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The Gladiators: Galactic Circus Games Review
publisher: Arxel Tribe
developer: Eugen Systems
PIII-800, 128MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 32MB 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 04, 03 (released)
|» All About The Gladiators: Galactic Circus Games on ActionTrip|
Do you like Gladiator movies?
Gladiators battling it out in huge arenas and holding on for their dear lives, solely for the twisted amusement of the masses - that is the shortest and best description of Arxel Tribe's new RTS, The Gladiators: Galactic Circus Games. Real-life armies fighting in arenas that date back to the dawn of the Roman Empire; but in this incarnation of the world's oldest competition, Arxel Tribes and Eugene Systems have freshened the premise up a bit with a nice comic style sci-fi story. Players who are not happy with all-out RTS action may not be entirely satisfied with this title. Although, it looks like that The Gladiators, if played patiently and sensibly, can be interesting and addictive regardless of the genre you prefer playing these days.
I'm mean looking. Aren't I mean looking?
There is a 100% chance of getting shot today, gladiator.
The basic story may not be exceptionally creative, but it fits into the whole concept perfectly, without clogging the flow of gameplay in any way. Interestingly enough, the game is set back in the 70's, when a group of highly-trained soldiers was sent on a space voyage to examine the "black hole" phenomenon. After being sucked into the very depths of the "black hole," the small shuttle was captured by an unknown and ill-tempered alien force (oh bugger, never expected that one!). The player begins his gladiatory career as the dashing human soldier, Greg Callahan, who was recruited by an enchanted blue-breasted alien princess with the longest three ponytails you've ever seen (Y'know...THAT'S what today's games are missing these days - Blue-breasted alien princesses with three ponytails! -- Ed.). Anyway, thanks to the efforts of the princess, you are kept alive so as to compete in the Deathbowl (the name of the Games), against two champions - Maximix, the well-known Galactic General (Sound familiar? It should. -- Ed.) and the most famous gladiator in the universe, and Fargass; a bad-ass demon with powerful magic abilities. Both of these gladiators have fought each other for ages in the Deathbowl, but now they have a new challenge before them. A valiant (and slightly arrogant) human warrior who has to stay alive at all costs, so that the princess may continue the legacy of her late father.
Clinging to the basics of most RTS games nowadays, The Gladiators allows you to try three different campaigns, playing with three distinctive races: Human, Galactic, and Magic. At the beginning, you're going to have to make an effort to complete a solid portion of the human campaign, so as to unlock the Galactic race. Once you've finished a few battles as the Galactic champion Maximix, you will then be able to enjoy the final campaign - where you get to lead demon Fargass to glory.
Going through all seven missions of the human campaign was a lengthy and satisfying experience. This campaign will give you an excellent chance to learn how best to use the tactics that are available to you. As one would expect, each race has its disadvantages. For example, the humans weak in numbers and often low on reinforcements. Throughout the entire game, you'll need to concentrate on surviving, rather than assembling a huge army and devising a full-proof invasion scheme. The game was very well balanced so that the player can take full advantage of his units and the special skills of his hero. Yep, each hero character has a selection of abilities which he gains by collecting various power-ups and credits that are scattered throughout the arena (some are well-guarded and extremely difficult to reach). Every ability and unit has its own credit value. Using credits can be a tough task - on many occasions you must decide quickly whether it's better to heal your units or spawn more troops.
Even though the gameplay structure may seem too simple for some of you, The Gladiators can be a major challenge at times. The idea is to gain control over all spawn areas and bring forth as many troops into the arena as you can. Apart from controlling the spawn points, you can employ diverse strategies that can help you triumph over enemy gladiators. Luckily, the Deathbowl is not like the sand-floored mosh pit of its ancient predecessor. There are a wide variety of trees, shrubs, etc, which provides your troops with admirable hiding spots. Of course, like in any other strategy game, securing a position on higher ground makes your soldiers more effective against enemy rushes. The arenas were also supplied with useful defense objects, like towers and bunkers. Staying on top of a tower or remaining sheltered within a bunker allows your forces can fend off an entire horde of oncoming foes for a long time. If you manage to last a bit longer than expected against overwhelming odds, you may even get big hand from the audience - which really increases the desire to play further.
I bet you'd never want to play this game for real.
Behold! The spacious arena!
These are all good points, but I must draw your attention to a few weak moments in terms of unit handling. Very often, you will be attacked by a large number of enemy troops and monsters that can make it difficult for you to select a particular foe you wish your units to attack. This might prove a bit irritating.
Generally, the game has a lot offer. For starters, it features excellent unit balance, giving players the opportunity to use different types of troops, vehicles, and even air units. The arenas can be completed in numerous ways and that often depends on how well you utilize the units that are available to you; the commando units (human), for instance, have the ability to crawl on the ground and slip past enemy patrols undetected. When you're creeping about in this fashion, the game becomes sort of a third person sneaker, allowing you to complete the main goal of the arena without alarming enemy squads. Many goals in the Deathbowl cannot be completed otherwise. This adds a very nice flavor to the sometimes tedious moments regularly present in RTS's nowadays.
In terms of the mission structure, there's a wide variety of challenges present. The arenas are well-designed with many tricky obstacles, some of which can easily be bypassed if you have the proper vehicle. Incidentally, spawning tanks and choppers requires an abundant amount of credits, so once again you must decide how many troops you need covering the land and how many patrols and transports you want in the air. Most arenas feature small islands, which occasionally leaves your soldiers stranded - this where the your flying units will come in handy. You may spawn the Huey transport chopper armed with dual machine guns and the Assault chopper, which is equipped with rocket launchers and provides excellent air support. Opposing gladiators posses powerful air units, called the Skyleeds (flying units that slightly resemble the Chimeras and Hyppogryphs from Blizzard's RTS, Warcraft III) - in one particular arena, the player can seize the Skyleeds and use them to strengthen his/her offensive.
Now, there are several issues I should point out regarding the AI. After surviving through the first couple of arenas, I was under the impression that every creature was intelligent and realistic enough to be a worthy adversary. In time, however, I realized that there aren't any elaborate behavior patterns present, which also lead me to believe that the programming team did a somewhat sloppy job on the AI in general. Enemy monsters, for example, don't know the meaning of the expression "retreat if you're outnumbered." Instead, they just keep attacking relentlessly. Fair enough, occasionally they might fall back, confused and disoriented, but I'd hardly call that a strong AI code. The friendly AI is okay I suppose, but I'm afraid it may also need some enhancements, such as better pathfinding and more sensible reactions to surprise enemy attacks.
Considering today's visual standards, I'd say that The Gladiators offers numerous facets. First of all, several GeForce3-powered (or higher) features make it look stunning at times. Additionally, the game features bright, colorful, and vibrant surroundings, beautiful explosions and reflections, and splendid lighting effects. Sadly, all of this presents a bit of a choker for many systems; particularly if you run the game in high-res modes (such as 1024*768 and 32-bit colors). Believe it or not, even an Athlon XP 1600+, with a GeForce 4 graphic card, which was incidentally the system we tested it on, couldn't achieve a decent frame-rate with all the effects and details set to maximum. The physics engine is good - you can destroy almost any object or plant along the way; this way you can discover opponents concealed within the brushes. The game has practical and simply designed interface, which offers easy unit manipulation, and it gives you immediate access to all the important skills and power-ups you've picked up on route. Also, the camera appears to work well, but I would've liked to have seen a somewhat higher zoom-out degree, given that sometimes you have to operate a large number of troops and flying units simultaneously.
The game seems supplemented with fitting sounds effects. Yet, this reviewer would've preferred a different music style in the background, other than the metallic-sounding techno tunes we all heard so many times before. Still, that shouldn't bother you throughout the gameplay too much.
The Gladiators: Galactic Circus Games gives players a chance to compete in several types of multiplayer matches. Perhaps the really good thing about The Gladiators is that it allows you to try out the advantages of each race - all the units are different according to race. The maps we tested were excellent and you can test them in CTF and Deathmatch duels with up to 16 players in LAN and Internet variants.
All things considered, other than the weak AI moments and the sometimes annoying aspect of aiming, The Gladiators: Galactic Circus Games is enjoyable, challenging, and often full of pleasant surprises. The basic storyline and the manga-inspired portrayal of the main game characters don't do particularly well on the originality scale (which can also be said for the overall quality of dialog I'm afraid). The gladiator warriors were, on the other hand, well-designed and they all serve the plot purpose rather well. There are some issues that occur every now and then with unit handling. The intense action, with a huge number of units on screen at once, can make it difficult for the player to choose which enemy units he wishes to attack. In addition, camera control and the AI may need some more work.
In spite of these glitches, the game can is exciting, challenging, and even amusing at times. RTS fans shouldn't miss it and the rest of you ought to give it a try - it's really a nice refreshment.
8.2 Very Good
Constant action, several gameplay novelties employing various strategies like unit camouflage. You can destroy anything on screen and uncover hidden enemy units. Bright and colorful visuals, pleasing sound effects, excellent multiplayer concept, and challenging events in the arenas. Three playable races with a wide variety of different ground and air units at your disposal. In total, a very addictive experience;
Your units and vehicles can sometimes have confusing reactions and that can often result in bad pathfinding. Obviously the AI requires more work in general. You should be able to pull back the camera a bit more. You're gonna need a powerful CPU and video card to run this one smoothly. This game is a major hardware hog.
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