|Developer||Flaming Fowl Studios|
|Release Date||October 20, 2021|
Gloomhaven thumped itself onto the tabletop gaming scene in 2017. Though its box was huge and price tag hefty, it quickly climbed BoardGameGeek’s top 100 list and has been residing at the top ever since. Gloomhaven combined mechanically sound, card-driven gameplay with a wonderful story and RPG elements to create what is currently the number 1 game in the BGG rankings.
Gloomhaven feels like it should translate very well to the digital realm, so how did first-time developer Flaming Fowl Studios do with it?
Note: This review will be as spoiler-free as possible.
The board game Gloomhaven contains narratives of blood, gore, dark cult practices, and torture that some may find to be too much. Gloomhaven on Steam is no different. In fact, the digitized version heightens some of these features simply because it is more graphic. Though not as dark as something like Dark Souls, Gloomhaven is generally a dark game, but the blood and cult practices didn’t feel gratuitous within the world they are set in. However, I would not recommend this game to younger or sensitive children.
I do really appreciate that Gloomhaven on Steam refuses to give in to the tired trope of fantasy games that feature scantily-clad women which are neither realistic nor helpful. Way to go, Flaming Fowl Studios!
Gloomhaven on Steam plays almost the exact same as the tabletop version: in a word, wonderfully. If you’d like to read more about the original game, check out our review here. Gloomhaven is an excellent game, and Gloomhaven on Steam translates its physical counterpart almost perfectly. The campaign, the characters, and everything else is much the same, with perhaps a bit more side encounters than what are included in the board game.
After the optional tutorial, you’ll choose at least 2 characters from 6 different classes. When playing single-player, you can control 2, 3, or 4 characters, and when friends join you in game, you’ll give them control over 1 or more of your party members. Players will select their cards before each round, and the characters will perform their actions with fun animations. The interface is intuitive, and I like how the necessary information is presented without it feeling overwhelming. On the casual side, if you don’t care about what the monsters are doing this round, you don’t have to know. On the hardcore side, you can see exactly what is in your damage modifier deck by clicking on the icon.
Gloomhaven on Steam adds to the Gloomhaven experience in that players don’t have to set up the board, don’t have to take the enemies out and shuffle enemy decks, and don’t have to keep track of health and condition tokens. Yes, you lose the physical aspect of Gloomhaven, but if you’re playing Gloomhaven on Steam solo, you’re looking at around 20 minutes, sometimes less, to complete an entire mission, whereas if you were playing the physical version of the game, you’d spend at least an hour setting it up and playing. In my years as a tabletop gamer, I prefer physical games over digital 99% of the time, but the convenience of Gloomhaven on Steam allows me to play Gloomhaven more often and in less time.
Gloomhaven on Steam also adds the fun stuff you’d expect from a digital adaptation: attack animations, music, alternate character skins, and difficulty adjusters (which, again, is wonderfully like the board game’s difficulty adjusters). All that stuff is great, and while more experienced gamers may point out that the animations could use a little more variety, they are not the point of Gloomhaven on Steam—the gameplay is—so they work fantastically.
Encounters, story development, mission selection, visiting the merchant, and city events are also excellent. The menu screens make a lot of sense, and it’s fun getting to read along with the narrative while it’s simultaneously being read to you by a deep voice that sounds like a Nord from Skyrim. The narrative and pictures that appear on the screen do a great job of immersing the players in the story.
The multiplayer is a blast and can replicate those moments of camaraderie, even if you and your friends aren’t in the same room. Gloomhaven on Steam allowed me to play with a friend who I normally wouldn’t get to play Gloomhaven with because we live 4 hours apart. You get the same gameplay experience, which is an absolute blast. When it works, the multiplayer leaves nothing to complain about.
However, the multiplayer doesn’t always work. Flaming Fowl Studios is still working on fixing some issues with hosting, players getting kicked during cutscenes, and soft locking. It can be frustrating when multiplayer isn’t working properly, but in my 2 months of playing Gloomhaven on Steam, the multiplayer connections have improved significantly.
There’s a lot going on in Gloomhaven on Steam, but my Macbook Air was able to handle everything without a problem. One of my friends has an older PC, and he encountered longer load times because of that, but not anything crazy.
Despite its occasional multiplayer fritzes, Gloomhaven on Steam is a superb adaptation of the award-winning board game. It faithfully implements the joys of the physical game, while also taking advantage of the digital platform. If you love Gloomhaven, this is a no-brainer. If you’re interested in it, but haven’t pulled the $100+ dollar trigger, check out Gloomhaven Digital first. It’s cheaper and a great way to learn Gloomhaven (as is Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion).
The Bottom Line
If you love Gloomhaven, the Steam version is a no-brainer. It seamlessly translates the physical game to a digital platform.