A poorly-designed imitation
The game’s developers were obviously inspired by Gauntlet…actually, “inspired’ is too kind a word. Get Medieval is a Gauntlet clone. The character roles are the same, the story is the same, even the interface is the same. Practically the only difference is the SVGA graphics.
The story follows the cut-and-dried formula of “[insert kingdom] is under threat from [insert evil villain] and [insert hero] must save the day by wielding the awesome power of the legendary [insert really cool weapon].” You get to choose which character you play, from Eryk the elf, Zared the barbarian, Levina the sorceress, and Kellina the avenger. Eryk and Zared are typical macho boneheads, and Levina and Kellina are hardnosed femme fatales that dress so provocatively they probably would have been jailed or worse had they really lived in medieval times. Each of them has different skills. Eryk is fast, but pretty weak. Zared is devastatingly strong, but is slow. Levina is skilled with magic, and Kellina is the proverbial “jack of all trades but master of none”.
If there’s one good thing you can say about Get Medieval, it’s its humour. While a lot of the dialogue has been recycled from Monolith’s previous release: Claw, it is still refreshing to have your characters occasionally pause to toss off a Duke Nukem-esque one liner. The FMV cutscenes are equally funny, the intro depicts the four characters sitting on a lounge watching all the action unfold on a widescreen TV.
Monolith has a penchant for making their games customizable. A level editor can be downloaded from the Get Medieval site, which allows you to create whole levels from scratch or fiddle with existing ones. There is even a sound editor. Multiplayer mode is also a streamlined affair, allowing you to play ever over a LAN network, direct IP, or co-oping using the same keyboard. In the event that you complete the 40 levels that ship with the game, there is also a random dungeon generator.
I didn’t say too many positive things above, but that’s because there aren’t too many positive aspects of Get Medieval. Aside from the fact that it is a ripoff of Gauntlet (which alone could be excused if Get Medieval had been a brilliantly good game in its own right), it wasn’t even executed well.
The game’s graphics suck. Hardcore. Granted, the 3D models look OK, but there are games three years older that look three times better than Get Medieval. And don’t get me started on the unalterable 640x480 resolution, the ugly, grainy textures, the choppy framerate, the horrible lighting, and the fact that animation is all but nonexistant (your character attacking takes up about two frames, and running uses three).
There may be some people who enjoy playing this game, but I’d be very surprised if they are over the age of six. Basically, you play the game from a top-down perspective, running around labyrinthine hallways Pac-Man style, collecting the shiny baubles lying around on the ground, madly hammering the attack button every time an enemy pops into view. No strategy, no brains required, just sheer, brutal repetition. After level 5 I had completely lost interest. If you make it to level 40 out of a sense of obligation, it is highly unlikely you will want to replay the game. You could even give up before the end.
As awful as gameplay is, it is taken down yet another peg by the annoying combat dynamics. You can fire left, right, up, down, or hold two buttons together to fire diagonally. So, if a monster is charging at you at an angle of 30º, you’re screwed unless you can rapidly hop into line with it…which you can’t in most cases, virtue of the unresponsive controls.
Also, many elements of combat are downright absurd. Take for instance Eryk, that elf dude with a bow. Or at least we’re told he has a bow in the manual, but he shoots so rapidly he might as well have an M-16 machine gun. No joke, he can fire ten arrows a second if you hit Ctrl fast enough. And does it make sense that arrows pass right through enemies, and you can kill twenty hulking monsters with one arrow if they’re standing in a line?
The controls are unwieldly and unstable, and illogically placed on the keyboard. Trying to fire diagonally is a pain, as half the time the game won’t register the combo you used and you will either fire vertically or horizontally. I was hoping that I could remap them, like they allowed us to in Claw, but no such luck.
The Bottom Line
Get Medieval combines bad graphics, a hackneyed theme, frustrating controls and depressing gameplay. Despite having a similar theme to Gauntlet, the two are as different as mice and moonbeams. Gauntlet is a classic. Get Medieval is a shoddy imitation. Even if you found the original a lot of fun to play, you probably won’t get much entertainment out of this one. Even if you notice it sitting on a shelf with a price tag of $3.50, remember that you can also get a McDonald’s Happy Meal for about the same price. Plus you get a cool toy to play with.