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    Sparrow's Gladius (PS2)

    [March 23, 2004 04:48:24 PM]
    I'm not quite sure what to make of Gladius. The first thing that comes to mind is "opaque". The designers obviously drew inspiration from Japanese-style TRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and in general every other game with the word "Tactics" in its name, but it does have some distinctly Western qualities too. The result is... well...interesting.

    It seems that Gladius' designers borrowed heavily from the "sporting" metaphor. Although I don't play many sports games, the influences are clearly there: you have to compete (i.e. fight tactical battles) in various leagues in order to win prestige and trophies. These can then be parlayed into an invitation to regional gladiatorial tournaments, and in turn (I suppose) to some form of grand championship.

    It may be because I got the game second-hand and thus don't have the manual, but it's definitely confusing. Instead of the sort of node-based world map which is common to your average TRPG, when navigating on the world map the player is presented with an attractive 3D "world map" view. However, I can't find a way to view the whole map, or at least a zoomed-out view of the region, which makes navigation a hit-and-miss affair at best. There seems to be some sort of underlying backstory, but it doesn't serve to drive the player forward very well, so the primary motivation for wandering around is to go to various towns and fight in their gladiatorial leagues, gain levels, and hit the tournament scene.

    One thing I find less helpful is that the game slots you into a tightly linear tutorial for about the first 20-30 minutes, and after that goes to a sort of "constrained nonlinear" format where you can wander around in a (relatively) small geographical area whose exits are blocked. It's obviously designed to give the impression of nonlinearity, but in actual fact there are only so many ways to play through this segment, because your characters are at very low levels and there is a level cap on them until you win a tournament.

    Tactical combat, again, borrows heavily from the Japanese/console-game world. Characters can move a certain number of steps, or move a slightly shorter distance and attack, or use a special move. On the whole the tactical combat engine seems solid, although I question the use of the word "affinity" as a replacement for the common "element". I may be nitpicking, but I think it's really a painfully contrived way to get around something which isn't a problem at all. Nobody's got a copyright on the word, and everybody who's played anything in the genre at all knows what an element is, so why complicate matters?

    Which brings me to the heart of the matter: the whole game seems to be based around needlessly complicating matters. There are at least 4 different metrics which determine whether your school (party) is qualified to enter a given league or tournament, most of which can be fulfilled by performing the exact same actions. Each character has the usual list of stats, but they also have a "weight class" which is supposed to add a rock/paper/scissors mechanic to the system. Every time you initiate an attack, you enter a rapid action sequence not dissimilar to a golf-game swing meter or Squall's gunblade from FF8. This last one would be great if it only applied to "special" attacks, but as it is you have to go through the same thing EVERY TIME one of your characters swings his sword, which makes my feelings about it mixed at best. (You can turn the meter off altogether, but what if I want it on at a critical moment, or for special attacks?)

    Gladius would probably be an AAA+ game if it took the sporting/tactical-battle mix and just ran with it. All of the added baggage, unfortunately, seems to have weighed it down, and it just doesn't have the "joie de vivre" of the games which clearly inspired it. The jury's still out on this one, though.
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    Sparrow's Gladius (PS2)

    Current Status: Played occasionally

    GameLog started on: Sunday 21 March, 2004

    Sparrow's opinion and rating for this game

    LucasArts\' foray into the realm of the TRPG meets with mixed results.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

    Related Links

    See Sparrow's page

    See info on Gladius

    More GameLogs
    other GameLogs for this Game
    1 : Gladius (PS2) by jp (rating: 3)


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