Gangs of Sherwood blends steampunk, Vermintide and DMC for a fun new Robin Hood game

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There’s a rich a vibrant history of retelling the Robin Hood story in new and inventive ways. Whether it’s turning him into a cartoon fox, focussing in on one of his most common traits – that he wears tights – setting his tale in modern times, or adding in anachronistic technology, there’s almost always a fresh spin being put on the classic tale. Gangs of Sherwood is the latest example of this, blending Robin Hood’s adventure with steampunk and co-op action.

The best way to describe Gangs of Sherwood is as a blend of Warhammer: Vermintide like level design with the combat sensibilities of a Devil May Cry. And you know what? It’s a blend that absolutely works!

There’s a mixture of science fantasy and fiction here, lending the game a bit of a steampunk aesthetic. The Sheriff of Nottingham has control over the Philosopher’s Stones, using them to power all manner of mechanical wonders and turn them to evil uses – there’s some parallels to MachineGames’ Wolfenstein here – stamping down on the local populace and sending out his tax collectors to drain every ounce of money out of people’s pockets as possible. As we all know, Robin stands up against this, seeking to steal from the rich and give back to the poor, but he’ll have to dismantle the Sheriff’s war machine in the process.

Making this a co-op game makes perfect sense when you have such a strong set of defined core characters at the head of the Merry men, and Gangs of Sherwood can be played with up to four players taking on the roles of Robin, Marian, Friar Tuck and Little John. Each one slots into different roles, so Robin is naturally better as a ranged support, while Little John gets stuck right in as the tank, Little John is a tanky healer, and Marian is like a stealthy rogue. All of the can be further customised through ability unlocks and gear, but right from the start there’s a solid blend of character traits that gives each of them a different style of play.

Alan-a-Dale also appears as the game’s main story teller, a jester and trickster who performs fun little Punch and Judy-style plays as pre-level cutscenes, and then within levels to mark checkpoints and hold whatever cash you’ve liberated for later spending.

Gangs of Sherwood Locksley raid

The game opens as the armies of the Sheriff of Nottingham attack their hideout at Locksley Manor, the foursome having to race through the surrounding streets and homes, trying to help people escape the military crackdown. Then, it’s time to strike back, raiding Guy of Gisborne’s base in an effort to blow up a vast cannon – again, there’s a bit of Wolfenstein to some of this adaptation!

The levels have a nice twisting flow to them, going from light platforming to arena-style fights against a clutch of enemies. There’s often little side paths that only one character or another can pass through – squeezing through a tight passage is for Robin and Marian, while Tuck can smash through weak wooden barrier – and sometimes that leads to finding a chest with certain goodies. There’s also occasional appearances of the tax collector and his guards, leading to a quick little chase through the level as a quirky diversion.

Gangs of Sherwood Ultimate attack

The real star of the show is the DMC-inspired combat. I initially played as Tuck, and he comes with a set of attacks and abilities that will be familiar to any Reinhardt main in Overwatch. He can smash, he can send a shockwave swipe, and pull up a shield to block in combing attacks. His animation style, though, is reminiscent of Hulk in the MCU, as you pummel enemies into the ground with rapid hits.

After that it was on to my main man Robin, whose ranged attacks could keep dishing out steady damage without having to worry so much about dodging and blocking incoming attacks.

Souping things up over time is the Rebel gauge, which fills as you dish out damage until you can trigger a main ability when two pips are full, or unleash an ultimate when completely filled. For Robin, that triggers an unending stream of magical arrows to spawn and fly at your targeted enemy in quick succession. When you’re dealing with souped up enemies and come up against powerful bosses – Guy of Gisborne rocks up in an imposing spider-bot for one level’s climactic battle – you’ll need to build up that Rebel gauge quickly to deal as much damage as possible, that’s for sure.

Gangs of Sherwood Gisborne spider-bot battle

The final DMC-like touch is that you’re rated and scored as you battle through each encounter. From D rating up to S ranking, each tier has been given a Robin Hood-style nickname.

Between missions, you’ll head back to the hideout where you’ll be able to spend the cash you’ve earned on unlocking cosmetics, buying new equipment, and customising your character skills to match your chosen style of play. Your Tuck could be much more of a healer than a frontline bruiser, for example, or improve Robin’s arrows to deal different elemental damage.

I was pleasantly surprised by my hands on time with Gangs of Sherwood. It might not win many awards for originality, but there’s a fun and engaging blend of gameplay that I’m looking forward to spending more time with, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the levels, the bosses and the tone of this retelling really lean into the steampunk excess it’s hinting at.

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