Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion PC review: Lightning has struck twice

Gloomhaven: the lion’s mouth is a particular packet. It’s the first DLC for a PC version of a hit tabletop dungeon-crawler, and it’s based on the standalone Cardboard sequel of the same name. It’s also unconventional in that it’s less concerned with making this dungeon-crawling universe accessible – as was the goal of last year’s fantastic digital adaptation – and more concerned with integrating a sub -compelling story in said adaptation. And in many ways, it succeeded.

As a table product, Jaws of the Lion turned out to be just as successful as the game it all started with. He has rectified all the major obstacles that afflict the monstrosity that is the dark haven basic experience, removing dozens of modular map tiles and lengthy setup. Instead, players work through a spiral-bound scenario book with dungeons printed on its pages. Its history is also much shorter than dark haven‘s, giving participants the chance to actually complete the campaign. The narrative even includes tutorial chapters to ease players into the game and overcome the complexity of the native design. Finally, it is a much cheaper and attractive package that can be easily found in mass stores.

All of this makes for a fantastic board game experience. But it is not these strengths that translate seamlessly into the digital adaptation. In place, Jaws of the Lion succeeds for a completely different purpose.

Image: Flaming Fowl Studios/Asmodee Digital

dark haven on PC has already smoothed out all the wrinkles of its tabletop cousin. Reducing setup time is one of the main benefits of playing the video game as opposed to the physical version, and the extended campaign length is also a boon when you can easily save your progress and pull it all off with a simple double click. Additionally, Flaming Fowl Studios has provided a very effective in-game tutorial that gets new players on board quickly. And of course, the PC edition of dark haven is less than half the cost of the board game.

With all the fixes dark havenit is digital adaptation made to the original formula, the door was open for Jaws of the Lion not to improve a rickety base, but simply to add After. More of everything. There are new characters, new events, new items, and a whole new storyline. As an injection of new content, it’s actually quite powerful.

The most important asset are the new characters. There are four in total, but two of them – the Hatchet and the Red Guard – are the best dark haven has offered so far. The former is a distinctive aggressor, capable of inflicting large amounts of damage both from a distance and up close. Its pacing is interesting, as the basic attack loop involves throwing your “favorite” deadly axe, then picking it up from the downed carcasses of your enemies. It’s a pretty simple class in terms of strategy, but it’s packed with capital attacks and various offenses.

The Voidwarden take on a team of enemies in Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Image: Flaming Fowl Studios/Asmodee Digital

The Red Guard is an exceptional option, as it is able to adequately fill so many different niches without ever becoming an ineffective jack-of-all-trades. Generally speaking, it is a kind of tank, capable of constantly protecting and strengthening its own defenses. But the Red Guard is also capable of inflicting severe pain and even offering some crowd control. Of each of these four new classes, they are the most capable of sabotaging it like a lone wolf and putting themselves in harm’s way with little caution.

The other two classes are interesting on their own, even if they aren’t as unique as the other party members. The Demolisher is capable of blowing up obstacles and inflicting large amounts of melee damage to enemies. The limitation, however, is that he only has nine cards in his deck and can run out pretty quickly. The Voidwarden, on the other hand, is a very flexible support class, capable of providing a multitude of debuffs and curses to the opposing group. She is more esoteric than the others, but is no less stylish.

It’s intriguing how robust these new characters are. Their abilities are wider and more elastic than the options found in the original dark haven. This allows them to work well in almost any party composition, integrating seamlessly with the base game options. They’re also a treat to use in the main storyline of the campaign, as they’re adept at overcoming a myriad of challenges.

The DLC storyline itself is also powerful, running as a concise side campaign alongside the main narrative. It’s particularly enticing because it offers an additional vector of linked storylines that you can engage with at your leisure. These quests take place in the central city of Gloomhaven, focusing on a sinister plot that you slowly unravel piece by piece. The result is a more investigative feel than the main storyline, as you dig into the plot and attempt to thwart a grand scheme.

The Red Guard casts a spell in Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Image: Flaming Fowl Studios/Asmodee Digital

One of the strongest features is the ability to switch between the new narrative and that of the original. You can switch between the two at any time, allowing you to test the value of a class in one scenario or a particular group composition in another. It’s a great chance to experience exciting new characters or ones you didn’t spend enough time with on your first trek through by Gloomhaven digital adaptation.

As packaged content, this adaptation of Jaws of the Lion is a surprisingly effective remodeling of the cardboard product. Despite abandoning the original purpose of the material to provide a simpler introduction to by Gloomhaven systems, the design team has produced an entertaining and effective parallel campaign that will extend the life of dark haven and bring new perspectives to this legendary game.

Gloomhaven: the lion’s mouth was released on May 17 on Windows PC. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Asmodee Digital. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.

About Dorie Castro

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