[Review] Story of a Gladiator – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Brain Seal Entertainment
  • Publisher: Brain Seal Entertainment
  • Release Date: 27/11/2019
  • Price: £9.99 / $10.99
  • Rating: 16 / M
  • Review code provided by Brain Seal Entertainment

If you’re a millennial like me (though I am on the tail end of the generation) then it is likely that at least a portion of the time that you spent on the internet was spent playing flash games online. I know that they were one of the first things that I explored when I was given free reign of the internet and not restricted to educational websites. One of the games that I came across in this time was a gladiator battle game called Swords and Sandals (which was made by a different team than this one but has the same basic concept) that went on to be something really nostalgic for me that I would return to every few years when I remembered that it existed. Funnily enough, I now feel that I will never have to because Story of a Gladiator has given me everything that got out of that game and more.

Humble Beginnings

The story of Story of a Gladiator is a fairly simple one. Your family was killed some time ago and after that you fell into all sorts of vices and debauchery. Now, after discovering your talent in bar fights, the time has come for you to enter the arena to earn glory through bloody combat. As far as a story goes, it’s not really anything exceptional, but it doesn’t need to be. We’re just here for some good old gladiator blood-sport, after all. There isn’t really a ton to the story besides the basic setup, but the way that it is told in bold and beautiful artwork, really makes it feel more important and puts you in the mood for what we are about to embark on.

Art direction is perhaps one of the strongest elements that this game has going for it. Everything has a very painted aspect to it that makes it all look like it’s out of some kind of a storybook about myth and legend, perfect for the story of forging your own legend in the area. Each character in the town segment of the game looks great and distinct so you’re never mixing up which shop you mean to go to with another. Likewise, the enemies are diverse enough that you can tell exactly which one is which and a lot of times, can determine how they might attack based on their designs. There isn’t a ton of variety in the animations that they do (each one has a few depending on what kind of attacks they make), but they’re all lively and energetic, going beyond the paper doll/cutout look that they initially have.

The Glory of Battle

Most of the game play is fights in the area which come in waves and are decidedly like a beat-’em-up game. Kill everyone in the wave, and you get the next one. Finish out all the waves without dying yourself and you get a nice little amount of rewards that you can use to upgrade your character. The combat is satisfying and easy to understand, with balancing your stamina bar for special attacks with standard attacking. That’s all before you add in everything else that you can add to your character, such as hyping the crowd for health and money or calling on the aid of the gods. There were only a few times that my gladiator didn’t do exactly what I directed him to, but most of those times, I am willing to bet that it was more my error in letting go of a button too soon or pressing it too late. 

That’s not to say that the combat is free of few minor frustrations, though. Your character does not move particularly fast and dodge moves do use the stamina bar to execute so there is no chance of dancing around while waiting for a good opening, at least not for an extended period of time. Additionally, the reach of your fighter can feel a little short  sometimes. I can remember write a few instances where I felt like I should have been hitting my enemy, only to come up just a bit too short and end up entirely missing them, with a little lost health for my troubles. It’s certainly not as finely tuned as some of the big budget fighting games, but once you get a handle on the controls, it works just fine, so long as you keep the quirks of the game play in mind and find combos that you like.

A Life of Leisure

The rest of the game play will find you managing your money and skill points in order to be able to better kill things when you get into the arena. There is a lot of flexibility for customization, even if bigger numbers are generally a good way to go. Buying armor does allow you a few small aesthetic choices when you put it on, though, so you can still be the most fashionable warrior in the stadium. You can also choose a few small benefits to give you some aid in the arena, and there are even some consumable items to give you a little bit of extra help on that wave that you find yourself struggling with. I was really excited when I found out spending the skill points you earn each time you level up was not permanent, you can pull them out and you can pull them out and move them around as much as you like at no cost so there’s no shame in trying out a few of the special abilities just to see if they suit your style of play or not.

Unfortunately, though, money is required for goods and services. Just like in real life! This means that you’re going to have to pick and choose what you think is the most vital. Do you prioritize attack power or your defensive capabilities? Do you focus on pleasing the gods and bringing in extra items? It’s all going to take some of your money. So, you might find yourself having to repeat area fights in order to get yourself over the hump of lacking funds, even with some extra coin thrown to you by a happy crowd. It does extend a game that could otherwise feel on the short side and I never found myself grinding for extended periods of time, but it’s worth knowing before you go in. Or, if you’re feeling up for a challenge, you could always keep your base gear for a more difficult fight.

A Legend Unfolds

Story of a Gladiator kicked me in the face with nostalgia, shield bashed me with style, and left me excited to start over again and try out an all new way of tackling battle. While it’s not the most complex game in the world, the fun factor more than makes up for it, that is, if you don’t mind things getting a little gory and messy.

Pros

  • Wonderful art direction
  • Bite sized battles good for long play sessions or on-the-go bursts
  • Good variety of customization

Cons

  • Light money grinding (even on easy)
  • Minor combat frustrations

Verdict
Look no further for a kick of gladiator action on your switch. It’s worth the victory spoils.
4/5

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