Western society has always had a fascination with gladiators and the Roman Empire. From Spartacus to Maximus, gladiator stories have been a mainstay of modern entertainment. Maybe it's because we all like to root for the underdog, to see the average man triumph against all odds. Whatever the reason, this fascination was bound to find its way into games sooner or later, and for the past few years a few titles have popped up here and there. Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance is the newest tale of Roman adventure from Acclaim.
Sword of Vengeance is a story of champion gladiator Thrax, who is betrayed and murdered by the Emperor Arruntius. After his death, Thrax travels to the land of Elysium, the holy afterlife for the heroes of Rome, where he meets up with the mythological creators of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Romulus and Remus have a very special task in store for Thrax- destroy his betrayer Arruntius and restore honor to Rome. Before he can accomplish this task, however, Thrax must destroy Phobos and Deimos, the children of Mars, God of war, who have been turned by Arruntius and have lent him their power.
Graphically, Gladiator should be fairly impressive, with a nice blend of historical Roman landscapes and environments mixed with fantasy settings from Roman mythology such as Elysium. The game will employ some pretty nifty lighting textures, especially when in Elysium, in order to more appropriately demonstrate what hanging out in heaven might feel like. There will also be some fairly recognizable edifices in the game, most notably The Coliseum.
The gameplay in Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance doesn't seem terribly different from other action games in most regards. The majority of the game revolves around hacking and slashing your way through levels, fighting off hordes of enemies of varying appearance and skill. As Thrax, players will face all sorts of mythological nightmares, such as minotaurs and cyclopes, each with their own "champion class" of monster, which is basically a stronger, faster and nastier version of the regular enemies Thrax must face. Upon defeating these champions, Thrax can perform a finishing move, which is basically an over the top, extremely gruesome fatality. Overall, there are over 50 different finishing moves to be acquired in Gladiator.
During combat, Thrax can lock onto any enemy by pressing the right shoulder button. When locked onto an enemy, Thrax and dash and dodge around the enemy, slipping behind them to attack their flank, which seems quite similar to the combat system in the Soul Reaver series. Once locked onto an enemy, pressing the left shoulder button allows Thrax to cycle through all enemies in proximity, allowing him to change up and attack a different enemy almost instantly.
Another interesting twist on the gameplay is the ability for Thrax to power up throughout the game. From the beginning, Thrax will have only a few basic attacks that he can string together by using the attack button. However, at several points during the game, the gods will test his strength by having him dispatch several enemies at once, within a certain time frame, among other feats. By proving his might, the gods will bestow upon him new attacks and greater strength. Many of these tests will take place while in Elysium, which also acts as a hub that you can return to between missions, although some will take place within the actual levels.
So far, Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance seems to be shaping up quite nicely, though we're sure to see additional changes before the game ships. Sword of Vengeance is currently scheduled for a fall release on both the Playstation 2 and Xbox, and we'll have more information as it becomes available.
7/22/2003 Ryan Hartmann