Platforms: Xbox 360/Playstation 3                   Genre: Fighting

Developer: Kung Fu Factory          Publisher: Ubisoft

Platform Reviewed on: Xbox 360

This past week saw Spartacus Legends get released to the world on PSN and XBLA, a game following the Free to Play (F2P) model. Obviously any game that’s completely free is going to gather a fair amount of attention, especially when it promises to provide plenty of blood and gore. Does the game live up to the hype or does it get a “thumbs down?”

As some of you may have heard or personally experienced, this arcade title got off to a fairly rough start. For those of you who have no idea what I’m referring to, Spartacus Legends requires you to be constantly connected to the game’s servers in order to operate, and for the first two days or so, the servers were down. This meant that everyone who had the game had effectively downloaded a 2GB Start menu and some epic music that played as the game booted up. While it is difficult to complain about something when it’s free, and even though Kung Fu Factory stated that they had prepared as best they could for the burden on the servers come launch, it didn’t exactly give the best first impression.

Once the servers start working, you are given control of a single gladiator and set out to establish your dominance, gaining wealth and fame along the way. You are able to increase the number of gladiators at your disposal by purchasing more gladiator slots. There are eight different fighting styles the gladiators may possess, with each style having their own selection of unique weapons. You have very little armour and weaponry to choose from at the start, but as your fame level increases (through winning fights and winning over the crowd), so do your options for equipping your deadly warrior. Obviously the weapons get stronger and the armour gets better as your fame grows, but they will each have their own pros and cons. This allows for you to play to each fighting style’s strengths when customizing their equipment.

The game itself is divided up into different zones, each containing several different fights. As you gain more fame, more of these zones open up as well as more fights. The goal of Spartacus Legends is to win all of the Primus fights and defeat all of the Legendary gladiators in each of these zones. What exactly are Primus fights and Legendary gladiators? Primus fights are battles against tougher opponents who you must defeat in order to eventually unlock the boss of each zone, or Legendary gladiator. The Primus fights may require you to use a gladiator with a specific fighting style, adding a little more challenge to the bout. If you clear all of the Primus fights in a zone, you will face off against the Legendary gladiator, an enemy who is much, much better than the gladiator you control. When I was ready to fight the first Legendary gladiator, my best gladiator had a ranking of 102 and the opponent had a ranking in the neighbourhood of 280. Let me assure you, there was plenty of yelling at my television during the countless fights I endured until I finally emerged victorious.

While on the topic of my many losses to this first boss, let’s touch on what happens when someone loses a battle. If you beat your opponent without your crowd meter being full (it fills by hitting your opponent and taunting them, but drops when you get hit repeatedly), you will simply defeat them and your opponent will live. If you manage to keep your crowd meter full by the time you win the bout, your opponent will stand there in a dazed state while you have a few seconds to choose one final attack. Depending on whether you have a finisher boost equipped or the button you press, this will either perform some form of gruesome execution or you will sever a limb respectively. These executions and “slaughters” are a nice touch given that the game is based around gladiator battles, but there are only a handful of different methods you can use to kill your opponent so after a couple of battles, you’ve seen them all.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that you may lose the fight. The same factors come into play when this occurs and depending on the state of your opponent’s crowd meter, your gladiator may live to fight another day, or you may watch helplessly as they lose a limb, their head, or their face. Each gladiator you own receives one free revival after losing, allowing them to be used in other fights, but after that gladiator uses their freebie, each revival is increasingly expensive. If you choose not to pay for the revival, or you cannot afford it, the gladiator dies and is gone. This leaves an empty slot in your barracks, allowing you to recruit another gladiator. How do you recruit gladiators? You pay for them of course! The cost of each gladiator will depend on how good their base stats are, with the best ones costing you gold coins instead of silver ones. What’s the difference between gold coins and silver coins? You win silver coins from battles whereas you only gain gold coins by increasing your fame level or by purchasing them with actual money. If you want to purchase some gladiator gear prior to reaching the level required to unlock it and allow you to purchase it with silver coins, you can also do so with gold coins, so for those of you who don’t have the patience to grind through the game for free, you can drop some real money and unlock the better equipment as well as get yourself the better gladiators significantly sooner.

If you don’t feel like fighting AI opponents constantly, you’re able to take the fight online and face off against human opponents. The game does a fairly good job of pitting your gladiators up against a human gladiator with an equal rank, but the quality of the online suffers greatly due to lag. There can be significant delays between inputting your commands and when they’re actually carried out, effectively turning the match into a complete button-mashing competition and throwing any hope of utilizing skill out the window. Sadly, the lag and frame rate issues are not exclusive to the online multiplayer with this game. In roughly every other fight I played against an AI opponent, I experienced frame rate issues, something that should never happen in a one-on-one fighting game against an AI enemy. This becomes incredibly frustrating, especially if experienced during a fight with a Legendary gladiator where any small mistake can seal your fate.

Initially, I found this game to be fairly enjoyable but as I continued to play it, I discovered how shallow the experience was and how the Free to Play model was really forcing the game to be artificially lengthened. The game attempts to get you to spend those precious gold coins on the quality things, but also starts to greatly slow down the rate of leveling up, putting you in an incredibly frustrating situation. There are high risk fights which will reward you greatly if you win, but if you lose, the chance of having your gladiator executed is also very high. If you choose to take on the low risk battles, you’ll be trudging through those fights for hours just to gain a single level and a couple of gold coins. There will also be a plateau your gladiators will reach in terms of their ranking. You can purchase the best equipment available to your level, but certain gladiators are better inherently, but they of course cost more money and quite likely, gold coins. In order to purchase these gladiators, you need some spare gold coins, but in order to gain these coins, you need to boost your fame level. This requires you to win fights, with the incredibly difficult opponents with significantly better stats than yours being the ones that reward you the most. Eventually if one gladiator continues to be executed, it will cost you gold coins to revive them. See the theme here? The model of Free to Play is making gold coins scarce and thus making progress mind-numbingly painful or costly.

I understand that this game is free and that micro-transactions are the way these games will be profitable, but in a world where people are becoming increasingly frustrated with “Day 1 DLC,” maybe this game would have been more successful being launched at a cost initially but without all of the artificial hindrances. The fact that you must be connected to the server in order to progress past the Start menu and the fact that frame rate issues are commonplace in this game even when not playing online are two very significant issues that prevent this game from being entirely enjoyable, even looking past the Free to Play model. If the game has piqued your interest, download and try it out (it’s free after all), but don’t expect anything close to a polished masterpiece or deep experience.


  • Fresh setting for a fighting game
  • Free
  • Initially enjoyable


  • Frame rate issues in single player
  • Required connection to servers
  • Online is lacking
  • Shallow experience

Overall: 5.7/10