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Strategic Preview: Spartacus Legends (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade)

Published 1 year, 9 months ago by Robert Workman

If you aren't watching Starz' original series Spartacus right now, you should be.  Approaching its final season very soon, this TV show offers plenty of brutal combat, along with some terrific acting and, of course, gore galore.  You'd best catch up on some DVD and Blu-Ray season sets before the show begins its final bow this January.

If you prefer something a little more hands-on, however, your prayers are about to be answered.  A few months ago, at San Diego Comic-Con of all places, Ubisoft announced a video game that ties in with the TV show's universe, titled Spartacus Legends.  In it, you'll be able to play as a variety of characters from the show, engaging in the kind of combat that's quite authentic to the theme at hand.  And you thought Mortal Kombat was bloody…

After selecting your character, you'll be thrown into a 3D gladiatorial arena with the simple goal of "killing them all".  Each character has a specific style that works for them, whether it's using a spear and a shield for long-range attack and defense, or carrying a pair of swords for quick, devastating swipes.  But each character has pros and cons.

For instance, as a dual wielder, in this case Spartacus, you're able to strike rather quickly with your weapons, without needing to prep a lunge or placing a weapon in a specific point.  But in order for him to have his speed, he wears less armor than one of the traditional warriors, making him an easier target when it comes to being hit.

Likewise, the hoplomachus, carrying that spear/shield set-up, is heavier in armor, but also a lot slower, making them mismatched in a way against the faster dual wielders.  That said, they can last a lot longer in a match if they uses their defenses at the utmost opportunity, and then strike hard – and deep – to send them down to the ground.

And the stakes are higher than in most fighting games, as this one takes a realistic stance that we haven't seen since the old days of Square Enix's Bushido Blade series.  Matches aren't based on a timer or even a "you win/you lose" scenario.  You fight to the death, as gladiators often have in the olden days, and once your health bar is completely run out, you are dead.  And that does it for the match.  No chance at a second comeback, no opportunity to get revenge in the next round, save for the versus mode, where you can select another character and try to knock someone off the heap.  Dead is dead in a game such as this – a fitting theme considering the bloody nature of the show.

One thing that hasn't been heavily utilized in fighting games is crowd effect.  Throughout each match in Spartacus Legends, the fans will be looking on, cheering their favorites.  As you progress in Spartacus Legends, you begin filling up a crowd meter, which appears on the screen.  (Taunts play a big part as well, though they leave you wide open for attack.)  Fill it enough and you'll have the opportunity to completely slaughter your opponent at the end of a match with a visceral execution.  We're talking about lopping off limbs and stabbing someone through the neck, with the blade coming out on the other end, with fresh brains spilled on it.  Yuck?  Yes.  But somehow bloodily satisfying.

However, you have to hit the right quick-time event button prompts as you do so, lest you give them an opportunity to recover and possibly fight back, even on their last legs.

For a downloadable fighting game – and one that will initially be free-to-play once it releases – Spartacus Legends is looking fantastic thus far.  Each of the fighters definitely has some appeal to them in terms of design.  Even the heavier armored ones have attack patterns that make them menacing in their own right, despite their lack of speed.  And of course, Spartacus looks like his cinematic self, and sounds like it too, even when he buries a blade in his opponent to the point that it changes color, to a satisfyingly bloody red.  The arenas are authentic as well, and watching crowds get into the action just adds on to the atmosphere.  (Shame they can't jump in and take part – they'd be fun to hack away at for extra points.  Innocent bystanders, my ass!)

The game will support multiplayer match-ups, and extra customization options should open up as well, possibly through a microtransaction system since the game is initially being offered at no charge.  We'll learn more about what Ubisoft has in mind for it when it launches early next year for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.  If bloody combat is your thing, or you're just a fan of the show, these Legends might just be the ticket for you.

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