Free to play games are the new big thing in console gaming. PC gamers have struggled with the play to win template for a few years now. Finally, console gamers can experience the same up hill climb against the cash throwers and grinders.
Spartacus Legends is a one versus one gladiatorial beat-em-up. Developed by Ubisoft to run along side the TV show of the same name. Now, I haven’t seen the show so I have no way of knowing if the game features characters or locations from the show. You do not need to watch or have seen the show to play this. It may give a little additional motivation for certain players, if they can relate to the characters. That’s going to be a very long shot, the game at its core is broken and no amount of tacked on TV association will change that.
When you first load up Spartacus Legends, you are given some basic information and a very simple tutorial. Running through the combat mechanic tutorial you realise how limited the combat is – with only a few attacks and dodges at your disposal. A deep and complex fight system this is not. Movement feels unresponsive and laggy, controller inputs seem inconsistent. Dragging your fighter around the arena can feel like wading through treacle, everything reacts a split-second too late. Combos are short, uninspired and, again, unresponsive. On several occasions, button inputs are completely missed resulting in your character stopping dead midway through attacks. When you do strike your opponent, blows feel weak and lack any resemblance of power. Each landed attack gives the same reaction, a poorly animated stumble backwards. On occasion, you will knock your opponent to the ground, now you could unleash a ground attack but by the time you’ve got your stumbling, zombie gladiator to the other side of the screen the dude’s back up and ready for more broken combat.
Your defensive move set is just as bad as the offensive. Shield blocks, guard breaks and dodge rolls are all present here but, like the combat, there is a noticeable latency between button presses and what actually happens on screen. The lack of a competent combat system simply breaks the game.
Challenging players online only exacerbates this issue. Online matches are easy to set up and get into, but they’re hampered by even worse control issues. Out of the five matches I had with online opponents, each one suffered from game breaking lag and a lack of responsiveness. Graphically, there’s nothing impressive here. Characters look like claymation creations or plastic action men. Textures are poor across the board, with low quality assets in place almost everywhere. Jagged edges and some incredibly obvious screen tearing bring the experience down further. Presentation wise, things don’t get any better. With little in the way of guidance or a full tutorial (after the basic attack and defend tutorial) you’re left to guess at certain aspects of the game.
The main campaign has you training and upgrading a group of gladiators. Your starting fighter comes with a basic set of weapons. It’s up to you to win bouts with your gladiator, upgrade his armour, weapons and skill set. As the game progresses, you are given access to various different districts. Each of these districts can have one of your fighters to represent it. With up to six gladiators to manage and upgrade, things can get quite in depth. Until you have to actually fight somebody. It’s clear that the idea behind the game could work. Building up your fighters with new armour and weapons is a great system. Managing a group of gladiators, each with their own set of skills and advantages is another brilliant idea. Losing a fight means you lose that gladiator, again that adds some much needed tension to the fighting genre. Imagine pitting your most prized fighter, complete with armour and weapons you’ve spent hours acquiring, against a friend’s equally tooled up dude. Sweaty palms all round.
Some of the ideas presented here are fresh and intriguing. Upgrading a group of fighters is a welcome idea. It’s just unfortunate that once you’re in the game proper, it all falls apart. As a free to play game it may seem like harsh criticism. It is and I don’t care – even F2P titles need to have some standards. This is not a good example of those standards. It’s free to gold members so if you’re still unsure, download it and try it for yourselves.