Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance Preview

Check out our full preview of this Roman-era action game from Acclaim.

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Over the past week, we've spent some additional time playing Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance and taking a deeper look into what the game is all about. Gladiator is currently in development by Acclaim and is an action title through and through, with some unique storytelling elements as well as lots of brutal swordfighting action. While the game appears fairly incomplete at this point, we see a lot of promise in what Gladiator has to offer.

Gladiator's hero, Thrax, must restore Rome to its past glory by defeating the wayward gods Phobos and Deimos and the evil emperor Arruntius.
Gladiator's hero, Thrax, must restore Rome to its past glory by defeating the wayward gods Phobos and Deimos and the evil emperor Arruntius.

As mentioned in our previous coverage, Gladiator tells the story of Thrax, a battle-tested warrior who is well known among the Roman people as being a champion among gladiators. The game begins with Thrax set to do battle once again in the Roman Colosseum--but this is no ordinary gladiator battle. Emperor Arruntius, the current leader of Rome, has designed a plan to effectively demolish the current city of Rome and build a new city of his own grand designs--a city known as Arruntium. After fighting his way through the streets of Rome, past numerous opposing gladiators, Thrax arrives at the Colosseum, only to learn that Arruntius has designed this entire event to kill him and rid Rome of its last antiquated hero. Moments later, Thrax is killed at the hands of an unseen opponent.

Thrax eventually awakens in a bizarre place. Grass, trees, and rocks all surround him, but the sky is a bleak white, and the mass of land he occupies appears to be floating in nothingness. Then, out of nowhere, a pair of twin boys appear, both wearing theater masks. They reveal themselves to be Romulus and Remus, and they tell Thrax that he has died and gone to Elysium, the afterlife for fallen heroes. They explain to him that Arruntius has displeased the gods with his antics and that, in fact, Arruntius murdered the previous emperor, and with the aid of the wayward gods of terror and panic, Phobos and Deimos, he has drained Rome of its very essence and is coveting it for his own personal gain. Thrax is then assigned the task of helping to restore Rome to its past glory by defeating Phobos and Deimos and exacting his revenge upon Arruntius.

In the game, you will of course be playing as Thrax. Gladiator uses a very basic form of combat, utilizing two distinct attack buttons, a jump/action button, and a magic button. Both attack buttons do essentially the same thing--one performs an up-and-down slash, while the other performs a side-to-side slash. As you attack an opponent, you'll be able to string together basic combo moves, as well as lock onto an opponent using the R trigger and switch between multiple enemies with the L trigger. Additionally, Thrax will have multiple weapons to choose from--ranging from his standard sword to a large battle-ax--each with its own unique combination of maneuvers.

Gladiator features impressively animated grass.
Gladiator features impressively animated grass.

The action button in the game is used for a number of different tasks. For starters, simply pressing it in conjunction with a direction on the pad will cause Thrax to jump forward or back, or dodge and roll around an enemy. However, this button will also come into play in practically every puzzle or unique action situation Thrax comes across, such as when he must traverse a number of platforms and his only way to get across is to latch onto a small post hanging above each platform and swing his way to the other end. The action button will also come into play when performing executions on your downed opponents. Executions are the spiritual relatives of Mortal Kombat's fatality moves--they allow you to finish your opponent off in more than 50 different brutal ways. For instance, Thrax can use his ax to chop off both of his victim's arms and decapitate him, and then he can slam the ax into the lifeless torso, or he can take his sword and shove it through his opponent's face.

Magic attacks are also a key factor in Gladiator's gameplay, but not just for combat. There will be three types of magic that Thrax can access, including the Power of Hercules, which actually sets him on fire and makes his attacks more powerful, and the Power of Pluto, which allows him to call upon wraiths from the underworld to help him in battle and drain his enemies of their life. Beyond basic combat, these forms of magic will also come into play when acquiring power-ups. Many life boosts, armor upgrades, and fighting enhancers can be found throughout each level in a number of vases and jars, but some of these containers cannot be destroyed simply by attacking them. Each of them is labeled with a specific type of magic that must be used to destroy it, and they can only be cracked open by this type of magic.

Every level in Gladiator is uniquely designed after a part of Greek mythology, from the mythical Hyperborea to Rome itself.
Every level in Gladiator is uniquely designed after a part of Greek mythology, from the mythical Hyperborea to Rome itself.

There is a fairly rich variety of enemies to be found in Gladiator, ranging from cadres of gladiators toting swords, axes, and other sharp objects, to a multitude of monsters pulled directly from Greek mythology, including minotaurs, skeletons, demons, cyclopes, and, of course, the evil gods Phobos and Deimos. The basic enemies come in varying classes--some are extremely easy to do away with, and some are quite difficult. Every level will have a boss encounter of some form, and defeating these bosses will allow you to upgrade Thrax, as well as obtain the pieces of the life force of Rome.

Visually and audibly, Gladiator has some fairly solid presentation all around. Every level is uniquely designed after a part of Greek mythology, from the mythical Hyperborea, found at the very edge of the world, to Rome itself, with all its mythic splendor and classic architecture. Thrax looks appropriately badass, sporting a fearsome-looking mask and some heavy-duty armor. In fact, every character in the game has a fairly solid look, though some seem heavier on detail than others. Gladiator also features full speech for all points of dialogue within the game, and while some of the dialogue found in the builds we were provided seemed like a placeholder, much of what we heard was well done and added the right level of atmosphere to the story.

While the game is certainly not without its issues at this point in its development stage, Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance appears to be coming together quite well. We look forward to more opportunities to check out Gladiator's progress and to see how the game further improves itself between now and its release this September. Look for more coverage of Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance in the coming weeks.

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