I took two years of Latin in high school only to hear the stories about how Romans lived and what they believed in, from the eruption of the Vesuvius in Pompei to the myths about gods and generals and the underworld, with as most memorable creature Cerberus, the three-headed hell dog. I already got the shivers while seeing and hearing the intro of Gladius which describes the rise and meaning of the gladiators and it was the clear that the right sphere was set.
You have to choose out of two characters: Ursula(easy) and Valens(difficult) but the two storylines run parallel to each other. Now you can start playing the actual game, that is if you don’t feel the need for a tutorial. You can skip this one easily, but if you are not used to this genre, it will surely help a lot and the principles of the game will become clear although tt will consume quite some time. Which genre’s principles it explains is unclear to me, but according to the public opinion it is an RPG. I think that is just a load of crap , because the game just comes down to fighting and an RPG has more elements to it although role-playing is being interpreted in a broad sense nowadays. You’ll also have to recruit your gladiators en approve their skills, but you can’t walk around in a 3D environment for travelling from one arena to another if you want an example. I’ll talk about the way of fighting later, but the final goal is to enlarge your number of gladiators, make them better and start winning local tournaments which eventually will give you the chance to participate in professional championships.
I can’t disapprove of many of the graphical features that are present as the arena’s are quite detailed and the models are certainly more than sufficient but what I think is unacceptable is the lack of damaged models. If you get hit by a 25 kilo weighing axe, this will be confirmed with a shout of unbearable pain from your gladiator, but except for some YELLOW blood, you won’t see your gladiator become more and more wounded… he only takes a small, stupid step back. In this game where a good atmosphere is so important, I can only look at this as a flaw. The publishers may not want an age-rating which is their right, but according to me this is a punch in every gamer’s face. Why are they being punished?! I even don’t know anybody who looks at these restrictions when buying a game for their “underage” kid.
The menus may look great, but they are very fuzzy and sometimes you really have to search and read forums to find what you’re looking for. At least that was the case when I invited a friend to play the co-op, an option which was placed really bad. That alone would not have been an unsolvable problem, but this co-op seems to be a joke. After reading some more forums, we found out that the second player can only join less than half of the fights and then he can’t even decide, at least with the controller, which and where the gladiators will be placed. So don’t be fooled by this feature, because it won’t be any fun at all.
I can be brief when it comes to sound. The music emphases the sphere and makes you feel as if you are a wild and heroic warrior. The voice-overs are understandable and the voices of the characters are clear aswell. Ursula and Valens do tend to talk in cliché role patterns where Valens is the protective, strong, impatient and older brother and Ursula is the naïve yet smart, patient and younger sister. Their lines made me laugh sometimes because they were so stupid and that got me out of my game.
Now, lets look at the gameplay thoroughly. Except for choosing and placing your gladiators, it is limited to turn-based fights. With each fight you get to alternately attack the computer’s enemy with your gladiators or you can move them with an -of course limited- amount of steps. A versus mode is unlockable but that is once again a disappointment. Some gladiators can attack with a great amount of power, others can walk further in one turn or can attack from a distance. Things get more complicated though as the higher you stand, on a wooden crate for example, the more you hurt your opponent and therefore a superior warrior can still be beaten by a weaker one. If you are standing lower, it is going to be you who will have to take the fall. For the ranking between the gladiators the paper-rock-scissors principle (which I remember to be quite fun in Alex Kidd on the Sega 8-bit) is applied but it is not going to be all luck, since paper can beat scissors. Allow me to explain. There are three main classes of gladiators: heavy, medium, light. Heavy stands above medium and medium above light, but light stands above heavy. You can also use the special “Affinity Attacks” and because of a clever system you will have to use them appropriately, how it works exactly is explained in the tutorial. The actual hitting is very straight forward, a slider runs over a bar, hit the x-button when the slider is in the red zone and your attack will be perfect. Hitting it to early or to late will result in a weaker hit or a miss.
The good thing about this game is that seen in the amount of hours it is definitely worth its money, an average gamer will need at least 80 hours to complete it and such games are hard to find these days. However, because of the simplicity and slow pace of the fights it sometimes made me feel as if I was wasting my time. I guess that this argument, however, won’t be applicable on the harder core of the target group.
Do you like epic adventures and can’t get enough of playing one game? Then this is definitely something for you.
It is a pity that there aren’t any bloody fights due to the fact that if you hurt an opponent, the only thing you will see is yellow blood.
Sound, story and graphics are more than average and the tutorial explains everything (or nothing if you don’t want it to). Because of the game’s slow speed, it tends to get dull and even feels as a waste of time. People who just like playing a game superficially for a few hours won’t have any pleasure with Gladius at all, but if you don’t mind playing for hours and hours on a slow tempo you might appreciate it.