Originally posted January 25, 2004.
If you have ever played any of the various Tactics games (Final Fantasy, Ogre) then you know the gameplay. The battlefield is basically just a bunch of squares, you move your dudes a few squares at a time until you reach an opponent, then you bash the shit out of them until they die. Kill everyone and you win… yay. It sounds boring but it can be quite fun and challenging. There is a paper-rock-scissors thing going on here, your heavy characters kick the shit out of the medium guys who destroy the lightweights that in turn run circles around the big boys. This forces you to plan out your starting points with care, fuck up and the comp will murder you. The way you attack is also quite nice, once you select what you want to do, a meter shows up at the bottom of the screen. It is filled with a large yellowish portion, a small red sliver, and a medium sized blue section. Stop the meter on yellow and you do a regular attack, on red and you do a larger attack, land on the blue you do a shitty little love tap. This forces you to actually pay attention to your battles; it keeps your head in the game. Also, in this game you really have to keep your guys freshly equipped with their best shit. Some games you can get away with slacking off, but not here. The right weapon makes a big fucking difference; a perfectly equipped group is almost guaranteed victory as long as the user has some skill.
During these battles there is another meter. This meter represents the crowd, if they like what you are doing it will rise, and if you reach a high enough level, it will give you shit that can aid you in battle. How do you know when you have reached such a level? A dude, who I can only assume is some sort of bald Caesar, shows his approval by clapping. This is a quick five-second scene that basically tells you ‘good job’. That would be all right, if they left it at that. However, not long after you reach that level you will almost certainly lose it when your opponent has a go at you. Then you will attack, and lookie here, the meter grows. Hey Caesar, nice to see you again. Damn, there goes my popularity. Ha, take that bitch… Oh hey Caesar, what’s up man? Fuck, down it goes… Caesar… Ok man, we get it… Down again!? Motherfucker… GODDAMN CAESER STOP CLAPPING AFTER EVERY FEW TURNS! JUST LET ME PLAY THE… STOP IT YOU ASSHOLE, JUST LET ME PLAY THE FUCKING GAME. Shit like this didn’t happen once or twice, it was around every other battle. It may not have always been as intense, but it was always awful.
The battles are primarily held in arenas (hence the crow approval and the dreaded Caesar). There is one arena per town you visit. In a town you can fight in the arena, buy weapons and armor in a shop, recruit new warriors for your school, or just learn about the land. In the various arenas you can battle a lot of different people and participate in tournaments. However, since they are all held in the same arena, all of your battles will take place in the same environment, with can become pretty boring. It doesn’t really make a difference, but a change of scenery would have been nice. At least the different areas all have a unique look to them. Unlike the other tactic games, you can freely walk around the world in Gladius. There is really not much to do other than just going from town to town, but it’s still a neat thing to do.
The story and graphics are quite kewl. A nice little addition here is the ability to choose a gender. You can play as the lady Ursula or the young man Valens (whose game is a little more difficult). The story unfolds through various cut-scenes. Fight a few battles; unravel part of the story. Enter a new arena; unravel part of the story. It all flows nicely and keeps a good gameplay to movie ratio, so you never really have to sit on your hands and watch something for very long. The stuff you will be watching though looks great. The game looks part cartoon part real life, kinda like Warcraft 3. Everything has a cartoony feel to it, nothing that will distract you, just a nice little world not unlike our own.
This game really surprised me, I thought it would have been a decent rental that would last a few days. It turned out to be a great game that is worthy of a purchase. From the looks of it the game should be able to last you quite a while. I don’t know how much reply value it has once it’s done, but if you enjoy tactic games I think you will play this far after you have beaten it.
Verdict: If tactic games give you a boner, purchase this, hide away and play like a loner. For all of the others, give it a shot or go fuck your mothers.