This generation has seen multiple genuinely great, quirky games being developed for and published via Xbox Live and Playstation Network, the digital delivery networks for both those platforms. The existence of this alternative channel to retail for games delivery has given publishers and developers incentives to genuinely experiment, mix and match, and produce some great creative games.
The Deadliest Warrior games, based on the Spike TV show, are not among those. The first game was simply awful, and the second one, Legends, while a marginal improvement, was still simply not worth the time. Plagued with bad design decisions and poor production values, the games overall reeked of a rushed, desperate attempt to cash in on the show’s craze.
Unfortunately, all of those adjectives can be used to describe Ancient Combat, this compilation of the first two games released via retail, as well. Everything, from the way the two games are handled on the disc (as downloads, which then have to be installed, after first exiting from the game disc menu), to some shocking oversights (Achievements scores add up only to 510 points, for instance), to the intolerably long loading times, means that the disc feels like a literal copy and pasting of the digital games onto a disc- the laziest sort of rehashing imaginable.
As for the games themselves? The Deadliest Warrior games are based on the premise of having famous figures from history square off against each other. While the first game features generic fighters, the second game gets bold, and names specific figures of note, such as Alexander, Joanne of Arc, Gengis Khan, Atila the Hun, and so many more. The game’s combat system initially seems highly attractive and intricate, striving, as it claims to, for realism. Unfortunately, while there seem to be a few good ideas here, the combat system in these games can be said to be for realistic fighting game combat systems what Angry Birds is to puzzle games- apparently it’s complicated and governed by some concrete rules, but what these are, no one can know, since everything seems random, and seems to happen on the whim of the game engine.
Fights sometimes seem to drag on for what seems like forever, with every attack blocked, swords clanging on shields, your opponents providing deft dodges. It doesn’t make any sense, then, how a single misplaced blow, or a stray arrow, can suddenly kill them and end the fight. Then there’s the added issue of every character feeling the same- or well, mostly the same.
In Deadliest Warrior, every character fills a specific niche (of which there aren’t even all that many), and within that niche, all the characters feel identical. To the game’s credit, it tries to mix and match it up, by providing unlockable armor and weapons, but this mostly falls flat as a transparent attempt at fixing an issue that is much deeper than the mostly cosmetic changes that the armor and weapons generally provide.
It also tries to add some depth to its baffling combat by having for dismembered limbs and injuries, both of which provide disabilities that last through the battle and actively hinder your character’s fighting style. Unfortunately, this too, like everything else in the game, seems totally random, and therefore, any scope for added strategy that it might have had is lost.
Online play functions surprisingly well, with the netcode in this game being smooth, with no lags, no hiccups, no hangups. Of course, finding a game in the first place is problematic, given that the online community literally seems dead.
There is nothing redeeming about this pair of games. At least it can be said that the second game genuinely tries to fix everything wrong with the first- it adds a new mode, for instance, that tries to be a turn based strategy/fighter hybrid, but kind of fails, and it has specific characters, rather than just generic figures. But that’s about it, and even then, it fails to address all the important problems, such as the problematic combat system. When the best part of this compilation is not the games themselves, but the episodes of the TV show that are provided on the second disc, you know that you have a problem. A problem that you’d do best to avoid, by keeping as far away from Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat as you can bring yourself to.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
A compilation of two games in one; the compilation also includes episodes from the TV series; the premise of the games is fun, and the developers try to have some fun with it
The game fails at everything it tries to do; poor combat, bad design decisions, unfinished mechanics, the compilation itself feels lazy with long loading times and baffling menus; the combat is shallow, and the first game incredibly uninspired and generic
There is nothing redeeming about Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat.