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Platform(s): PS2/Xbox/GameCube Publisher: LucasArts
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy RPG Developer: LucasArts
Format: DVD-ROM Expected Release: 10/28/03

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Justin Hoeger
Justin Hoeger

Ah, the life of a gladiator - a life of perpetual danger and risk; one in which only the strongest few survive long enough to die another day. The Romans' fascination with the blood sport has led to representations in film, book and stage. Now the barbaric pastime has found its way into the video game medium. Such is the life of the character you play in Gladius, a turn-based strategy RPG from LucasArts.

In Gladius, players will assume the role of one of two gladiators: Valens, the well-bred and highly-educated son of the greatest gladiator in Imperia, or Ursula, the daughter of the barbarian king of Nordagh and wielder of strange magical powers. In Valen's scenario, players assume the role of the promising warrior as he takes ownership of the family's gladiatorial school after his father's murder. With his faithful friend Ludo at his side, Valens hopes to restore honor and glory to his father's legacy; but he may find that those sandals may be hard to fill. Ursula's quest, however, is that of self-discovery. Sheltered by her father for years because of her aberrant magical powers, she is drawn to the gladiator games to seek new experiences as well as prove her strength to her over-protective brother Urlan. Her desire to see the world will lure her from Nordagh to Imperia and a destiny she never expected. Whichever hero is chosen, players will need to recruit and train new gladiators to establish their own fighting school. The goal is to fight through the gladiatorial ranks of the land's twenty arenas to achieve the lofty title of Imperial Champions. Eventually, these competitions divert into a deeper story involving the return of a dark god which forces the two characters to join forces. Even though Ursula and Valens eventually fight side-by-side in both scenarios, each campaign is unique. Players will have to complete the game with both heroes to experience the entire adventure.

The graphics in Gladius feature advanced 3D-modeled characters and large, complex environments. Players will be pleased to know that the backgrounds aren't simply limited to the sands of the arena. The rolling hills of Imperia, among other locations, will be open to exploration. Both the human opponents of the arena and the more mythical creatures threatening the land appear detailed and well-animated. Players who enjoyed films such as Academy Award® Winner Gladiator should find a great deal to admire with Gladius?artistic direction.

Gladius' combat system borrows heavily from previous strategy RPGs, especially Squaresoft's Final Fantasy Tactics. In fact, the lead designer required each member of his team to play through the game as an example of how a strategy RPG should be done. Education at its finest! As a fairly traditional-styled strategy RPG, Gladius' combat is turn-based though there are some innovations present. When attacking, gladiators can opt for a single attack or attempt to string together a series of blows for a more damaging combo. If timed correctly, these moves can decimate foes. The game also features various magic spells that include area-effect attacks which can hurt your own allies if aimed poorly. Finally, Valens and Ursula each have an ultimate attack which charges up as combat rages on.

Gladius features a roster of 16 character classes with which to form your troop. These potential gladiators include Imperial Guardsmen, the magic-using Galdr Witches, the javelin-throwing Peltast and the hulking Samnites. Each of these fighting classes has different applications in battle and a balanced party is instrumental to victory.

Besides Gladius' main quest, there is also an exhibition mode which will allow players to get right to the action without worrying about plot advancement. This multiplayer aspect of the game is a welcome addition to the traditionally single-player experience of the average console strategy RPG. The GameCube and Xbox versions will allow up to four players to compete in the arena, though the PlayStation 2 edition is limited to two players. With impressive graphics, complex gameplay and a wide variety of characters, Gladius shows promise. LucasArts' Pax Romani adventure may be the surprise hit when released in September 2003.


2002 LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC. 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM or as indicated. All rights reserved.
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