Gangs of Sherwood review: Nott very good

Gangs of Sherwood review: Nott very good
Images via Appeal Studios

Written by 

Dani Cross

Published 

27th Nov 2023 09:00

Gangs of Sherwood takes familiar hack-and-slash gameplay and fuses it with a strange, "science fantasy" take on Robin Hood. It blends bows and knives with magnetic daggers, flaming fists and other weird weaponry, and tasks you with defeating the Sheriff of Nottingham and his multitude of goons. 

Sadly, it doesn’t make the most of its weird premise. Gangs of Sherwood is a run-of-the-mill action game devoid of innovation. Rather than offering satisfying gameplay in place of its lack of originality, it merely coasts by with passable combat trying its best to salvage a brief campaign full of grating voice acting and embarrassing boss fights.

GGRecon Verdict

Gangs of Sherwood left me in a state of disbelief after seeing how easily I could break certain bosses' programming. The challenge falls far short of what you'd expect from a modern action title too, and it isn't helped by the game's voice acting, level design or balance issues. A forgettable take on a famous legend.

East Mid-lands

Gangs of Sherwood’s combat is basic but competent. There are flashes of fun to be found in the midst of a fight, and I like how powerful the game makes you feel. I mainly played as the rogue Maid Marian, and it was enjoyable to shred through a horde of enemies with daggers while racking up combos.

The game lacks depth and creativity though, and feels imprecise. There’s a rating system that ranks you per encounter based on how well you did, but it’s easily manipulated. As Marian, I could simply spam my throwing daggers while walking away from enemies to achieve endless A or S ranks. Even in close-quarters I felt overpowered. The lack of challenge was staggering at times.

Sir Barker from Gangs of Sherwood.
Click to enlarge

I broke the first boss by throwing daggers to stun-lock him. He didn't move an inch for the entire fight - not exactly the best first impression. I shouldn’t have been able to break the game this quickly, but Gangs of Sherwood rapidly turned me into a demolitionist.

Unbelievably, I killed the final boss the same way. All he did was walk around slowly while I tossed daggers at him. It took around 30 seconds. He died so swiftly the gang’s voice lines started overlapping as his health bar vanished.

Even the boss didn’t realise he was dead - he was still monologuing as the mission wrapped up. I’ve quite literally never seen anything like it. I rematched him in the post-game boss gauntlet (which has three bosses, and took me 10 minutes to complete on the hardest difficulty), and at least there he used some attacks on me, but it was still a sorry scuffle.

Questionable combat

The rest of the game wasn't much harder. I almost killed the Act 2 boss in one hit with Maid Marian’s "flux trigger" dagger combo ability.

Even playing on the hardest difficulty I was able to spam my regular attacks in most situations and heal on-hit with an easy-to-find artifact, removing most of the danger. It feels like there’s a lack of attention given to the game’s balance, and I rarely felt truly engaged as a result. It gets even easier when you unlock “Rebel Instinct” special moves after beating the first act, though these are admittedly quite fun to use.

A fight in Gangs of Sherwood.
Click to enlarge

Occasionally, you might be prompted to open a trap door or knock down an object, but these moments don’t really feel natural. I’d completely miss the interactables if the game didn’t highlight them with a big button prompt. It’s fun to drop a stalactite from the ceiling or dump a beehive on someone’s head, but that’s about as far as the environmental complexity goes.

There’s not much incentive to do anything aside from spamming attacks until enemies fall over. You get a bit more money for higher grades in each encounter, but the techniques you unlock with this currency feel unnecessary - the game is so simple you can beat it pretty easily without bothering to learn any combos. The only upgrades I cared for were the extra artifact slots, as those at least provide meaningful buffs when you find them in a level.

Yeah, that's something I do now

The voice acting is poor and drags down the whole experience. Characters quip with low-tier MCU-level frequency, constantly narrating events with inane comments and pointless observations about things they’ve just witnessed. It feels like the voice actors are disconnected from the game as a whole, simply reading lines from a script.

That’s just the vibe Gangs of Sherwood presents - a weirdly cartoonish take on a Robin Hood jaunt, completely at odds with the death-ridden world it’s set in. Gallows humour can be effective, but not when it’s 95% of the dialogue. Judging by the gang’s banter you wouldn’t expect it to take place in a world overrun with poverty and destruction.

Robin from Gangs of Sherwood.
Click to enlarge

Friar Tuck sounds way too jovial, Maid Marian is disinterested, and the other characters are just as forgettable. Robin himself is a generic protagonist, missing any interesting traits that might’ve made this game’s take on the famous figure more noteworthy.

Weirdly it feels more like Maid Marian is the protagonist. You’re pretty much exclusively fighting her Nottingham siblings for the whole game. If you’re not playing as Robin, he’s almost completely irrelevant to the game’s events.

There’s not much else to even discuss in regards to the narrative - it’s extremely basic stuff with no real emotional impact, and the off-kilter delivery or goofy jokes are always there to ruin any moments that could’ve stuck out. The villains are over-the-top evil but don’t back it up in their boss fights, little more than ants to be crushed as they spew out toothless insults.

The dialogue becomes insufferable the more you play. I don’t have much patience for annoyingly repetitive voice lines, which seems to be a pervasive trend in games right now. The number of times my character repeated “I’m tired of this, give me a challenge” was laughable.

An unpolished package

Visually, I’ve seen games that look worse than this. The environments are pretty plain and there’s a general lack of graphical fidelity that coats Gangs of Sherwood with a lingering murkiness. One level set in a rainy forest was especially dull and blurry.

Gunther of Nottingham from Gangs of Sherwood.
Click to enlarge

I often stumbled into areas that could only be accessed by other characters, which made the experience of playing solo feel restricted. Ideally, all characters should be able to complete each level fully rather than forcing you into co-op.

Sadly I’m not sure playing in co-op adds much more enjoyment either. I killed bosses so quickly on my own I’m frankly scared to find out how fast they’d fall to a group of four. Enemies do scale, but they're still noticeably unchallenging.

Combat is constantly broken up by cutscenes or pointless chatter, destroying any notion that this is an action game designed to be exciting. Bosses get repeated various times, and in ridiculous ways - the big final boss of Act 1 appears as a scaled-down regular enemy in the very next mission.

Random collectible wanted posters can be found in the world but offer little in the way of rewards - and as far as I can tell there’s no way to track your completion, though I might have missed something in the game's hub. The game's excuse for side quests is also pretty poor. A grunting NPC gives you a generic task to complete as you play the main missions - that's it.

The end of mission ranking in Gangs of Sherwood.
Click to enlarge

Honestly, the best part of the game might be the scenes before the missions. They’re short stage plays with wooden puppets acting out mission scenarios. The mocking dialogue and cartoony villains are a better fit here than the rest of the jokey content you’re subjected to in the missions themselves. Perhaps it would’ve been better if the jokes were confined to these intros and the rest of the game had zero dialogue, but we’d still have a bland slog of a game on our hands.

Everything else feels half-baked. There’s a decent action game buried deep within the rubble, but no heroes are on the way to pull it free. Gangs of Sherwood has been sent out into a battlefield of countless action games, and it simply offers nothing of value to make it worth choosing over other titles. The steep asking price only guarantees it’ll be forgotten soon after launch.

The Verdict

When the credits rolled on Gangs of Sherwood, I just sat there in stunned silence. Simply put, it has the worst final boss I’ve ever fought, preceded by a brief bout of missions that fail to leave any kind of impact. The combat is occasionally fun but tarnished by insufferable dialogue and restrictive level design.

Funnily enough though, I was eager to see just how much I could break the game with my character's abilities, which kept me playing until the end. Gangs of Sherwood has some truly baffling boss fights, and it was thoroughly entertaining to abuse them. That's sadly the best compliment I can give this game. I can tell real effort went into elements of this title, but the overall package is very weak.

1.5/5

Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.

Dani is a Guides Writer for GGRecon. She graduated from university with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, then worked as a freelance writer before joining the GGRecon team as a full-time writer in 2023. In her opinion, the best game of all time is Elden Ring – but her favourite is Halo: Reach, a game that created lifelong friendships and somehow started her down the path to a career in media. She’s also way too invested in Pokemon cards, and a big fan of guinea pigs, cats and other cute creatures.