Archive | January 2014

I,Gladiator review

gladiator00 I, Gladiator published by Burlington Trading Ltd. and created by Steel Monkeys studio.  A long time ago, in the ancient Roman Empire, gladiator battles were one of the most successful and well established forms of entertainment. “Panem et circenses” – bread and circuses for the people, says the phrase. But times are changing and new forms of entertainment emerge, for example mobile devices capable of handling cutting-edge 3D games. So the ancient times could be recreated and experienced again in this form. I, Gladiator doesn’t just bring nice graphics, good soundtrack and story, but it has something that most of the current games lack: atmosphere. Of course this games has its flaws too, but more about them later.

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The setting is familiar, ancient Roman Empire, arena, gladiators, swords, lions. You control a gladiator from third person view, using touch controls (no gamepad support yet) and our mission is to kill the other gladiators on a last man standing principle. The story is simple: you die and on your way to the underworld a roman god resurrects you.  The only drawback is that you have to climb up from the absolute zero. The story is being told in nice cartoonish animations and voiced by professional voice-actors in native Latin. The cartoonish graphics remain for the entire game, which makes this game really outstanding. And the soundtrack is brilliant too. It is a combination of heavy metal and war drums and vocals. It fits the game very well. All these combined produces a believable atmosphere and lots of fun.

Cartoonish design, native Latin language and ancient gods.

Cartoonish design, native Latin language and ancient gods.

The controls are simple: the right side of the display functions as the controls. One main button on the left which has multiple functions depending in what stance we are: while not in combat, pressing it turns sprint on, in combat it is used for defense. Sometimes this simplicity is a disadvantage because you can get easily confused. You want to sprint but your character gets into defensive stance instead. During combat the right side (more precisely the majority of the screen except the defense button) is used to make attacking moves. Swiping the screen in different directions makes the gladiator swing its sword or spear in that direction. You can combine a few of these moves making combos, but it takes some time to master them. And it seems that the interface leaves much to be desired when it comes to sensibility and accuracy. But this issue can be device specific and easily solved.

The next thing is the AI and difficulty. This game is hard and takes time getting used to the game mechanics. The AI is pretty good; the enemy uses different tactics, traps and the environment. And the different types of enemies behave differently, each according to its role and equipment. The layouts of the maps are feasible too. The environment can be used to our advantage but it can also kill us. Hunting traps, fire traps, blade traps or sharp spikes are all around the map.

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Tooltips are there when you need them, but that swiping thing doesn't work all the time

Tooltips are there when you need them, but that swiping thing doesn’t work all the time

I, Gladiator follows a strict road when it comes to character customization. Armor, equipment, weapons and shields can be acquired in a workshop for different amounts of money. More powerful weapons cost more denarius (the normal in-game currency), and the game subtly suggests that we need to purchase them to be able to continue our story as the opponents get better and better with every mission. Some stuff require the premium currency, gold, which is not easy to earn normally. IAPs are present, everyone can purchase gold for real money.

This game is an RPG, this means that our character earns experience and every time we hit a cap we level up. With every level we earn skill points we can invest into four major fields: Health, Stamina, Attack and Defence. Every field seems important in terms of usability; more Stamina means we have more power to launch attacks and so on.

The multiplayer is one of the best I've ever seen on mobile

The multiplayer is one of the best I’ve ever seen on mobile

I, Gladiator has multiplayer too, which is another thing other games lack. And not just it has multiplayer, it is awesome. There is the T-based mode where you compete against another player’s score. There are two options, attacker of defender. In both games there is a central totem which has hit points and based on your role you have to defend it or attack it. The goal is to beat your opponent’s goal. In real-time multiplayer the free-for-all scenario is in effect, where our goal is to kill as many opponents as we can and to stay alive. The good thing about the multiplayer is it is cross-platform, so Android players can play against iOS gamers, and the small logos are visible next to the names in the scores table. I encountered only a few bugs and once a little lag, but overall the multiplayer is smooth and flawless. At least for the technical side, because of the IAP business model, players who invest more into their character have the advantage and this makes the game imbalanced. It’s a shame that skills doesn’t matter as much as money.

To sum up, I, Gladiator is a good and enjoyable game with a few flaws and untapped potentials. In my opinion the IAP business model is the main reason and the not so player friendly controls. But despite of the flaws the game is a masterpiece thanks to the nice storyline, good AI and the atmosphere.

Pros:

  • Originality, atmosphere
  • Design – cartoonish graphics, animations
  • Soundtrack, music and other sounds
  • Above average story
  • Sophisticated AI
  • Multiplayer
  • New Free-to-play version (2nd Google Play link)

Cons:

  • Difficulty, sometimes imbalanced opponents
  • Interface could have better accuracy and sensibility
  • IAPs, players who pay real money get advantage

Recommended for: Fans of ancient European civilizations, especially for those who like arenas and fighting or for those  adventurers who like challenges.

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Rating: 70/100

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