|System: PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Dev: Pipeworks Software|
|Pub: 345 Games|
|Release: April 17, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Shelby Reiches
It's rare that I would ever wish to refer to a package as "insulting," but Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat's pricing really is offensive to the consumer. While both Deadliest Warriors: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends are available on each console's respective digital storefront for $10 or its MSP equivalent apiece (that's $20 combined), the bundle instead retails for $30. It does have the DLC from each game on disc, as well as a selection of never-before-seen weapon variants for its "Legends" cast, but neither that nor the previously unreleased episodes of the Deadliest Warrior television show (ostensibly included on disc) can do much to redeem the two titles or justify their price.
It begins with the game's installation, or lack thereof. On the Xbox 360, at least, slapping in the disc and booting up the game greets the player with a black screen, only for the compilation's two component titles to mystically appear in the Games menu alongside the Ancient Combat option. From there, they may be booted up like any other downloadable game.
Perhaps the larger issue is that Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat fails to bring anything compelling to its gameplay. While there are two different games in the series on this one disc, the core structure of one-on-one melee combat is all but identical between them, offering the same array of low/middle/high attacks, close, middle, and long-ranged weaponry and short, decisive rounds marked by avatars with very low health. The battles are over quickly, perhaps evoking the PlayStation classic Bushido Blade, and limbs and heads may go flying (with generous spurts of blood to accompany them), but neither the original's warrior-versus-warrior lineup, nor the sequel's array of legendary battlefield figures, provides a cautious, unique experience. There are a few three-button combos that will rip through opponents every time, regardless of which fighter you use, and defensive options such as dodging and parrying are easy to forget against a computer that is simply not aggressive at all.
Deadliest Warrior: Legends, at least, attempts to break up the monotony of its one-note combat with "Generals" mode, which immediately brings the classic board-game of Risk to mind in both presentation and gameplay. Each turn begins with unit placement, shoring up one's forces with "reinforcements" that are influenced by the possession of grouped territories on the map and maintaining control of special, fortified tiles. Unlike Risk, however, combat between two territories is almost fully automated, with the attacker forced to commit the entirety of a garrison to an attack until it proves either successful or unsuccessful, potentially leaving an unlucky player with nothing to counter the opponent's subsequent stream of enemy forces. Further, for most of the game, the fighting engine is completely ignored. Only offenses on fortified territories, which possess a castle, culminate in a "duel" between the two armies' commanders, via a one-on-one fight. This feels like a waste of the mode's potential, which could have showcased a more unique take on the game's core fighting action, if not transforming it into an entirely different experience.
The uninspired gameplay is accompanied by mediocre graphics, which move at a good clip and adequately mimic the combat styles of the warriors the on-screen avatars are attempting to emulate. But there's always something a little off about them, as though they're actors pantomiming a fight scene from a mere description of how it was supposed to look. Strikes lack any sense of power or impact, despite following the proper arcs and having enough speed behind them. This curses everything with a certain weightless quality that carries through even into the title's decapitations and maimings, parts dropping off of the warriors as though they're plastic dolls.
This odd lack of weight isn't alleviated by the games' sound design. In both cases, impacts are dull and lifeless, with tinny clangs of steel on steel and only the softest of cues when blade passes, instead, through yielding flesh. Body parts hit the ground after being lopped off and it almost comes as a surprise, because there is very little done to announce their removal (save some slow motion, which kicks in whenever a fighter is finished anyway). Worst of all is the voice work in Deadliest Warrior: Legends. While The Game has little speech, and most of it in each warrior's native tongue, Legends, which replaces generic representatives of each military force with a famous warrior from history, also gives each of them fully-voiced English dialogue. It's terribly generic and the quality is often such that it might have been done over the phone.