It was only a matter of time: Spartacus, the hit show on Starz, is getting a full game proper in the form of Spartacus Legends thanks to Ubisoft (meaning fans will no longer have to resort to playing the iOS Blood and Sand to get their kicks). With the simple instruction to “kill them all,” you’ll be pitted in one-on-one gladiatorial combat in Legends’ 3D swordfighting arena - and you better believe that you’ll be dismembering and decapitating your opponents along the way. Those with weak stomachs need not apply.
Developer Kung Fu Factory have worked on their fair share of fighting games, having a hand in the production of games like Supremacy MMA, UFC Undisputed, and Mortal Kombat ports. Though the main inspiration for this XBLA / PSN downloadable is the show it’s based on, the developers cited Soulcalibur (yay) and Deadliest Warrior (meh) as their inspirations for the direction of Legends’ gameplay. The game features eight-way movement, but the size of the arena we fought in ensured that every fight was a brutal, up-close-and-personal exchange of sword slashes and shield slams.
Four characters were available in the demo, specializing in two different fighting styles: dual swords (the dimachaerus) or a short spear and shield combo (the hoplomachus style). The dual wielders, including Spartacus himself, could unleash devastating combos thanks to their quicker attack speed, but their offensive capabilities came at a cost – with so little armor, they could be hacked to bits in the blink of an eye if they weren’t careful (an experience we repeatedly suffered). In fact, each match ended rather quickly, and there are no rounds here – instead of getting knocked out or “downed” when your health bar depletes, you straight up die. That’s intense.
The hoplomachus fighters were more our cup of tea, able to fight from a farther distance or deflect incoming attacks with their trusty shield. Of course, all that heavy armor and low-visibility helmet meant they’re a bit sluggish, but they can definitely take a stabbin’ and keep on tickin’. The controls were fairly simple, given how convoluted some 3D weapon fighters can get: a light slash, heavy slash, throw, and shield bash were our attacking capabilities, while blocking and dodging help us prolong our lifespans in the arena just a bit longer. An interesting feature to note is the game’s crowd meter, a bar that fills up during battle with each successful hit, combo, or (one of two) taunts each character can perform. If this bar is full by the end of a fight, you’ll be treated to some truly violent executions if you nail a brief quicktime event.
And boy, are they bloody. In our short time with the game, we had the pleasure of being beheaded, pinned on the ground and stabbed in the eye repeatedly, and – our personal favorite – having a sword shoved upwards through our throats and out the top of our noggins. Yep, this game will be rated M for mature with all certainty, and it’s sure to please fans of the show’s gritty, over-the-top violence and blood-spraying brutality. It may not have the depth or fidelity of games like Soulcalibur, but it’ll be a guaranteed hit with Spartacus enthusiasts looking for an affordable fighter. Prepare to unleash your skills in the arena when the game comes out late next year.