Gurk is a turn based Dungeon Crawler that has you take control of a party of three adventurers. You are immediately thrown in the middle of a decently sized open world map and it is up to you where to head to. As you move around the overworld you have a random chance of being attacked and when you are the game switches to a top down perspective in a battle arena full of grids. You’ll always be outnumbered and there is no escaping from a fight so either you win or you die in the world of Gurk.
Your three characters have distinct roles as a Knight, Mage and Archer respectively. Learning how to properly use each one and prioritizing your enemies is vital since your knight can’t be everywhere at once and the other two are not well suited for melee combat. The Mage is perhaps the most important character to keep alive as not only can he deal huge damage but more importantly is the only one that can heal. There are no potions or items in this game so losing the Mage will likely be followed by your other two characters soon after.
A single hit-point of HP and Mana is regenerated after a certain number of steps but by no means will that be likely to save you since the RNG loves to throw battles at you occasionally. The RNG can feel a bit cheap at times when you get attacked after taking a single step or when your attacks keep missing when the enemy is at death’s door. This is not a particularly well balanced game by any means as the type & amount of enemies you encounter is solely up to luck meaning you can either encounter a few weak enemies or a near Tetris looking amount of dangerous enemies come down upon you. That fact makes it all the odder that there is no feature to escape from combat and putting a bit too much in the hands of RNG.
Your party will always start a battle at the bottom with the mage in the back and the other two in the front. It would have really benefited if they allowed you to choose your formation since the mage is a far better melee fighter than the archer and you will have to waste a turn moving him up instead of flinging spells at your foes. There is a decent variety of enemies that follow the same rules as you so they can either move or attack, not both. Waiting for them to come to you is typically a bad idea since many of them have ranged attacks that can whittle your health down. Having only three characters puts a huge importance on your tactics and it is a pretty cool feeling to repeatedly beat seemingly impossible odds.
There are no status effects or defense, it is all either movement or attack. Line of sight is none existent either which makes ranged enemies that much more deadly since they can attack you from anywhere without the fear of hitting their ally even if they are right in front of you. I honestly did not like this mechanic. Combine that with the RNG typically making your ranged attacks as accurate as a drunk man playing darts then it becomes that much more of an annoyance. You’ll spend most of your time in Gurk fighting so these various flaws really start to drag it down. Defeating your enemies grants you gold and the occasional loot.
Gold can be used to pay for healing or buying equipment from stores. There is no good equipment to buy making the gold essentially useless. Dying does not result in a game over, instead they will take all your gold and teleport you back to a nearby safe location so it is merciful in that regard. Loot is decent at first until you realize that most of it is for the Knight, to the point where the other two feel very unequipped and underpowered in comparison. Which brings me to how abysmal the menus are. It takes far too many clicks to do anything even simple tasks as comparing then equipping weapons. To do that you will need to choose the character, equipment, view items, choose items in question, view items, go back, equip, choose weapon you want to equip. It really doesn’t help that the back button and the exit menu button keeps randomly swapping positions.
Exploring is not really interesting either as there is not much unique things to see and the world is very empty other than the few hidden enemies in the dungeons. I do dig the 80s PC game look it has taken however. They may have taken that a bit too far when it comes to music or sound effects. There is none, just complete silence throughout. A few bleeps and bloops can go a long way as any gamer that lacked a soundcard back then or were gaming before they existed can attest to. The decision to have no sound is not game-breaking by any means though it is extremely weird.
Found in the end of each dungeon is a boss who your main motivation for taking down are their decent loot. As for the ending there is none, there is an end boss called Braka but beating it offered us no clue that we have even beat the game. Gurk is such an odd title, it is like a proof of concept of a great game. It is important to state that this game is completely free. No ads, no in app purchases or anything of the sort that phone games are so well known for when stating they are “free”. Considering that Gurk is small enough to easily fit on a single floppy disk and that it does offer a couple of hours of enjoyment however flawed it may be, I would still encourage fans of retro games to at the very least check Gurk out.
Link to download: Gurk