Choose Your Opponent’s Fates in Sands of the Coliseum

We have all heard of the various myths and legends regarding the ancient Roman gladiator matches (and if you slept through history class, there are several fun and gory action movies that pretty much cover everything you need to know about them). One way or the other, everyone knows what to expect: a giant round ring, the hot sandy arena floor, hundreds of spectators, and the gritty melee combat of the most hardened fighters you could ever think of. Sands of the Coliseum manages to deliver exactly that, and still keeps the game easy enough to play for anyone.

Arena Battles for All

This game is pretty straightforward: you create your own gladiator, fight in matches, win gold and experience points to help improve your gladiator, then you fight in even more matches. Not much of a back story here (though there is a short narrative at the start for those who are interested to watch) – for the most part, the game is about beating all the opponents that come your way.

To make things interesting, you do not immediately start off in the big grand “Coliseum” –you have to make your way there, starting from one of the smaller arenas, the Londonium. Your task is to conquer this arena so you can move on to the next one. This little map travelling setup provides the game with a larger backdrop and switching between various arenas does break the monotony. More importantly, each new location opens up better weapons and armour to purchase, and of course, stronger fighters to go up against.

Simplified Blood and Gore

Sands of the Coliseum by Berzerk Games is a pretty typical flash game in terms of delivery; and though it could have benefited from having better graphics or a more extensive music selection, it still manages to be presentable enough to play for hours.

The most obvious weakness in the game’s visuals lies in the line art –the artwork and character design for the game looks like it was scribbled by an amateur artist – very much like that of Swords and Sandals. While the colors and the rendering do add a bit of depth, the overall finish is very lackluster. Fortunately, the game’s animations fare a whole lot better. What the developers lacked in artistic-skill they certainly made up for in quantity. The animation for attacks, movement and the simple swaying of the characters as they stand in the arena all look rather good. And while the bad artwork makes it hard to appreciate, the smooth and seamless movements of the characters certainly give the game plenty of life.

Speaking of life, you will be taking plenty of it, so expect to see arms, legs, and the occasional heads being severed as these gladiators slash and smash their way across competing teams. Blood is going to be smeared all over the arena grounds so if you are a little squeamish about details like these, you might want to pass up on this game. On the other hand, some (actually, plenty) of you folks certainly know how to appreciate a good old-fashioned virtual execution –and this game has plenty of them.

If you managed to defeat your foes without having to sever too many limbs (or if you managed to resist the urge to take their heads off in the middle of the fight), then you will be granted a chance to decide what to do with your foes. Option number one is to grant them mercy –in this case, you will be sparing their lives. Granting mercy to your enemies rewards you with a higher amount of experience points from the match. For those who feel like their opponents deserve a second chance at life (or simply want to increase their levels faster), this is a pretty decent option to select. On the other hand, you can always choose to finish the job and execute your foes. In this case, your gladiator will leap forward to get some heads rolling –literally. For executing enemies, your loot rewards will be increased by a few extra items which you might want to equip or sell for gold.

Armed to the Teeth

Managing a gladiator is not a simple thing, you must protect and provide them with the sharpest, strongest, heaviest, and most pain-inducing weapons available in ancient Rome. You will have a vast range of items to choose from, spears, short swords (or as some would prefer to call it, the Roman Gladius), large two-handed swords, war axes, hammers, clubs, shields, and so much more. Depending on the weapon that your gladiator is holding, their fighting styles and abilities will vary –and this is where strategy comes into play.

Pole-arm and spear-wielding fighters get plenty of advantages. By being located in the back end of the battlefield, these fighters will take less damage. They are unaffected by this penalty as they will retain their full base attack power when using the throw spear ability. Since pole-arms are one hand weapons, the hand can be used to equip a shield. Shields activate with the block command –allowing the gladiator to block and nullify incoming attacks (of a certain level and range).

Dual weapon fighters have the lowest single-hand strike damage –but the fact that they are going to hit twice means that the end value is still guaranteed to bring out some pain. These fighters tend to be fast and agile, allowing them to dodge and evade attacks (instead of blocking). Attacking with two weapons will cost MP, so expect to use the crowd pleaser command every now and then. These types of characters also get to wield the largest range of weapon types: ranging from clubs, hammers, knives, swords, and other one-handed devices of pain.

Two handed weapons are large and unwieldy, but also posses the largest attack power of all possible types. The big gamble here is the fact that you will not be able to aim accurately; so expect to miss a few crucial blows every now and then. Of course, players can also opt to play safe by choosing to attack with weaker blows when your opponent is down to the last few bits of their health bar.

Operating With a Killer Profit

Now that you know what kinds of weapons are available, it is time to tackle how you will be employing them in combat. The matches in Sands of the Coliseum game are based on team combat. A team can have a maximum of three members and a minimum of one.

While you start out in the game with only one fighter, you will later be able to recruit slaves who will fight alongside you. The slaves cost only a small amount of gold so getting your first party member right after your first few battles is a pretty sound idea (better than investing in a new weapon or armor). While you can have up to three fighters in your team, you can opt to recruit more slaves to serve as backup members –these guys will be sent to a training program as your personal resource pool.

As one would expect, the matches in this game get harder with each team you beat. Fortunately, even if you chose to execute an enemy, you will still have an option to keep fighting them –allowing you to effectively farm weaker foes for experience points and gold. The fastest enemies to farm are the teams with only one member –just have all of your three fighters target the head and you will be victorious in a few turns.

The Verdict

Sands of the Coliseum is not your typical flash based browser game. Sure, the graphics are a little mediocre and the rock music BGM falls somewhere between generic and trashy. But if you can get past that, the gameplay is still something to be happy about. The game hosts a wide variety of weapons that change your fighter’s play style, an intricate skill tree system, unique fighter builds, and of course, plenty of enemies to kill. It is fun and engaging without forcing you to be tied down to your screen. If you can appreciate the intricacies of strategic turn based combat, expect to find yourself coming back to this game every now and then. Sands of the Coliseum may not be the best arena-based combat title out on the market, but it certainly leaves a lasting impression. We give this game a blood thirsty champion’s 87/100.

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