Review: Spartacus Legends is some style, little substance, and all pay-to-win
Spartacus Legends is a free-to-play fighting game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 based on the very sexual, very violent TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand. If you're not familiar with the show, all you have to know is that gladiators fight, there's a ton of stylized killing and blood, and every so often you'll see orgies -- guys with guys, girls with girls, guys with girls, and girls being the guy with a guy. #lotsofpen*s
While Spartacus Legends doesn't have you participate in coitus, you do oversee a stable of gladiators in fights to the death. Now, it's a free game. With that in mind, the cutscenes are pointless, the dialogue is laughable the graphics are less-than-stellar. The game just doesn't shine and everything comes off dull. The nighttime fights are a little nicer, but I might just think that because I'm a sucker for candlelight, and the arenas have torches providing a warm glow. There are tons of blood; that being said, it's over-the-top and doesn't look the most realistic.
Like I said, you fight as slaves sold into becoming gladiators. You level up through fights, gaining more fame, money, upgrading your equipment and earning perks. Each gladiator has a different weapon specialty and will only be able to use that type of weapon. Whether you play against computer or a human opponent, when you lose a fight, you're executed and die. When this happens, you can revive your gladiator for gold, and that increases exponentially every time you want to save him. Sometimes it's better to start fresh with a new gladiator than pay the high price of keeping one. Gold is precious, and is also used to swap out and equip perks (increase your stats), so make sure you want to do that.
What's really important is the fighting, which I'm going to compare to Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi. (Yeah, I went there.) It's a 2D fighter with a roll mechanic that makes it a fake 3D fighter. You come equipped with your usual attacks -- heavy, light, block breaker, etc. -- but pressing a button with a directional input does change it up. There are combos, but there's not a ton of depth to the combat. While the style of the TV show is present and kill animations are pretty cool (complete with slow-downs), the speed of the combat and the AI hold the game back.
The problem boils down to fights against the computer, where it's better to just spam one attack than to try anything else. You'll wipe the floor with enemies just spamming a button. Then there are tougher opponents that'll dodge all of your attacks and frustrate you. And then there are the computer opponents that have insanely good gear and are so much better than you that they'll decimate you. It makes you want to spend real money to get good equipment, but the game just isn't worth it. And that's what Spartacus Legends boils down to: pay-to-win.
Online play against real players is frustrating, and matchmaking has no rhyme or reason to it. It all comes down to who has better gear, and in a game where you get executed and lose your gladiator if you die, it's just another excuse for them to try to get you to spend money on a new gladiator, reviving your gladiator, or getting better gear. Also, matches are lag fests. There's little variety in weapons and armor, and that's also a shame.
You can get through the single-player in no time, but in the end, it's not really worth your time. If the online play was more fleshed out and wasn't pay-to-win, then Spartacus Legends would be more appealing. But that isn't the case. This could've been a fun, free-to-play fighter, but somewhere along the way it became about just trying to get you to spend money. It's free, so there's no harm in trying it, and there were times I did get a rush of excitement during a fight, but playing against real opponents is a mess.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]