Review by taelusramza1337

"A surprise? Perhaps. A wonderful surprise? Definitely."

I've played a lot of strategy RPGs, from Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea to Fire Emblem and FFT: Advance-- and they all share many things in common-- Entertaining gameplay, depth, and replay value, in particular. I would now like to add another game to this list: Gladius.

What is Gladius? Unique, for one. From the moment you start up the game, you can see that the developers clearly enjoyed making the game. Everything is so painstakingly crafted and fully realized, you can't help but be drawn into the world presented by the game. It's not the most original world, but the way it is shown to you will definitely impress.

The graphics in the game (on the Xbox edition) are good. The arenas look detailed and impressive, and some of them can get to be fairly large (take a look at the final tournaments). The character models look great (aside from some glaring hair issues--namely, it's one large chunk), and animate very well, especially during special attacks. The noninteractive movie sequences are done with some very stylish hand-drawn, almost comic-like scenes with various effects laid over them. The menus are all nice-looking, and the various weapons and abilities all look sharp.

The audio in the game is very good. The battle themes are all memorable, even though they aren't large and epic sounding, for the most part. The rest of the music isn't anything out of the ordinary, but it's certainly far from bad. The sound effects, on the other hand, are very impressive-- it's quite satisfying to hear the five meaty slashes of your combo attack make contact with an unsuspecting foe. Finally, the voice overs are well done-- for the most part. Unfortunately, even the most well-done voices will begin to grate on your nerves after they are repeated over... and over... and over. ''Thanks for the charge,'' anyone?

The story in the game would more than likely be what I consider it's weakest link. It isn't bad by any means, and it is told very effectively. The only major problem with it is that it isn't all that original... Dark Gods and racist rivals are fairly common these days. Oh well... at least it's satisfying to win battles. The characters are the best part of the story, as they are quite endearing, and you will grow to like some of them by the end of your (nicely paced, lengthy) journey.

The final aspect of the game I'll be covering is the actual gameplay itself. It is excellent. To put it one way, Gladius' developers undoubtedly worked very, very hard to make their game appeal to everyone, and it paid off. Gladius plays similarly to other SRPGs, only faster, and more interactive. The high level of customization and the entertaining skill system will undoubtedly please hardcore players, as well. Nearly every attack in the game requires that you test your reflexes or speed to determine your relative amount of inflicted damage. You can have multiple characters carrying out movement commands during one turn, which adds a nice level of preemptive strategy to the game. There are many different classes to choose from, and, again, nearly all of them are very unique. The developers did some serious historical research, and it shows. Each and every weapon and nearly every class in the game has its roots in actual historical fact.
One of the best parts of the game is the ability to customize your character to your liking. Usually, you'll have the option of two or more weapon types for your fighters, each with its own strength and weakness (Damage/Accuracy, etc). Additionally, most of the armor and defensive equipment that your characters use will be visible on that character, something that is present in far too few games these days. Also worth noting is the large variety of battle types-- King of the Hill, Barrel Buster, Restricted, and the classic 'Defeat all enemies' types all make a welcome appearance. These different modes help to keep the battles fresh, even as you walk into the capital city for the High Tournaments.
The game also has a mildly entertaining multiplayer mode, either cooperative or competitive. Competitive mode is probably the better of the two, as it allows you to pit your customized school against the school of a fellow Gladius player to see who comes out on top. The cooperative mode is more of 'let your little brother help you' thing than a 'play with your best buddy all day' sort of thing. The fact that you're using someone else's characters and that you're basically absent from the rest of the gameplay other than battles somewhat limits this mode, although I won't complain about its inclusion-- extra features are good.

Gladius is a wonderful game that caught me completely by surprise. It is a shining example of what can happen when developers really do love their game and put their very best effort into making it the best it can be. Despite a few flaws here and there, Gladius is the perfect strategy RPG for hardcore player and mainstreamers alike.

------9 // 10------

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/13/04

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