Robin Hood has always been a fascinating tale of persevering against the corrupt and helping those in need. The tale saw the hero returning from the Crusades to battle the evil Sheriff of Nottingham as he exercises dictatorial power over his people. Gangs of Sherwood takes this iconic tale and puts its twist on things, for good and bad. Developer Appeal Studios does some interesting things with the game but falls short in many places, which hurts the experience.
Gangs of Sherwood may initially seem like a homerun for those looking to experience the world of Robin Hood either solo or with others. However, as an action title, it feels weak and like a chore in many ways, causing it to become a letdown. Parts of the game work great and are the game’s highlights, but most elements need work to become a strong title in an era of fantastic co-op games.
“The story’s greatest letdown is its length. I completed the campaign within 6-8 hours.”
Gangs of Sherwood sees the Sheriff of Nottingham discover the Philosopher’s Stones and take control of their power to amass a grand arsenal of weapons, technology, and soldiers to control the world of Sherwood. Players step into the role of Robin Hood, Little John, Friar Tuck, or Maid Marian as they work to rebel against the oppression of the Sheriff and his army. The game’s story is one of its strongest components and shows an alternate history scenario where advanced weaponry and tech litter the world.
You can play as any of the four heroes or all together in co-op to stop the villain. The story is enjoyable and showcases a dark but intriguing scenario of what would happen if one of the vilest people in Robin Hood lore became the most powerful. Seeing different parts of Nottingham or Locksley besieged by airships and siege towers is a twist of fate that works well for the game. Adding a steampunk element allowed for interesting technological variety during the Medieval Ages. The Rebellion versus Nottingham story is a dynamic that works great and helps keep players interested in the game.
However, the story’s greatest letdown is its length. I completed the campaign within 6-8 hours, and while the missions for each act are lengthy, there are only three acts to the story, from tutorial to final boss. Each level took me around 20-30 minutes to finish, with three missions per act. It feels like there could have been more varied levels in each act or possibly two more acts to give a suitable length, especially for a game that is nearly full price. Though a narrative is present, having others in your squad allows you to feel fully immersed in it.
“While the playable characters in Gangs of Sherwood are varied, the enemies you fight throughout the game are not.”
Gangs of Sherwood can be played as both a solo experience and with friends, but the latter is the optimal experience. There are many battles throughout the game where it is better for multiple people to utilize every character’s strengths, from Friar Tuck’s healing abilities to Little John’s powerful metal arm. Additionally, outside of some minor hiccups, the co-op is a flawless part of the game, with no signs of either lag or desyncing problems. Unfortunately, the issues with the gameplay are more prevalent.
While the playable characters are varied, the enemies you fight throughout the game are not. The enemies are just soldiers that are copied and pasted into fights and the bosses are mostly bigger versions of special enemies in smaller battle encounters. Even the battle encounters are disappointing, as every time you complete a fight, a rating system is given on how you performed (in the same vein as Devil May Cry), and while you receive gold as a reward, it felt like an afterthought to me.
The fights throughout the game’s missions become repetitive because, despite the fact that you can earn different skills and abilities, the most basic attacks are the most powerful. After putting different upgrades into my character, I still had no use for them and barely noticed them as I was still resorting to using my light and heavy attacks. The game focuses very heavily on doing mini-combos to perform these abilities and skills, yet I never felt like I needed to use them as my strategy always worked. The gameplay feels like a constant loop of a fight, running to the next one and then ending the level. Fortunately, the actual art direction of the levels is stunning.
“Another visual issue is the absence of any mouth animations when characters talk with one another.”
When traversing the different locations, such as the war-torn Locksley or the mega fortress of Nottingham, I was awestruck by how well they are designed visually. Gangs of Sherwood brings players into the atmosphere of the game’s world well and showcases different ways the war affects each location. Adding to the visuals is that the game runs at an almost constant 60 fps, with some cutscenes at 30 fps.
However, while the visuals are appealing, the cartoony art style gets in the way of the darker tone and immersion that is presented within the world. Additionally, another visual issue is the absence of any mouth animations when characters talk with one another. Furthermore, while there is full voice acting and dialogue between characters in cutscenes, it is absent when interacting with NPCs, which, unfortunately, diminished my immersion even more.
Fortunately, outside of these audio issues, Gangs of Sherwood does a great job. Whenever I pulled the string of Robin’s bow or smashed soldiers with Little John’s prosthetic arm, the impact sounded like it hurt. The cast portraying Robin’s gang of heroes all sounded unique and had me enjoying their back-and-forth banter throughout the game. Suffice it to say, the banter mixed with the high-stakes-like music through the levels created a combination that made me feel like I wanted to be there beside them, ending Nottingham’s reign.
“Ultimately, this all means that Gangs of Sherwood is not worth the asking price.”
Regarding the accessibility side of Gangs of Sherwood, there is not much to it. It’s a shame that a modern game like this has no settings besides controller sensitivity, motion blur, and brightness. What shocks me is that even though there is lots of dialogue through text, there is no option for subtitles to be toggled. It doesn’t provide visual accessibility, such as colorblind changes or gameplay settings, besides playing missions on different difficulty modes. The lack of accessibility in Gangs of Sherwood is disappointing for a game in this console era.
Ultimately, this all means that Gangs of Sherwood is not worth the asking price. As a co-op action game, it would be more suitable to put the game at a $30-$40 amount. The game has a short campaign with additional boss rush and survival modes that unlock after beating the story. However, due to the repetitiveness of the combat, the game’s value feels like it needs to be lower to suit its overall quality.”
Gangs of Sherwood is an attempt at an action co-op game within the Robin Hood lore that ultimately falls short in many places. Its story and co-op experiences are the best parts of the game and help make it stand out, but that’s it. The repetitive combat and level system, mixed with the short campaign and lackluster addition of modes, will have players looking elsewhere to play once their experience with the game is over. Appeal Studios has unique elements like the steampunk aesthetic and varying characters, but they fade away with the mediocre gameplay overshadowing it.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PS5; code was provided by publisher.
Gangs of Sherwood Review
Gangs of Sherwood works decently as a co-op action game but fails as a fun solo experience for players. The combat and bosses start to blur as the game progresses, and players looking for a lengthy campaign will surely be disappointed. While the characters offer varying abilities, some are more useful than others and showcase further that the more people playing the game, the better.