by Joe Matar0
I, Gladiator Preview
Kill Everybody Strategically
If the title didn’t give it away, I, Gladiator casts you as a gladiator fighting arena battles during the Roman Empire. Though each level takes place in an arena setting, the intent is a console-quality experience and, as such, environments are sizeable with a fair amount of space in which to roam around. The idea is for there to be enough freedom to provide your gladiator with a wealth of possibilities to turn the tide in his favor.
Very often, you will be pitted against enemies that outclass you in strength or equipment. You may find your weapons, shields, and armor breaking during a fight, forcing you to think creatively in order to prevail. There are traps such as spikes on which to impale your adversaries and flames shooting from the arena floor with which to burn them. You’ll also be able to sometimes temporarily cooperate with one gladiator to take down another. The audience plays a role too, reacting to your performance. Dismember, burn, and impale with vigor and they may throw you money or even weapons to help you out in the heat of battle. However, if you behave cowardly, you’ll be left high and dry.
You can buy new weapons and armor at shops inside and outside of battle. There’s an in-game currency for this and IAPs as well for those with extra pocket money who find the game too challenging. However, the developer assures us it is perfectly possible to complete the game without spending money beyond the game’s base price.
I, Gladiator is divided into several modes. Story mode follows the plight of Rufus, a gladiator who no longer wishes to fight, forced to continue doing so after a transgression of sparing an opponent. The Tournament mode makes for much simpler carnage. When you finish an arena in Story mode, it unlocks in Tournament so that you’re able to play it as often as you want. Money and experience earned from Tournament mode carry over to Story mode as well. In the months after the game’s release, Steel Monkeys will also be adding a Survival mode and Multiplayer. Details on how multiplayer will be implemented are currently unknown, but will certainly be worth looking out for.
The game is meant to control simply, relying mostly on one context-sensitive button—which handles blocking, running, and context-specific attacks—and swiping in all directions to perform dodges, attacks, and counterattacks. The game is not a button-masher and strategic maneuvering becomes more important as the difficulty ramps up. Not all your opponents are human. Lions are also released into the arenas and must be dealt with through dodging and carefully timed attacks.
From what we’ve seen so far, I, Gladiator looks impressive for a mobile release. Its cel-shaded graphics (think Borderlands 2) give it a comic-book-like appearance (complete with old-school Batman-like pop-up words, e.g., “OUCH!”) which manages to make it stack up pretty nicely against console and PC releases. Additionally, the soundtrack is a dynamic one that changes dependent on the player’s current standing in battle. Though the development team is attempting to get the game to run smoothly on as many devices as possible, the Android version will come with graphical options that players can tweak should they be suffering framerate issues.
Though Steel Monkeys has given us unreserved assurance that I, Gladiator contains nothing in the way of an underhanded freemium tactic like a paywall, we do still harbor some concern over whether avoiding its IAPs might mean tedious grinding to reach game’s end. But, with any luck, it won’t as I, Gladiator looks like it should be a fun release with a lot of great upcoming features and an especially exciting multiplayer mode. Quite simply, it’s just weird there aren’t more video games set completely around gladiators, so hopefully it should help to fill a neglected gaming niche. I, Gladiator will be heading to Android in a matter of weeks, first through Samsung Apps, with other app stores to come later. The base price should land somewhere in the $5 neighborhood.