Review – Gangs of Sherwood

Oo-De-Lally!

Overview

Developer Appeal Studios
Publisher Nacon
Genre Beat Em Up, Action RPG
Platforms PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Xbox Series S | X, PC
Release Date November 30, 2023

The sales pitch for Gangs of Sherwood felt like an underhanded toss for me. You’re telling me you have a retrofuturistic tale of Robin Hood with great graphics, an endearing personality, and sustained progression? They’re also releasing it at a budget price and it has up to 4-player cooperative play? Sign me up for the Merry Men right now!

Content Guide

Violence: The game has standard medieval combat with bows, swords, maces, and fisticuffs. There’s some blood spatter but otherwise no gore or viscera.

Sexual Content: There is no sexual content of concern here.

Drugs and Alcohol: There are no drugs or references to alcohol.

Language/Crude Humor: The game has a bit of salty language in it from time to time. Often, it’s the sort of thing you’d expect to hear on prime-time television with S***, A**, and D***, but a few G**D***s made their way into the story narrative too.

Dark/Spiritual Content: Friar Tuck stays true to his nature. I actually got pretty amped up at one point when, in preparing for a big event, he said, “The Lord is my shepherd. HERE I AM!” Because of Tuck, there are a handful of religious references made. Beyond that, there are evil villains and that’s about it.

Review

The tale of Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest, and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham has been told for generations. It’s been played out in movies, television, board games, and more. I never would’ve thought a beat ’em up with RPG progression mechanics would be one of the most interesting takes on the classic story I’d seen in years, but here we are.

Gangs of Sherwood is set in a retrofuturistic take on England. Everything still feels largely medieval, but wagons and transports use hover pads to get around and there are machines that affect everything from electricity to fire. Robin, Marian, Friar Tuck, and Little John are all controllable as you’ll fight the army under the control of the Sheriff in an attempt to topple his regime and free the land of his tyranny. While the core of the tale remains largely unchanged, the personalities of our main cast go a long way in selling the experience. The modified take on the Sheriff of Nottingham even feels like a cool twist to fit the setting. I greatly enjoyed my time here. Clocking in around three or four hours, it’s just a shame the campaign is so short. Like the one piece of pie your parents allowed you after dinner, it tastes great, goes too quickly, and leaves me wanting more of that sweet treat.

Spaced across three acts with three chapters each, you (and up to three friends) will take on the tale on mission at a time. These typically take from 15 to 30 minutes and culminate in some sort of boss battle. After completing the mission, you’ll take your gold and reputation, unlock and upgrade new skills, and press on to the next one. There are a handful of bonus missions you can take on, but even with those you can complete the entire experience in five hours or less. I could see myself going back in for more with friends, but my real hope is for some sort of DLC that will add another act or two to the game.

The boots-on-the-ground gameplay will have you controlling one of our four main protagonists in a beat ’em up. You’ll use a combination of light and heavy attacks to clear a variety of villains. Each of the four main characters plays uniquely. Robin can fire arrows with some specialty shots thrown in whereas Marian uses throwing daggers and a whipsword. These two are pretty nimble and can squeeze through tight spaces as they move through missions. Friar Tuck and Little John, on the other hand, can lift or smash obstacles for alternate pathing. Tuck uses a massive mace to conquer his foes whereas Little John relies on a series of well-timed attacks to charge a modified heavy attack. Each feels satisfying in its own way and can be further modified based on what you unlock between missions.

Gangs of Sherwood is a fantastic-looking game with great voice acting. From Sherwood Forest to war-torn World War I-like trenches to towering keeps and more, the environments look wonderful and keep the aesthetic fresh. The puppet show put on to explain the story beats before each mission is both informative and captivating, despite some use of foul language. The boss and enemy variety felt substantial enough that nothing got stale in my time with the game either. While there are no alternative weapons to speak of, you eventually get alternate outfits as part of your character upgrades.

Gangs of Sherwood is a fantastic experience that does an excellent job earning its place as one of my favorite budget titles of 2023. The game looks and plays great, the environments feel fresh, the progression is rewarding, and the fact you can do it all with a few friends if you want is the cherry on top. At three to four hours, I was sad to see the game end so quickly…but only because I enjoyed my time with it so much. I look forward to what the team at Appeal does with the IP moving forward. If you can’t justify spending $40 on five hours of gameplay, I get that, but missing out on Gangs of Sherwood means missing out on a fun alternative to the many fantastic, but long, games that released this year. Plan to play this one when you can.

Review copy generously provided by Nacon.

The Bottom Line

 

With excellent characters, great gameplay, and a fun setting, Gangs of Sherwood is one of the best beat 'em ups in recent years.

 

8.5

Joe Morgan

Husband, gamer, software developer, animal lover. When he's not writing for GeeksUnderGrace, he's probably fishing or working on content with his wife for Coffee and Adventure, their YouTube channel

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