Gangs of Sherwood plays like Devil May Cry with four-player co-op

This new action game from developer Appeal Studios combines stylish, fast-paced combat and a sci-fi fantasy story based on Robin Hood.

Appeal Studios

Gangs of Sherwood, a co-operative action game developed by Appeal Studios and published by Nacon, has a lot of moving parts. Based on the name alone, you can probably guess that it’s about Robin Hood and his Merry Men going up against the Sheriff of Nottingham. But beyond that, the game is actually set in a sci-fi fantasy world with steampunk gadgets and gigantic cannons. Fights feel like they come straight out of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, where you’re able to string long, stylish combos together, except here you can do them with your teammates too. Director Andrea Di Steffano, who was on hand at a private Nacon Bigben Week event to guide me through the first few levels, compared the game’s blistering pace to classic racing titles like Cruisin’ World. Suffice it to say, there was a lot going on in Gangs of Sherwood that I did not see at first glance.

Protecting Sherwood Forest one more time

Gangs of Sherwood Story Technology
That dirigible makes it clear that this isn't your everyday Robin Hood story.

Source: Appeal Studios

Compared to the 2021 game Hood: Outlaws & Legends, another co-operative and competitive action title that uses the Robin Hood universe, Gangs of Sherwood reimagines the legendary characters with a futuristic slant. You’ll still soar through enough forests and castles to feel like you’re playing a fantasy game, but in a Dishonored sort of way, the art direction also brings in Industrial Era elements like steam engines, electrical fences, and dirigibles.

The majority of the bosses you’ll fight have advanced technology and mechanical parts that allow them to shoot bullets and mortars. There’s an underlying conflict between nature and machines that runs through the overarching narrative, which pits Robin Hood and his friends as resistance leaders against the warmongering leaders of Nottingham and the growing pollution that encroaches Sherwood Forest.

The main gameplay experiment of Gangs of Sherwood is seeing whether an intense action game like Devil May Cry would work in a multiplayer setting. In fact, the game pretty much wears its influences on its sleeve by having a style gauge in the corner of the screen that dynamically grades your combo strings. Getting a 100-hit combo without getting damaged will more than likely catapult your grade from a ‘C’ all the way up to an ‘S’ (which stands for Savior). That said, earning a high grade is pretty tough on your lonesome, while being in a party makes this far easier.

The more, the merrier

Gangs of Sherwood Multiplayer
The guards on Sheriff Nottingham's side have little chance against a four-player team.

Source: Appeal Studios

Gangs of Sherwood allows for parties of up to four players, with every person on the team required to play a different character from among the four available. In the limited time I had, I was only able to try Robin Hood and his arsenal of long-range attacks, but the rest of his Merry Men are no slouches either. Maid Marian is an assassin who can launch daggers from afar and use a whip or a rapier in close quarters. Friar Tuck more or less functions as a tank who can protect his friends with a shield barrier and restore their health with some hearty mead. Joining him at the frontlines is Little John, whose right arm has been replaced by a mechanical arm that can smash foes with fiery punches.

Regardless of which character you choose, fights are fast and furious. While missions last around 20 to 30 minutes, there’s very little downtime between bouts as you sprint, air-dash, and whip branches toward the next area. The director’s analogy to arcade racing games actually isn’t too far off, since I felt like I was speeding through the plot and the environments like I was being chased by the cops. In combat, I had Robin Hood leap into the air performing combos that left Star Arrows on the ground, dodge any attacks that were highlighted in red near his feet, and then fire off a Shining Arrow at one of the stronger enemies. This would send all of the Star Arrows hurling at the target like a magnet for massive damage and a huge combo.

Stealing from the rich (because upgrades aren’t cheap)

Gangs of Sherwood Boss
Defeating towering bosses like this one will take a few upgrades.

Source: Appeal Studios

In between missions, you can enhance your characters and learn skills by spending money at Major Oak, which in folklore is where the Merry Men’s hideout is located. This battle hub will allow you to modify attacks and abilities, like giving Robin Hood a ring of bombs that trigger if enemies get too close for comfort. There's also a training ground where you can test any new combos against enemies of your choosing and an area where you can try on new skins.

At launch, the game will have nine missions spread among three chapters. For more content, it will also include new game plus with harder difficulty levels, in addition to challenge modes such as a boss rush mode and a wave-based horde mode. No crossplay is currently planned for the game apart from PC across Steam and Epic Games Stores. For multiplayer, the game is not server-based and will use players as a host, so that people can still find potential party members in the long term.

Gangs of Sherwood is set to release on October 19 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam Epic Games Store. The developer is leaning away from a season pass and is more focused on creating DLC after launch, but these plans might change over time.

This preview is based on a beta build provided by the publisher at a private event.

Contributing Editor

Once upon a time, Nick's parents confiscated his Super Nintendo because he was "playing it too much." He has secretly sworn revenge ever since. Nick is now a freelance writer for various video game sites. Powered by iced green tea, he typically plays RPGs of all kinds like Shin Megami Tensei, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout. In his spare time, he follows the latest season of Critical Role.

From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola