Gangs of Sherwood (PS5) Review

Robin of Locksley and his Merry Men trade blows with the Sheriff of Nottingham in this quasi-futuristic, cooperative action game.

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Gangs of Sherwood is the latest game from Appeal Studios, a smaller, indie studio, previously responsible for Outcast: A New Beginning, amongst others. Unlike the rest of their small catalogue of games, Gangs of Sherwood represents a big task, and a lot of responsibility in delivering a good adaptation of an infamous British bit of folklore. Has the studio managed it? Kind of.

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Robin Hood and His Merry Men

Gangs of Sherwood

For those unaware, Robin Hood is the tale of a Prince who takes umbrage with the Sheriff of Nottingham, as he exploits and uses the peasants and everyman for his own gain. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor and using his archery skills to turn the tide, there’s been multiple iterations of the tale over the years. From Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves to the box office flop that was Taron Egerton’s most recent Robin Hood, the story is well-trodden.

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Gangs of Sherwood takes the basics of the tale, with the four playable characters being the most popular of the Merry Men; Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Little John and Marian, as well as the antagonist being the Sheriff of Nottingham of course, however the rest of the story gets a multitude of unique twists.

Set in a futuristic, dystopian future where the Sheriff is laying siege, the Merry Men must band together to repel him and save the people. Throughout the six hour campaign you’ll spend your time in the trenches of a war-torn Nottingham, Sherwood Forest and a giant, floating fortress, among other locations. Unfortunately the majority of the environments, whilst looking okay to good in places, are as linear as you can expect, and there’s very few times where exploring is possible, let alone rewarded.

Gangs of Sherwood

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There’s very little in the way of actual gameplay present between the interspersed battles, and you’ll quickly realise you’re in a very obvious loop of ‘battle, run a bit, battle, run a bit’. Occasionally you’ll come across a chest, which will contain a measly amount of gold or an artifact, which are the game’s versions of stat boosters, and feel largely irrelevant, truthfully.

The story won’t win any awards, with the standard good vs evil trope, no real character development throughout, but each mission and level is introduced in a fantastic little puppet theatre fashion that brings levity and humour to proceedings, and in truth, the game as a whole feels very tongue-in-cheek. The dialogue drew genuine laughs at times, with a mixture of it being so bad-it’s-good banter, and other times just being actually funny.

Gangs of Sherwood is a Fighting Man’s Game

Gangs of Sherwood

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As mentioned, the gameplay loop of Gangs of Sherwood is simple, and as such, it needs to get it right. The majority of the campaign was played through with one other person, I being Robin and them being Friar Tuck. For a game that makes such a big thing of the coop capabilities of the game, it largely feels untapped in that regard.

It cannot be understated how fun the game actually feels when playing with friends though. It is intense, chaotic and full on mayhem, with countless amounts of enemies on screen offering a variety of challenges and forcing different approaches, but largely the teamwork required is minimal. There is no combined finishing moves, no dual attacks and it becomes noticeable very early on in that regard. Ultimately, whilst preferable, there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to playing with others, and certainly no coop specific mechanics.

With all that said, it is fun. The game allows the constant unlocking of new skills, artifact slots, rebel abilities (a super attack, basically) that keep combat fresh, and the four playable characters feel different and unique enough that you’ll want to try them all out and see which fits your particular play style. It never got boring using Robin and his arrows, with his special attack being the summoning of ‘Star Arrows’ that cause immense amounts of damage to whoever is unlucky enough to be hit by it.

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The ranking system of every battle does also help with forcing the player to try different strategies, and it breeds a certain level of competition with your team mates, as well as forcing some cooperation to achieve the best rankings.

It certainly isn’t the deepest or most convoluted game on the planet, but it never pretends to be anything more than it is; a game made to be enjoyed with friends with a simplistic premise. It is genuinely good, surface level fun with friends, and it has all the basics of what a game like this should have, but it also comes with plenty of room for improvement in future DLC or future instalments.

6/10

6 out of 10

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Gangs of Sherwood was played on PlayStation 5 and reviewed on a code supplied by Dead Good Media. As featured on OpenCritic.

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Written by Luke Addison

Articles Published: 425

Luke Addison is the Lead Video Game Critic and Gaming Editor. As likely to be caught listening to noughties rock as he is watching the latest blockbuster cinema release, Luke is the quintessential millennial wistfully wishing after a forgotten era of entertainment. Also a diehard Chelsea fan, for his sins.

Twitter: @callmeafilmnerd