This game was reviewed on Playstation 5.
Reviewed by: Amanda Martin
Thrown into the dark world of Gloomhaven, you work as a mercenary, picking up odd jobs and trying to survive. Which is easier said than done most of the time.
It is definitely a lot easier to boot up a video game than it is to fully set up a table-top RPG board game. Think tiny tokens, minifgures and character sheets, all things that can be easily knocked and scattered around the room. You don't need to worry about any of that whilst playing the video game however, the only thing you need is a controller. It makes the adventure much more accessible to those that might not have the space or resources to set up the table-top version, and provides a smoother experience.
You begin by choosing some characters, or more specifically, character classes. There is no character creation here, the only thing you can do is name your group of mercenaries, and their individual names. Each class has their own strengths and weaknesses, which end up being very important. You can also choose a life goal for these characters, which they work towards throughout the adventure. Once their life goal has be attained, they can retire from the group, leaving an opening for a brand new character. Every class has their own playstyle to master, giving players a fresh challenge every time.
Instead of having something like an overworld, you select missions from a map, and watch as the symbol representing your band of mercenaries travels across it. On these travels however, you run into random encounters, where you are presented with a situation and a couple of options of how to deal with it. Your choices can grant you many things, and not all of them are good. From gold to XP and even being cursed, these can either help or hinder your next battle. What might seem like the better choice may not always be beneficial to you.
Much like the table-top version, your battle encounters occur in smaller areas, known as dungeons. These are laid out with hexagonal tiles, showing the area of play. Not all of these tiles are left blank however, some may be obstructed by an object of have a trap laid out on them. Enemies will also take up space on these tiles, and will leave a pile of gold behind when they die. Your character is limited in their movement, so being able to play tactically is important. You need to position yourself to attack, but not end up surrounded. Loot is automatically picked up if you end your turn on it. Surrounding rooms can be revealed by opening their door and stepping through. You're encouraged to traverse the whole map, as you never know what might be lying in wait for you.
There are different quest types you can undertake, and not all are as simple as killing all enemies. Some require you to loot a certain chest, or protect another character from death. Before entering a dungeon, you can select a sub-objective for each mercenary as well. Completing these grants that character perk points, eventually giving them access to perks to make the power of their deck even greater. This is important to keep on top of, as your attacks can be affected by modifiers that can change the damage output. Being able to rid yourself of the negative effects and have access to more positive effects can help turn the tide of battle.
There are some mechanics that may take new players some time to get used to. Ability cards are used to both move around the tiled map, as well as performing attacks or special skills like applying poison. Two cards are selected for each mercenary at the beginning of the round, and the line-up is formed from lowest to highest initiative. Some abilities require you to burn the card afterwards, making it unavailable for the rest of the level. If you have no active cards left to play, you must rest in order to recover these cards, and also a little bit of health. This also requires you to burn a card, shrinking your deck even more. If you run out of cards completely, the mercenary becomes exhausted, unable to continue in the level. If the whole party becomes exhausted, then the objective fails. All is not lost on a game over however. Any XP you gained during the course of the level is retained, as well as any items and gold you collected.
This is a great transition from a table-top to a digital adventure. 8/10
Reviewed by: Amanda Martin