Your village was attacked by the Roman army and no one survived. No one except you that, by the grace of the gods, was spared of the carnage. You start to roam the streets of the empire. No destiny, no purpose. Soon you find yourself fighting. For money. For survival. But everything changes after you meet a champion of the arenas. At that moment, you find a new resolution for your life: you become a gladiator, fighting for money and glory in the arena.
Developed and published by the UK studio Brain Seal, Story of a Gladiator is an arena beat’em up that will put you to fight in arenas of the Roman Empire. Fight from Greece to Africa and back to Rome, While the horns announce the imminent clash, remember this could be your last day on earth, warrior. Prove yourself worthy of the crowd’s support and become the champion of the arenas! Prepare your sword and shield, gladiator. We’re about to enter the battlefield.
What do you do? In Story of a Gladiator, you must be ready to fight for your life in arenas in Greece, Carthage and Rome. But between one and another match, you can use the experience you gain after each battle to learn skills that can help your survival in the battlefield or use your hard-earned money to buy new weapons and equipment, consumables or companions to help you in this tough task. You can also appeal to temples where you can find the favor of gods to aid you in combat. Not only the gods, but you better get the favor of the crowd too!
What we liked!
- Visuals: Withhand-drawn graphics, the visuals of Story of a Gladiator are colorful and very interesting. Animations and expressions of your combatant are also pretty good. When outside of battles, you notice the developers dedicated a lot of attention to buildings and NPCs walking on the streets of the empire too. Each different piece of equipment your character uses can be seen in his body, showing a good level of detail and variation.
- Sound: Ridley Scott’s Gladiator set the bar really high for the soundtrack of combat in arenas, but Story of a Gladiator won’t disappoint you. Your ears will be entertained by some good music –especially the music for your entrance in the arena… it will have you excited for the battle ahead! The initial sequence, with narration, is great, which makes me wonder why they haven’t added more sequences like this one during the game. Although the sound effects lack a punch, they won’t disappoint you.
- The arenas: The arenas where the fights take place are beautifully detailed. It’s nice to see (or better saying, to hear) the crowd going wild after each execution. They can also have some… surprises… to make the later arenas more interesting: you will find spikes, holes, fire pits and other nasty surprises you can use against your enemies. I know it’s a different movie but shouting ‘this is Sparta’ while you kick someone in a pit never felt so good.
- A tough challenge: The difficult level increases slowly level after level, but exponentially between arenas! The arena in Greece will put you against other gladiators. The Carthage arena will introduce beasts, traps and pits. The Roman arena, your final destination, will introduce you to team battles against Roman troops. Not even after maxing out your equipment you will be ready for all the challenges the game throws at you.
- Favor of the crowd: The crowd has a very important role in the combat: they can throw bags of coins, food that you can pick to recover your health and stones that temporary immobilize your enemies. As you eliminate your enemies, the hype of the crowd intensifies giving you access to your divine powers, so always try to entertain your spectators as you slice and dice the contenders. But more than that, your performance determines how much money you will get at the end of the battle. I couldn’t figure out how to get the most from their excitement: even getting 3 stars in a level and not being hit by a single blow, sometimes it looks like the crowd didn’t like the battle at all, giving me only a small bonus. While in others, clearly a worse performance not worth the 3 stars, they gave me more coins as a bonus. To avoid being confused as I was, always aim for a flawless victory: this is the best way to have your purse full of coins in no time!
- Favor of the gods: By selecting one of the gods to support you, you gain access to a special ability to be used during the combat. I must say that this ability can turn the tide of battle in your favor when used at the right moment. Problem is that they feel little to no astonishing at all: they should have used a little more special effects on it to illustrate it’s divine intervention in the combat.
- Equipping your character: At the stores of the Empire, you have a good number of weapons, shields and armors to customize your character. Each piece of equipment has different attributes, increasing your defense, attack and health, making them more than accessories to customize the appearance of your gladiator. But the weapons… ah, the weapons: why they all feel like batons when used in combat? And talking about combat…
What we disliked
- Combat: To a game focused on skirmishes, you’d expect the combat to be its shining star. Well, I regret to say that you’re going to be disappointed. Since Story of a Gladiator is a beat’em up, the combat is based on repeatedly pressing the attack button. You can add some seasoning to the combat using some skills that add more fun to the formula, but they’re way too simple. There’re no differences between using a sword, a scythe or a double ax: they feel and behave like the same as you desperately press the attack button. Some more variation to the combat in the form of different attacks, different attack patterns and more combat skills would have been wonderful to the game.
- Gore? What gore? Something that disappointed me is the lack of gore in combat. You can decapitate your enemies in combat (which is cool!), but their bodies will lay on the ground as if nothing has happened. Ok, I can see some gallons of blood being spilled in the battlefield, but once you start piling corpses on the ground, it looks like you are playing with dummy dolls.
Be you a fan of Russel Crowe’s general Maximus Decimus Meridius or Andy Whitfield’s Spartacus (God rest his soul), I’m sure you always wanted a game that could portray the fierceness of battles in the Colosseum or another arena of your preference. Story of a Gladiator explores the world of gladiators offering you this possibility in a timid way. You will find here a beautifully crafted and challenging game that missed the opportunity to offer a more engaging combat system, which would give it much more value and replayability. Although the grinding and farming nature of the game (which can become tiresome, I know), you will have fun with it, I have no doubt. But with all the potential shown here, I really wished for more
Written by Rafael
Xbox writer for LifeisXbox
Between an Excel spreadsheet and trying to conquer the world (one game at a time), he’s ready to share his experiences about every title he plays. Be it to praise a game or to bash it, you will always find an honest opinion in his texts.
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.