Alright, the time is now. It’s Golden Week here, so public holidays abound. Here’s a quick rundown of a great little PSP game I’ve been loving over the last few weeks. Behold:
Coming from the folks behind Tenchu and Way of the Samurai, GB is essentially an arena-based technical action RPG. Starting as a lowly slave in a respectable ludus, you’ve got to fight your way into the hearts of the crowds, the minds of nobility and the purses of patrons. The mob will come to know your combat style, expect an exciting showcase of violence and creativity – they will applaud your artistry or admonish your lack of imagination. You must carve through the regional arenas; putting blade to the dull and unskilled, impress the various lanistas and ladies, build a reputation of reliability and prowess. Soon, you will be performing in Rome, the very heart and height of civilisation will bay for the rending of flesh and the felling of giants. You will salvage, forge, refine and purchase weapons, helms and armour. You will accumulate skills and incept attacks the very likes of which will cause men to roar in delight and women to moan in ecstasy.
Fellows, it might not seem like much to look at, but GB is a deep and deliciously rewarding game. It’s quite possibly – and I say this simply from inferring the Squad chatter – a Demon’s Souls-esque experience in that the combat, the meat and potatoes, is not particularly flashy, but remarkably complex. There are a huge number of weapons and weapon types, each with various statistics and attributes. Armour is also accounted for in great number and historical accuracy. Parrying plays a huge part in combat, a facet that is crucial to tackling the hideously powerful gladiators that start popping up when you gain a little notoriety.
Mixing the combat up with selectable skills is excellent and really drives home how player-driven the combo system is. Chaining together a variety of normal and heavy attacks, then into a skill attack is tasty. And the crowd loves it. The crowd aspect is what nets you a lot of XP and gold at the end of a round, so if you offer up a miserably pedestrian spectacle, they’ll deem the fight “unmemorable” or “lacking in zest”. This outcome is the product of combat variety or lack thereof, good finishing moves, reaching the crowd expectation meter etc. etc.
While a little more restrained than Capcom’s Shadow of Rome – lacking in the option for dismemberment – GB is effortlessly excellent. Especially when you’ve trying to deal with nobility. Getting the attention of the nobles, doing their bidding, perhaps even throwing fights etc., is only part of building up your notoriety and prestige. Once you’ve gained the patronage of a particular noble, it opens up a specific quest line of sorts. There are still normal fights you can participate in, and you still operate under the same ludus, but it’s more a series of sporadic yet specific games against other nobles’ gladiators.
It’s rich, it controls very well and the combat is glorious.
The downside? Well, it’s on PSP, although the predecessor, Colosseum: Road to Freedom, was on PS2 and included animal fights and whatnot. It really is just an arena fighting game when you get down to it, but it’s so detailed and nuanced that every battle is so different to the last. It looks good on the Vita, too.
If you’ve the hardware for it, the game is on the US PSN for 9.99, and that’s a steal.
Oh, and a tip for any pundit dipping in? Don’t do what every single goddamn reviewer did and not turn the auto-combo option off. If you want to feel complete combat control, make it manual. If you want an awkward adventure in mistiming and wonky stamina management – hands free – keep it on. Idiots.