Shadow of Rome Review
A Caesar assassinated. A usurper sits upon the throne. A Roman Legionnaire turned gladiator uses his success in the Coliseum to turn the Empire on its ear and right a grave injustice. The plot for the movie Gladiator, right? Wrong. This is the storyline for Shadow of Rome, an action game that takes a revisionist approach to the events surrounding the assassination of Julius Caesar and a very healthy dose of inspiration from the film starring Russell Crowe.
In Shadow of Rome you alternate between the roles of Agrippa and Octavius. Agrippa is the centurion cum gladiator in question, a transition made necessary by the accusation of his father as Caesar’s assassin. It seems that Agrippa’s father’s sentence is to be slain by the champion of the gladiatorial game, and Agrippa aims to stop that execution by becoming the champion himself. Octavius is Caesar’s nephew and he is convinced that there is a conspiracy afoot and he decides to investigate for himself the true nature of the crime. These two different paths to the truth will invariably meet, but along the way they lend themselves to two styles of play – one all action and bloodshed and the other stealth and intrigue.
|Shadow of Rome is not for the feint of heart.|
The game weighs more heavily towards the action side of the coin and you’ll spend more time with Agrippa than with Octavius. The action is brutal and bloody, but usually not overtly gratuitous. Bodies are hacked, blood spatters everywhere, heads are lopped off, and limbs separated from there owners – the latter tending to the gratuitous sides of things as you can add insult to injury by beating an enemy with his severed arm. Control makes use of combo-style attacks initiated with a main and a secondary attack button. You can lock onto your target with the R1 button, which is a good thing since it can be difficult to hit anybody otherwise, and use L1 to block attacks. The game also allows you to throw your weapon to take down out of reach enemies. Shadow of Rome is not a button-masher as you’ll need to time your attacks hit your opponent after they have missed you but before they can prepare to block your blow. You’ll fight a variety of enemies, both one on one and in groups, and you’ll have to face the periodic boss character as well. The bosses each have their own style of attack, but they can all be beat by following the basic strike and back away before the counterstrike strategy. The game does a nice job of introducing you to the different attacks and combat options by treating the first few levels as sort of a running tutorial. However, the difficulty ramps up quickly from there and the game will give a good challenge to most gamers out there.
In a bit of a twist on the weapon-based fighting game, Shadow of Rome features weapons with the durability of plastic knives. Weapons quickly wear down and break and can leave you bare-knuckled in a knife-fight. Luckily you’ll have a few options, though. Sometimes you’ll find weapons lying around for the taking. Or you can try and pound your enemy to death with your fists and then take his weapon, but it is better to try and time your attack to grab his weapon arm as it swings. You’ll then be locked in a tug of war for the weapon and if you pound the button quickly enough you’ll steal the weapon for your own. If you’re in the arena and the crowd is pleased with your performance, you can play to the crowd and someone may toss in an extra large weapon for you to pound your enemies with (this is in the days before metal detectors at stadium entrances).