I like the idea of Spartacus Legends, a fighting game where you can equip your gladiator with gear in order to give him a better chance of winning. The game felt like a combination of Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat; creating an interesting mixture of weapons-based combat and violence. Apparently, when you stab someone with a sword they don’t just shoot off some colorful sparks. I never would have known.
The game is heading to the free-to-play market on the Xbox 360 and PS3, of all places. Given that console players are used to being gouged for their money, I think this game can do well on the platforms depending on how well it integrates its pay models. Given that there is a lot of equipment to buy in the game I can see this going really well or really bad, depending on what the publishers end up deciding. None of the items looked all that expensive to me, but the playable demo had enough money in it to buy a small country so I couldn’t tell how much I would win from a match.
The equipment you can buy looks interesting enough, though. For starters, it all makes visual changes on your character, which is always nice. There was nothing there that was as outlandish as the outfits from Soul Calibur, looking more like the developers just took period armor and weapons and gave them statistics. The weapons and armor all give boosts and penalties to your various stats, adding power and defense while making adjustments to your speed. A lot of the items in the game seemed to give small benefits to your character, but when they gave large boosts to any single stat you typically lost something in another stat to balance it. It sounds like you can stack a character to your play style as you’d like with these items, but you’ll always have some weakness no matter what.
The combat seemed pretty simple from what I played. With it being grounded in ancient Rome instead of in some weird Mortal Kombat world, you just have a couple of different sword strikes to select from. I found that you could switch up a lot of your basic moves just by holding any one direction while you hit either strong or light attack, so it’s very user-friendly. You were also given a block button with your shield, something that makes more sense than blocking a fireball by crossing your arms like some other games. The game felt like it was encouraging me to stay behind my shield while I looked for an opening, but then again, I did choose someone with extremely high power and low speed when I played; so that may have just been my character.
Hitting people is downright bloody, with gushes of blood spraying out from every wound. The hits seemed to strike home with a lot of power, and it was nice to hear the audience cheering for you with every solid blow. The game also likes to slow down whenever you and your opponent throw an attack at just about the same time, a neat effect that can be pretty tense while you wonder whose strike is going to land first and interrupt the other. Should you manage to hit your opponent enough, you’re given the chance to kill him with a finishing strike. I screwed it up and just poked the other character with my sword, bringing me back to the good old days of messing up fatalities.
What if you get killed, though? You actually have a stable of different gladiators at your disposal as you play the game, but it’s not like some selectable character list. It’s more like your supply of gladiators, a crew of warriors you’ve trained through matches. You can hire more using your money, and you can also pay to have the ones who’ve been beaten in combat brought back into your services. This element of possible permanent death could make for some really tense fights, and the idea that you can literally rob someone of real world money by beating them in the game is pretty cool.
The game has some interesting elements going for it, and it’s my hope that the individual weapon and play styles give the game enough variety to keep its players involved. This is a straight, realistic combat game that could be good or boring depending on how much variety the weapon and play styles provide, so I really hope a lot of work goes into them. The one match I played seemed fun, but playing dress-up with gladiators is only going to go so far after a while. The permanent death really sells the game for me, but if its combat options are limited then I might just not care to revive my dead fighter. Hopefully by launch we’ll get to see more moves and play styles to make this game interesting to the competitive fighting scene, as the game definitely has promise.