great mechanics (aside from some wonky aiming), it feels like the canon fodder you run into doesn't know how to keep up with you. Later levels will just have them deal way more damage, make them tanky, and crowd you just to keep up with you. And while your arsenal of moves and abilities grows, your health and damage output doesn't. And that makes it feel imbalanced for all the wrong reasons.
Inconsistent and All Over the Place
I really hate doing this but Gangs of Sherwoods level design is boring, uninspired, and lacks anything that lets it stand out. Steampunk-fantasy Robin Hood might sound interesting on paper, but in reality, it's just medieval Hutts and castles with a few pipes and metal to make it look alien.
And it doesn't help that most levels are just long hallways that get you from A to B with the occasional big room for combat. It's rarely interesting and even though the game features some environmental hazards to play around with, those are often placed randomly and rarely have any practical use.
Just like the game's story, levels are serviceable. They are bland and do the job, even if each level has its own visual identity they all feel the same. You just waltz through them, collect barely interesting trinkets and cold, and do meaningless side activities for the illusion of getting more out of it.
Gangs of Sherwood Review – 6.5/10
Gangs of Sherwood has all the ingredients to be something special but it's clear that the combat system is where most of the attention went. Production value aside, Gangs of Sherwood seems to me like an accumulation of a game that spread itself thing throughout everything it wanted to do.
Combat is fun but the enemy design is bland and boring. The voice acting is fine, and the story is inoffensive at best but it never goes anywhere which seems like a waste.
The game could be a lot more, but in its current state, it's hard to recommend this to anyone and their friend group at a 40$ price point. The campaign isn't that long either and while there are more difficult options and optional challenges, I struggled to find any motivation to tackle any of them.
I really wanted to like it, I really hope that this blueprint for a combat system can be refined in another game. Coop action games with good combat are basically non-existent and this seems like the first step towards them being a thing.
Gangs of Sherwood releases on November 30th, 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Steam, and the Epic Games Store.
For more reviews, check out our other reviews and previews here.