Review by peon
"An excellent turn-based strategy game for the GC"
When I first saw the screenshots for Gladius about a year ago, I got the impression that it was either a third person action game, or an action/strategy hybrid, ala Unholy Wars (PS). I was quite surprise that Gladius is not really like either of these games, and has in fact more in common with the excellent Final Fantasy Tactics series.
Obviously the meat of the game can be found in the tactical battles. Orders are given in a turn based fashion, like most turn based games. However, a player's skill can be a determining factor in the damage dealt -- not a dice roll like many TBS games. Almost every attack has some sort of bar that moves and must be ''set'' at the correct time. Someone else likened the bar to the bar often used for golf game swings, and I think that's pretty accurate. Different attacks have different systems for this, which keeps things interesting. Some attacks have ''alternating button'' patterns, others have a series of buttons that must be ''matched'', and still others have a series of buttons that must be pressed at the correct time. It definitely keeps things interesting, and adds unpredictability without relying purely on luck.
The player can walk around the world to go to different towns, though the majority time is spent at a menu in each town where you can select which league or tournament to participate in. As you win leagues and tournaments, the story progresses and new areas are unlocked for you to explore. In that sense, it is much akin to a sports game.
The majority of battles so far seem to be deathmatch style (kill the enemies) but some of the league battles feature other popular game modes: King of the Hill, Vandal (destroy the most barrels in a given time limit), Dominance (hold certain ''areas of power'' for the majority of the time), Point Match (you gain points for dealing damage; winner deals most damage overall), Series (endurance match; must fight several battles in a row), and Enemy Nations (destroy the enemy teams idol before they destroy yours) There may be additional modes to be found later, but the list is already quite impressive for this type of game.
Not much to speak of, as far as control goes. There are some minor camera issues in battle, but nothing major. The control itself is simple and rather intuitive.
I haven't played enough of the game to give a rating to the story, to be honest, but it feels a little bit lacking. The campaign I started with (the beginner campaign) starts with a girl, Ursula, wanting to travel around with her brother and participate in Gladiator tournaments. Apparently there is some evil plan being hatched somewhere and I imagine I'll be asked to stop it. I find the cutscenes somewhat boring though, and I usually skip them. I like games with good stories, but this one doesn't seem very deep, at least at first glance. To me, it seems like they came up with a great idea for gameplay, and then wrapped a story around that instead of the other way around.
I was a little bit disappointed by the graphics. I thought they looked really great from the first screenshots, but having seen it in action, I wasn't all together impressed. Many of the textures seemed a little bit blurry, especially on the characters, as if they had come from the N64 era. They get the job done, but after seeing games with beautiful graphics on other systems, such as Final Fantasy X, it's hard to be impressed with these ones. That being said, they do get the job done and most classes can be told apart just by looking at them.
The sound is decent. I felt that the voice acting seemed a little cheesy as to the ingame battle cries, but overall it served its purpose. The music was decent as well, but nothing really memorable in my opinion.
I think that there is definitely room for replayability here. Most sports games are fun, even after playing through an entire season, and I feel that this is similar to the situation in Gladius. There is also the advanced campaign which I haven't even touched yet, and I imagine it probably has a different story to go through too.
Replayability is further enhanced by the addition of both versus and coop modes. I haven't had a chance to play the versus mode so I won't speculate on how good it is, but the coop mode was a nice touch. A second (or more?) player(s) can pick up a controller a select one or more of your units to control in battle. This is a great option if you have a friend over who wants to play as well -- you don't often find these kind of options in turn based strategy games.
Final Recommendation: 9
Despite subpar graphics and stories, this is plain and simple, a fun game. I'm a big fan of turn based strategy games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Ogre Battles, others, and this game certainly appeals to me. If you like RPGs at all, or perhaps even sport games, it's worth a look.
Go out and buy yourself a copy.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/27/03
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