Nothing fascinates us more about ancient Rome than the gladiators of the Colosseum. These titans of the arena were the embodiment of violent physical perfection. Their constant fighting forged them into bronze gods that have captured the imagination of even present day man. There have been films, books, and TV shows created to honor their heroic prowess in the face of adversity and slavery. But now, there’s an iOS game that wants to put the arena in your hand. Will it triumph in critical battle and earn the praise of the citizens, or will it be shown no mercy with a thumb pointed firmly towards the ground?
I, Gladiator is an ambitious game. From the story to the sound, with the graphics and gameplay in-between, this game is reaching out for a grab at glory in the iOS arena. And do you know what? It does. You’re pulled straight into the sandals of whatever warrior you’re playing as and enjoying every moment of it. You see hints of the politics behind the gruesome games and even get a bit of backstory for the characters.
The graphics of I, Gladiator are simply spectacular. Instead of going for the normal CGI look, the developers have opted to clad the world and warriors with a veneer of cel-shading. It lends a bit of freshness to the game that I haven’t seen in a long while. The high contrast graphics really take advantage of the Retina display and your eyes never get tired of looking at it.
It isn’t often that I like to comment on the sound design in a game, but for I, Gladiator, it is particularly good. Each thud and thrust with your weapon sounds like it happened to the sword in your hand and reverberates up your arm. Not to mention, that they’ve taken some anachronistic liberties with the soundtrack. Chugging crunchy guitars complement the action and menus, fitting perfectly with the playful and comic book aesthetic of the graphics.
Sadly though, I, Gladiator doesn’t quite have razor perfect gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay is very, very good, but it doesn’t quite have the immediacy or accuracy of something like Infinity Blade II. But even then, it works well for the game and the addition of a few moves that you can’t even do in Infinity Blade more than makes up for the lack of freeform sword fighting. Hopefully the combat can be tightened up a bit with the next upgrade.
Whereas the Infinity Blade games were essentially on-rails with the occasional violent encounter, I, Gladiator lets you roam the arena freely in search of your next target. With a tap, you lock on and are immediately in combat mode where you can attack and even circle strafe behind your enemy. After a couple of quick slashes and a charged up finishing move, the crowds will be cheering when your opponent loses his head with a bit of visual onomatopoeia. If you dazzle the citizens enough, you’re rewarded with flowers and the occasional pouch of gold to spend on upgrades.
Of course there is an upgrade system within the menus, but what is fairly interesting is that you can run over to a merchant in the arena for a quick purchase of a new weapon or potion to keep you battling. It adds a bit of on-the-fly strategy to the game and is a welcome help when three other warriors gang up on you.
I, Gladiator is an immersive game that really lives up to its title and places you in the body of one of these ancient and romanticized warriors, because you’re forced to fight for your life and maybe even your freedom. You’d do well to liberate a few dollars from your wallet, free this game from the shackles of the App Store, and show it some mercy by letting it live on your iOS device's home screen. I give this game a thumbs up for mercy, and a thumbs up for being a damn good gladiator game.