Blood, guts, glory, all those things that they talk about in Dodge Ram commercials, that’s the stuff that men are made of. Spartacus Legends, a new free-to-play game from Ubisoft, plays on the machismo heartstrings a gentle song in the ears of every young male gamer with a love of classic fighters and a lust for endless slaughter. A smart mix of original Xbox era pit fighting and role-playing elements, Spartacus Legends is a prime example of quality coming from the new wave of free-to-play console games. Fans of the Starz television series will be happy to know that the gratuitous violence and macho-erotic language and pageantry is intact. For others, just don’t try to take it too seriously.
The main problem is a very simple one, however, and it’s that we’ve all played this same game a thousand times since we were young gamers. Fighting games have long suffered from stagnation, and one this simple and straightforward is stagnation’s main victim. This problem is alleviated slightly by it’s free status.
The general design of the game is very hit and miss as well. While the character and equipment models are just excellent, the arenas are all very boring and square, with few to no differing features from one to the next. The spectators and buildings that make up the arenas are surprisingly detailed, however. The entire red-orange psuedo-flaming decor on all of the background cards and menus is irritating and hard on the eyes. Various phrases flash during loading screens with intent to “pump you up” for the fights. Mostly, they are very cheesy, but some, such as “warriors are wise to learn to block lest they have cock removed from balls” is just gratuitous, if not laughably over the top. The music is the menus between fights is a very shlocky, nu-metal style chant that is reminiscent of every band you’re embarrassed to admit having loved in 2002. The loose, adolescent-friendly use of “strong language” helps to reinforce that bit of nostalgia.
Like many free-to-play games that we’ve all come to love on our mobile phones, Spartacus Legends makes it’s money from an in-game currency. While a player starts with a pool of “silver” coins, and can earn silver through fights and objectives, a separate “gold” coin currency can be purchased and used to quickly advance your fighters abilities and class level. Items that are locked until the player reaches a certain level can be bought early for gold. Gladiators in your ludus can be killed in the arena by tougher opponents, and gold is required to resurrect them, lest they be eliminated forever. Certain fights can be repeated, but after you complete a fight a little timer starts that disallows you from repeating it for a minute and a half. Someone with the money to buy gold can beef up their stable enough to avoid this as a obstacle, but a player with no gold will have to grind the same level over and over, having to wait the minute and half just to play again. All that said, players without the means to purchase the in-game currency can just earn it the old fashioned way. Hours and hours and more hours of in-game play, just like in the old Super Nintendo fighters, can yield the same rewards that simply paying $50 can. While the temptation will always be there, players who simply can’t pay for extra currency can just enjoy the free game at a slower pace. For many, this is a more enjoyable and immersive experience, and can provide the player with pride in knowing they earned what so many others simply paid for.