"We who are about to preview salute you!"
When you think of the games produced by Lucas Arts they tend to fall into two categories. On one side you have fantastic titles like the Secret of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango. Then there are those that fell to the dark side like Force Commander and X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. With the over saturation of Star Wars games it is good to see that Lucas Arts may still be able to bring out a classic that doesn't rely on its parentage, and that game is Gladius.
"He will bring them death, and they will love him for it."
As you may have guessed Gladius involves gladiatorial combat. The setting is inspired from the Roman era that was popularised by Ridley Scott's epic. Not willing to let history get in the way of a good scrap, the developers are also adding in fantasy elements such as magic spells and monsters. You will begin the adventure by first choosing if you wish to follow the story of Valens or Ursula. Valens is the educated and literate son of the most famous Gladiator in Imperia, one of the four regions in the game. When Valens father is murdered he steps out to rebuild the school of his family and avenge his fathers death. Ursala on the other hand is the daughter of a barbarian king and she wishes to compete to prove herself to her over protective brother Urlan. One thing is clear, whom ever you pick you'll be treated to a unique story for that character that will intertwine with the other. An epic tale it will be with each half estimated to take around thirty five hours to complete. Fortunately you will not be alone on these adventures. As you progress you will be able to recruit and train new gladiators to fight alongside you.
"Some of you are thinking that you won't fight. Others, that you can't fight. They all say that."
At its heart Gladius is a role playing game with turn based combat in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre. For each turn you'll be able to specify the type of attack, be it a single thrust or perhaps a magic spell. If you've performed well you may also unleash an ultimate attack that could turn the tide of a fight. Only the judicious use of each gladiator's skills will lead you to victory. Lucas Arts are also injecting a real-time feel into the formula. There are two parts for every turn, with units able to move during the second phase which will hopefully keep the action looking more fluid. On top of this your character's skills are somewhat governed by your ability to complete specific button combinations. If you can imagine, think of the brilliant simplicity of Space Channel Five but with gladiators and big swords instead of little aliens and pink gogo boots.
"Listen to me. Learn from me. I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd and you will win your freedom"
One great role playing addition that is sure to foster exhibitionism is the role of the audience. If you perform well and entertain the masses then your fighters will gain in their effectiveness. Perform badly though and the audience will swing to another school and cheer them instead. You may only have power to entertain a mob but that means power for you as well.
"It vexes me. I'm terribly vexed"
Robert S. Blackadder, the director, notes in his designer diary that Gladius began as a small game in a private corner of the Lucas Arts building. It seems it is going to be far from small now with four regions in the game to explore, over twenty arenas to compete in and an impressive seventeen hundred items with descriptions to examine. It is due to be released in the second quarter of this year on the Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube, and will also contain a multiplayer component so four players can hack and slash against each other. Gladius could well mark a return to form for Lucas Arts that has been so dearly lacking in some of its recent titles. When it is released, we at Ferrago shall go to Gladius together and have bloody adventures and tell you all about it.
"He was a soldier of Ferrago. Honour him!"...in the forums below.