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Back of the Box
Introducing an epic gladiatorial RPG. Follow the grand saga of two young heroes, Ursala and Valens, as they recruit and train a team of warriors and compete in the gladiator games. Battle with deadly weapons and powerful magic as you learn vital combat tactics while enhancing and customizing your characters.

The Skinny
Gladius is a turn-base, strategy RPG based in a world that is recovering from horrible war simply known as the Great War. Two nations – Nordagh and Imperia – nearly destroyed themselves in the war and now all conflicts between peoples are to be settled in the gladiatorial area. Schools of warriors from surrounding regions all now train to compete in local leagues with the hopes to compete in the High Tournament. The story unfolds from the perspective of two characters as they attempt to build a school in pursuit of the Championship. You must choose to play one of the two storylines based on two main characters: Ursala, the daughter of the barbarian king from the land of Nordagh, or Valens, the son of Imperia’s greatest (now dead) gladiator. You must train, battle and recruit other warriors to fill your school in order to be able to compete in the different arenas throughout the land. Each of your gladiators have different skills to learn, combos, affinity (elemental) attacks, and various other useful skills to you aid you in each battle. As you win battles, you are awarded experience points and as you reach the next level, you are able to decide how to distribute your points towards different abilities. One thing that you have to remember though is to rotate your fighting lineup from battle to battle. Otherwise, you will find that your “favorite” gladiators will be gaining experience and level (as well as abilities) and therefore will become more and more deadly. Then, you will try to get into another arena and find that you don’t meet the entire party level status and will not be able to compete in those battles. Then you have to go back and use your “lesser” gladiators more in order to bring their levels up. You get the picture I’m sure. Basically, don’t leave any warriors on the bench too long or you will hate playing with them later.

Since this is a gladiator game, you would expect that basically to win, you need to simply win battles. This however is not the case. You also have to “play to the crowd” and make sure that they are pleased throughout the fighting. Win the crowd’s favor, and you will be given a variety of boosts during the battle including such things as better accuracy and increased movement. There are a variety of different types of battles as well. Aside from the ever-popular kill everyone else battles, there are King-of-the-Hill battles, Destroy-the-Most-Barrels battles, Timed battles, and Rival Nations battles in which you must destroy the other teams statue first. Each battle itself has a variety of factors that will either aid or hurt your changes of winning. Besides the Crowd Meter, there are things like direction of attack, facing and engaging targets and there are even terrain modifiers (essentially the gladiator who is on the highest ground will deal the most damage).

Gladius might not be the most visually stunning game on the market, but there were quite a few elements throughout the game that are definitely above average. The facial animations were simply amazing – the lip synching was great and even tiny details like eyeball movement were taken care of. It was eerily realistic how their eyeballs shifted from side to side and they squinted and widened. Crisp textures on plants, trees, and stones, and attention to detail including names on tombstones make the game very visually enjoyable. Another added touch was blood staining the ground during a battle and the death scenes (while some of them seemed a little drawn out) we fun to watch as well.

I’m typically not someone who likes to play RPGs, let alone turn based RPGs, but there were two things that made Gladius not as monotonous as most other RPGs I have encountered. First off, Gladius doesn’t spend a lot of time on story. Most cut scenes are to tell you that a certain character is nervous about a battle or that you should be particularly careful around a certain type of enemy. These can all be clicked through if so desired. Very few cut scenes actually advance the storyline. However, if you do want to have more story, each arena, league, and tournament allows you to read-up on it’s history which will usually give you insight the origins of regional rivalries and develop background story. Second, the battles, while turn-based, are interactive. There are swing/combo meters located near the bottom of the screen during each battle and depending on where you manage to hit as the bar shoots across, will dictate the amount of damage and type of attack you deliver. This also breaks up the monotony of having to wait for each players individual attack. Both of these features, coupled with over 50 character classes to choose from, a plethora of weapons in all different shapes and sizes, and a bountiful array of magical and non-magical skills to learn, Gladius is definitely a hit. Oh ya, and did I mention that there are also two multiplayer modes, Co-op and Versus, and each of them support up to four players. What more could you want?

The Bottom Line
Gladius is not your typical strategy, turn-based RPG. This in not the kind of game that you can just throw into your Xbox and expect fast-paced results from. There are a variety of attack options, skills, tactics, customizations, and battle requirements that will definitely change the way that you look at this genre of game – but you are going to have to warm up to it first. If you are willing to invest an hour or so of your time to really get into the game, you will definitely be surprised at how addicting turn-based battles can be. If it wasn’t for the swing meter, I think that this game would have definitely shut out more potential buyers than LucasArts would have liked. Give Gladius a chance and I’m sure you will not regret your purchase

Review ID Number: 459
  Product Details
Review Date: 2004-01-19
Reviewer: Shawn Sardy
Rating: 9 out of 10
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