|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Ghostfire Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ghostfire Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 15, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
August 17, 2009 - WiiWare has received a number of games spanning several genres since its inception back in the spring of 2008. One genre that is poorly represented in the service is that of fighting games. Ghostfire Games is set to change that with the upcoming release of Rage of the Gladiator.
Rage of the Gladiator is a fighting game set in a fantasy world where humankind is not the only sentient race. Players take on the role of Gracius, the son of King Marius of Avalance - the most powerful and influential human kingdom in the world. While Avalance has always been well protected and guided by the wise and firm leadership of King Marius, recently an inexplicable darkness has come over the realm, forcing Gracius into fighting for his life and the safety of his homeland against 11 different enemies.
Players will have to challenge and defeat the first 10 enemies twice in order to be granted access to the eleventh challenger. Each opponent must be dealt with differently, as each has its own strengths, weaknesses, and attack patterns. Equipped only with a magical war-hammer and an ancestral shield, Gracius must dodge, jump, attack, and block with precise timing in order to confound his opponents. In all there are 21 battles, with each enemy becoming much more difficult with distinct attack progressions the second time through, culminating with the BBG.
Though Rage of the Gladiator should go a long way toward sating the appetite of fighting hounds, it isn't a 2D fighter like most are used to. Rage of the Gladiator is played through a first-person, fully 3D perspective. As such, it can be most readily compared to the first-person combat found in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, except you're locked in one-on-one gladiatorial arena battles rather than venturing around an open-world.
Interestingly, Rage of the Gladiator also differs from standard fighters in that it allows for a good deal of character creation and advancement. The game has players spend skill-tree points acquired from victories in one of three paths of progression: offense, defense, and magic. Players that follow the path of an offensive character become stronger, do more damage, leech health from opponents, have improved critical strike percentages, and eventually can unleash elemental powers such as fiery pillars and meteor showers. Defensive characters take less damage, have vastly improved blocking abilities, can heal themselves, and even have the power to resurrect from death. Finally, magic-users focus on channeling energy into attacks in order to perform powerful combos and summon arcane forces such as lightning and tornados to harry opponents.
Each of these paths within the skill-tree are not mutually exclusive. In other words, players can acquire a few powers from any path yet still acquire more from another. In this way, players will be able to make well-rounded fighters with a varied skill set. However, players that concentrate primarily on one path will be rewarded with their specialization by being granted the most powerful combos available to that character class. These are known as Superpowers, and they are likely going to carry great weight in the final version of the title. For example, players that concentrate on the use of magic will eventually be granted the ability to transform into a colossus that dwarfs its adversary, pummeling it into submission with devastating attacks.
Gameplay in Rage of the Gladiator will have players performing and linking combos. Combos are unlocked via the skill-tree system, and each one uses a set amount of energy from a meter. Naturally, more powerful combos require more energy to fuel the attacks. As such, players will have to focus on strategic use of their energy meter while fighting in order to efficiently deal with foes and not leave themselves helpless. While combo usage is how players will fight, Ghostfire has not confirmed how those combos will be performed - i.e. through motion controls (waggles) or through specific button presses. We hope the latter is what's to be used, as waggling gets extremely tiresome and is quite played out. We'll have to wait and find out.
Though the game will occupy less than 40 MB of space, Ghostfire has been able to inject high quality, fully-rendered 3D visuals as well as what the developers claim to be an "epic" musical score. Ghostfire says they have become quite savvy in programming and compression since their last WiiWare release (Helix). As a result, they are extremely proud of the level of polish that has gone into the title. By the look of the gameplay trailer and screen shots, we can see why they're so confident. One thing Ghostfire has let slip is multiplayer combat, however. The development team decided that they wanted to put together a single-player experience that would really knock people's socks off, rather than delivering mediocre gaming or both single- and multiplayer. While we applaud the fact they have recognized their limitations and have decided not to sacrifice quality, we find it hard to believe a fighting game can fully live up to its potential without at least a local competitive mode - we're hoping Ghostfire Games' decision was a well-calculated one.
Rage of the Gladiator looks like it's shaping up to be a premium title for WiiWare. The only qualms we have on the surface are how well the game will control, and that it is a single-player only fighter. In every other aspect it seems like Ghostfire Games is set to deliver an engaging gaming experience later this year.
CCC Editor / News Director