Typically, when the word “gladiator” and the phrase “Ancient Rome” cross my mind, I think of enslaved soldiers vengefully and relentlessly battling to the death in an amphitheater for the entertainment of society’s elite and the slim possibility of attaining their freedom. I think of the slaying ferocious animals and defeating the power-hungry son of an emperor. I also think of intensely inquiring at spectators whether or not they are entertained. While my presumptions regarding gladiators in Ancient Rome may be based entirely on Ridley Scott’s historical epic, mining and foraging for resources and food is not what I first think of. Gladiators: Survival in Rome is Colossi Games’ de facto combination of Titan Quest and Minecraft.
The Role-Playing Survival game puts players in the shoes of a fugitive from Caesar’s army. You find yourself venturing through the Roman wilderness, freeing slaves and allies from the empire’s tyrannical soldiers. Along the way, the game encourages you to claim territories, build structures, and craft items to assist you in completing quests. Gladiators has several captivating aspects to its gameplay that give it the potential to be a game hardcore players could sink hours into; simple but entertaining combat, intriguing quests, and an abundance of crafting and building options. However, it suffers quite severely from a hinderance mobile games all too common in mobile games – microtransactions. Unfortunately, the preponderance of microtransactions make the game skirt the lines between free and pay-to-play a little too much.
Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not in Rome Anymore
At the beginning of the game, you awake on the ground next to a dead soldier and a destroyed carriage. Soon, a wounded soldier reveals that deserters ambushed your caravan. Your task is to find the missing soldiers from your battalion. The game immediately introduces you to most of its key gameplay features. Combat involves you pressing one button to swing your weapon or fists. It is very basic and could seemingly get old quickly if you invest enough time into the game. Nonetheless, I found it to be very rewarding to smite large groups of enemies by simply mashing one button. It made me feel very Russell Crowe-ian, like I was real gladiator, impervious to whatever weaponry my foes bring upon me as I dispatch them hastily.
Early on, the game introduces you to the mining/chopping/resource-collecting aspect. This element ends up being extremely useful once you establish your first village. Once you clear the Village of Locri, you claim it as your own territory. Subsequently, you can build structures to house workers, craft useful tools, and repair weapons and armor. Wood, stone, and leather are initially the most useful resources which you use to build just about everything you need. The crafting system does become a bit tedious after a while. The game will have you gather wood to have you turn that wood into flitch or billet, then have you gather stone to turn into stone brick, to build a structure which you need to use to finally build the item you covet for the quest you are trying so desperately to finish. Luckily, the game walks you through the building and crafting process. It lists it as a quest and guides you to all the items you need to gather. Even so, the process of crafting an item or structure is often too unnecessarily layered and anti-climactic.
The ample quantity of quests makes the game feel very full. one could sit down and play for hours and still have quests and objectives to look forward to the next time they pick it up. When you set a quest as your main objective, you are lead by a guiding arrow appears under your character. I would appreciate this element more if I were on a time-crunch to finish the game. But this arrow that directs players exactly where they need to go could prove to be a turn-off. Hardcore gamers who prefer exploration especially might take issue with it. A more vast and explorable world would warrant the arrow. Alas, the maps are relatively contained compared to most RPGs.
Up to this point in my review I have been quite critical of Gladiators, perhaps to a misleading extent. I enjoy the game and could see myself occupying my time building villas and uplifting those wronged by the Roman Empire by slaying their oppressors. I could, that is, if not for the inescapable presence of microtransactions in this game. Under your in-game health bar is your character’s stamina bar, a stat that depletes whenever you chop down a tree, mine a stone ore, or build an item using a crafting structure. Your stamina does not rejuvenate on its own when depleted. From here, you have a few options: you can watch an advertisement to regain a small percentage back, though you can only do this a handful of times, you can spend gems, an in-game currency you almost exclusively acquire by spending money, to replenish it in its entirety, you can eat food to regain a smaller portion back, or you can wait several real-life hours for it to rejuvenate.
Eating food is probably the most cost/time-efficient method to regain stamina. However, each piece of food regenerates very little and stamina depletes painfully quickly. You’re left with an unfortunate ultimatum: put down the game for several hours after you run out of food and ads, or spend gems, i.e. money, for the ability to perform rudimentary gameplay tasks. This severely interrupts the flow of the game and puts an unfair imposition on players that they would be perfectly within reason to reject. I’m typically charitable towards mobile games that implement microtransactions because small developers should get paid for the work they do. However, I staunchly oppose linking microtransactions to fundamental game mechanics. The fact that Gladiator does this turns me off from this otherwise interesting and fun gaming experience.
Is It Hardcore?
Gladiators Survival in Rome offers players compelling combat and survival gameplay at a cost – literally. The copious microtransactions riddled throughout the game practically forces you to spend money on the game if you wish to play for more than a half-hour at a time.