Gatekeeper
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Gatekeeper review – Risk of Pain

It's addictive, if not a little maddening.

I’ve played enough Gatekeeper to know that it’s a good game, but also enough to never want to play the game again. Despite the buckets of content, I can’t help but feel the game wanes much quicker than the content can keep up with.

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Gatekeeper is as pure a roguelike as they come

It must have been tough for Gatekeeper to come out in Early Access in the shadow of the roguelike, Hades 2, after its surprise drop. After playing both, I can say that Gatekeeper is likely one of the most “roguelike” roguelikes out there.

It doesn’t really bother with plot or convoluted systems or with softlocks. You will simply begin with the task of getting as far as you can. No strings attached. Just simple fun. There are dozens of Artifacts that you’ll use to get buffs and new abilities and plenty of enemies and tough bosses.

Gatekeeper Tech Hunter
Screenshot: PC Invasion

That’s not to say Gatekeeper is without its unlock systems, however. There are seven Gatekeepers, and five of them are locked. You’ll be able to unlock them through challenges and milestones, giving you alternate tasks to keep in mind when traversing the planets.

You’ll have the Emporium to peruse for more Artifacts. Interestingly, most of the Artifacts are locked behind achievements. As you complete these achievements, you’ll unlock Artifact groups. Then can you purchase the Artifacts with Omni Stones to add them to your runs.

Artifacts augment your playstyle, similar to Boons in Hades. These Artifacts really feel like they’re making a difference. When given a choice between two during a run, it genuinely feels like I’m making an important choice. Each is useful in its own way. Some are more significant to some Gatekeepers than others.

Obelisk Of Curse Gatekeeper
Screenshot: PC Invasion

I enjoyed my first few runs, clearing planets, fighting bosses, benefitting from Artifacts, and using my abilities. Not being distracted by a plot or being reset because I “progressed too quickly” was refreshing. It was rather addicting to be able to just jump right back into another run without another thought.

I mentioned Hades 2 earlier, which is a fair point of comparison. But considering the abilities and Artifacts, and then considering the art design, it’s probably more fair to compare Gatekeeper to Risk of Rain. If you enjoyed any of those titles, you’ll be sure to enjoy Gatekeeper.

Gatekeeper is also as unforgiving as it is generous

Gatekeeper is certainly a roguelike, but one thing I’d like to make note of, however, is the difficulty and progression.

Gatekeeper Collector Boss
Image: Gravity Lagoon

These bosses are, for the most part, hard. I found the starting Hybrid Gatekeeper excellent at keeping up with the difficulty curve, but it was noticeable. The bosses had me stressing out, and without Hybrid’s second life, I would not have gotten past a couple of them.

Despite all the difficulty, however, I was also inundated with Artifacts. The amount of Artifacts I received would vary from run to run, but my feeling of power grew with every level, as did the difficulty.

Each planet has very different enemies with different reasons for me to hate them. As the planet changes every three stages, with a boss fight every three stages, I felt like the pacing of the game matched the difficulty increase, providing for a satisfying progression. Getting consistently more powerful allowed me to stress out just enough despite ultimately prevailing.

Gatekeeper Echo
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Despite the Artifacts being given out like candy, there is lots of room for skill. My initial run had me wondering how on Earth it was possible to get past the second boss without outside help. But the more I played, the more I knew exactly which Artifacts and upgrades to pick.

As I learned more about the game simply through playing, before I knew it, I had completed a full run by myself and almost completed the second loop. As soon as you lock on to what you’re doing, you’ll be racing through the bosses.

I would also quickly like to say how great the bosses are. They all look awesome and have a litany of skills that they will roll off one after the other. Pro tip: never underestimate how powerful a good regen rate is. You don’t need endless health, you need endless regeneration.

Ultimately, however, this exhilarating rush waned. And rather quickly, too.

Content all around, yet not a drop to enjoy

I may be exaggerating, but after a few runs, I looked at the mostly unlocked Emporium and my full collection of Gatekeepers and realized there’s so much content, yet I would realistically use none of it.

Gatekeeper Enemies
Screenshot: PC Invasion

When playing solo, or even if playing in a group, the Hybrid Gatekeeper is realistically the only one that’s good. I unlocked all of the other Gatekeepers and thought I’d have a grand time playing them, but in comparison to Hybrid, they all seemed lackluster.

I may have exaggerated with the header, but I am not exaggerating when I say that Hybrid is the best Gatekeeper hands down, so much so that playing any other Gatekeeper just feels limiting. Even their special synergies and abilities don’t come close. Although there are seven Gatekeepers, you’ll likely only ever play as one of them.

Additionally, although the new Artifacts I’d unlocked mostly seemed great, unlocking all the ones I wanted would require many more runs. And without the ability to deselect Artifacts, the more I purchased, the fewer chances I would have to run into the ones I wanted and had just purchased.

Gatekeeper Emporium
Screenshot: PC Invasion

I may have enjoyed the game, but to play it even more to unlock Artifacts I’d likely hardly get to use just to play more runs didn’t really seem worth it.

I had enough of the game. The rest of the content, although vast, either wasn’t as good as what I already had, or would require me to do the same runs again and again just for a small chance of a new Artifact. Gatekeepers’s fun ran dry faster than its vast array of genuinely good content could unlock.

I enjoyed Gatekeeper for the first few runs, but as soon as I knew what I was doing, the game didn’t become challenging anymore. The new unlocks weren’t useful to breathe more life into the game, and the rest weren’t worth unlocking, so the incentive to play was gone, too. Without challenge and incentive, a roguelike game can quickly become boring.

Gatekeeper is so close to being a great game, and after having a read of the roadmap, I’m sure it’ll become one. Gravity Lagoon plans on a year of Early Access, and they have rather extensive and consistent updates in mind, which can be summed up as “more of everything.” I’m sure my concerns will be alleviated, and that there will be more room for more exciting and powerful builds to keep the game fresh and fun for longer.

6.8
Gatekeeper
Gatekeeper has the foundations of an excellent roguelike, however the novelty wanes quicker than the game can content can keep up with.

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Author
Aidan Lambourne
Aidan Lambourne is a contributing writer for PC Invasion, with almost a couple years of experience in the industry. He has written about Roblox extensively, although has keenly covered new releases and indie games. A passionate writer and gamer, he still can't really believe he gets to indulge in both for a career.