Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance Review

Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance is one of those games that will probably be lost in the crowd because there was not enough hype surrounding its release. This is a shame, because Gladiator is a good game. Not a great game mind you, but certainly better than a lot of the games out there - including some of the ones that do get more than their fair share of prerelease hype.

Gladiator may invoke thoughts of the movie of the same name, but other than the title and the fact that a gladiator is the hero of the story the two are not connected in any way. In Gladiator you are the famed gladiator Invictus Thrax. You have risen through the ranks to become a champion, and are promised your freedom from the emperor himself. However, before you can win that freedom, the emperor dies under questionable circumstances and is replaced by Arruntius. Arruntius is vane and vice-prone, and has plans to replace Rome with a new capital named for himself. To commemorate this decision, Arruntius holds spectacular games with you at their center. After fighting your way into the coliseum, Arruntius sends a supernatural creature to face you and ensure your demise. Awakening in Elysium, you learn that Mars, through his sons Phobos and Deimos, is responsible for the rise of Arruntius and that the rest of the gods are very displeased with this turn of events. They select you to fight the minions of Phobos and Deimos, and eventually the gods themselves, to ensure that Arruntius is stopped and Rome returned to her rightful glory.

Skeletons approach our hero.

Tracking down Phobos and Deimos requires you to travel to otherworldly locations from your new home in Elysium. These locations form the game’s levels which are heavily influenced by Greek and Roman mythology. For example, the first level in the game takes you to the island of the Cyclops. The levels are very linear – to the point where gates, doors, and various obstacles will prevent you from moving forward, and even backtracking, until you accomplish the goal for an area. Opening your way forward (or backward as the case may be since the game requires you to backtrack on many occasions) is more often than not accomplished by completing the game’s simple switch puzzles or by defeating all of the enemies in an area. While making your way through the levels can at times seem redundant, at least the levels are gorgeous to look at as you’re passing through. Fields of grass blowing in the wind, a sea gently lapping on a golden sand shore, and many other atmospheric effects are masterfully created with quality lighting effects, textures, and physics. The level designers really did a good job of capturing an otherworldly look for the game’s levels, so it’s a bit of a shame that the levels themselves are not more intricate and creative.

In addition to the switch puzzles, the game includes other interactive features that are enabled by using an action button. These include jumping across gaps or ledges, sliding down ziplines, using elevators, etc., but there’s not much skill involved in these challenges as the game will automatically handle the jumping, holding, sliding, or whatever for you. These are there more for variety’s sake than anything else, and on the plus side you’re not stuck with a bunch of lame jumping puzzles designed to extend gameplay time.

Gladiator is really all about the fighting and it delivers plenty of that to you. You have two attack buttons to work with, and pressing them in different sequences while attacking will unleash an attack from the game’s short list of combos. The game uses a target lock system that will engage enemies at a press of the right trigger. When engaging multiple enemies you can also use the left trigger to switch targets which allows you to fight off enemies that have the nasty habit of attacking you from several directions at once. Some enemies have a health bar that will turn red right before death. When this happens you can press a button to switch to a special fatality move which is shown in a close-up, slow-motion (and usually quite brutal) cutscene.