By: Matthew Striplen
Rage of the Gladiator is a quirky little game. Consisting of nothing but boss battles, the game drops our protagonist, Gracius, into gladiatorial combat. The story doesn’t matter much, as it’s primarily driven by gameplay. That being said, the story is very generic, and features some fairly poor voice acting. Most of the acting and script writing ranges from cheesy to bad, but again, we’re not here for the story. The soundtrack is fully orchestrated, and it’s dark and epic. Additionally, the soundtrack is long and interesting enough for it to be recycled many times without becoming unpleasant.
While the combat appears to resemble a more traditional boxing game, it’s actually closer to a rhythm-style game, requiring exact and perfectly timed responses to the opponent. Every boss follows a different pattern, using sounds, phrases or movements to signal the player what attack is about to be unleashed. These patterns start painfully easy, but by the final level are complicated and difficult.
A number of different moves are available for Gracious to use: left/right arm swings, and left/right kicks. Magic and special combos are also used by tapping into the player’s mana reserves. The higher the accumulated mana, the more powerful the special attacks you can unleash are. The controls for each of these moves are simple and intuitive.
After each new victory, the player will be rewarded with a skill point, which can be spent on any of three skill trees to boost stats or unlock special combos and abilities. These combos range from epic beat downs to glorified groin kicks. Depending on the player, the novelty shots will either be hilarious or merely eye-roll inducing.
Gold is also earned, which is used to buy equipment, supplies and more skill points. Rage of the Gladiator allows the player to repeat any previous battle to earn more gold but skills points can only be won by completing new battles. Since the difficulty curve is quite sharp, the player will definitely need to revisit a few bosses.
Three sets of levels are featured in Rage of the Gladiator, each increasing exponentially in difficultly. The bosses are very diverse, ranging from humans to complete monsters. My only problem is that each boss is repeated on every difficulty setting. Each repeat is almost an exact copy, with only a few new moves and significantly boosted stats. The voice acting is repeated verbatim, and only one new boss is added per level. More variety would have given the game much more depth and replay value.
Despite being a port from WiiWare, Rage of the Gladiator looks noticeably better than its console counterpart. Textures are much more detailed and the 3D provides quite a bit of depth. Though I did enjoy the 3D effects, they were certainly not necessary for the game’s completion. As with most 3DS effects, they still hurt most people’s eyes after a few minutes.
One of the bigger problems I found playing Rage of the Gladiator pertains to the programming of dialogue into the battle sequences. If you interrupt a boss with an attack during their taunts, it may cause them to loop. This means that unless the player waits for every line to be delivered, the combat will stop. Additionally, this bug sometimes causes the boss to simply continue talking instead of resuming gameplay. At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes a boss’s mouth will move but nothing will be said.
When playing any video game, the most basic question the game must answer is this: is this fun? Unfortunately, Rage of the Gladiator did not have enough of the elusive “fun” factor. Gameplay felt more like a grueling memorization of buttons rather than an epic battle. The game failed to fully engage me, despite the undeniably good aspects, like the skill tree and purchasing options. While far from a poor game, Rage of the Gladiator could have been much more exciting.