The newest console free to play game is a complete step back.
Free to play games are like the red headed stepchildren of the gaming world. And yet, slowly, over time, we see the format catching on, and in fact even being used for some of the bigger releases of the year, from MMOs (Neverwinter, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 nominally) to simulations (Anno Online) to MOBAs (Dota 2, League of Legends) to premium shooters (Planetside 2).
The days when ‘free to play’ denoted a cheaply made flash based game meant to leech players off as much of their money as possible are soon coming to an end. Free to play games are becoming a legitimate, accepted, and even respected and preferred, form of gaming.
Or well they would be, if games like Spartacus Legends didn’t keep reinforcing the old, stereotypical ideas about them.
To be fair, Spartacus Legends doesn’t look cheaply made. It very obviously is not top of the line, but it isn’t the bottom rung of game production values either. It looks like an early generation Xbox 360 title, replete with recycled character models and low resolution backgrounds, and while that’s not flattering in today’s day and age, it looks reasonably well made for a game that is, well let’s face it, given away for free.
Or that’s what you’d think. I understand that free to play games are new to consoles, but they aren’t a new concept, and developers have had several years now to perfect the idea, to balance the games such that core gameplay is not compromised, but they still have a revenue stream. Spartacus: Legends takes those lessons and throws them right out the window, instead reverting to insanely high in game purchases that reach obscenely high values- we’re talking the cost of two, three games paid in full.
"The game is engineered to push you towards buying in game items, but it's not unfairly structured- it's entirely possible to win the game using just what you have and not pay a single penny. Of course, in doing so, you subject yourself to further boredom and inane banality that Spartacus Legends delivers to you in spades."
High prices like that are never okay, but they are at least excusable if a) the game doesn’t require you to pay to win (essentially, making it reasonably impossible to progress in the game without purchasing items), or b) if the game itself was good enough to warrant the investment.
Spartacus Legends, to varying degrees, fails both these tests. It’s engineered to push you towards buying in game items, but it’s not unfairly structured- it’s entirely possible to win the game using just what you have and not pay a single penny. Of course, in doing so, you subject yourself to further boredom and inane banality that Spartacus Legends delivers to you in spades.
The game is so boring and so mind numbing that often, it feels like paying for a shortcut (and ‘winning’ that way) is probably a better idea than having to sit through any more of it.
It is possible to just get all the stuff you want by grinding for it in the game- but it often takes hours; it’s not as bad as some early free to play games were, but it’s bad nonetheless, and that is exacerbated by how boring the game itself it,
And that is the test that the game fares badly in. All the problems and objections that I have raised with this title so far, all of them would not amount to much if the game was at least fun to play. But it’s not, it’s just boring, it’s repetitive, plagued by shallow combat, it’s designed towards maximizing revenue, and there just seems to be no sense of logical design or progression to the game whatsoever.
"There really isn't much else to say about Spartacus Legends. I guess it has some decent production values, and its visual design, at a glance, looks to be pretty authentic and true to the TV show that it is based on."
This is, of course, reflected in everything, from the combat to the actual progression in the game, which is itself pervaded by some awful difficulty spikes and dips (not that ‘difficulty’ means much of anything in a game where it is entirely possible to win by simple button mashing. Button mashing singular. As in, mashing one button).
There really isn’t much else to say about Spartacus Legends. I guess it has some decent production values, and its visual design, at a glance, looks to be pretty authentic and true to the TV show that it is based on. But the actual gameplay sucks, the game design is awful, and the game is reminiscent of the early era free to play games that broke their in game consistency and balance just to earn a quick penny.
In an era where free to play has become a legitimate form of playing and making games, and there are some excellent alternatives- including Ubisoft’s own Anno Online- that is inexcusable.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 3.
Decent production values, authenticity with respect to the TV show that it is based on
Bad game design that is structured around extracting money from the player, poor, shallow, and repetitive combat, random difficulty spikes, boring and mundane
In an era where free to play has become a legitimate form of playing and making games, and there are some excellent alternatives, Spartacus Legends becomes indefensible.