Mr. TeaTime at Critical TeaTime nominated me for a Leibster Award which is a way for amateur bloggers to recognize one another. I haven’t read much of Mr. TeaTime’s work, but from what I have seen (his recent-ish Bioshock Infinite post) it looks pretty good.
In accordance with the award’s rules, Mr. TeaTime asked me twelve questions related to our shared topic. Here are questions and my responses:
- What game melts your cold critic heart? Meaning a game you know is flawed and has issues, but you cannot dislike it and will defend it until the end of time.
Colosseum: Road to Freedom was a 2005 PS2 release which I doubt anyone remembers today let alone cared about back then. While I’m not sure how such a buggy, incomplete mess of a game even made it to launch, it holds a special place in my heart for being one of the greatest mixtures of good ideas with bad execution I’ve ever seen.
Colosseum is the closest thing to Madden: Gladiator Edition we may ever see (which I wrote a bit about here). That core concept alone is so endearing that it’s a travesty no one else has picked it up since. You play as a slave (with a player-chosen country of origin and former profession) who in captured and sent to Rome to live and die as a gladiator in the hopes of one day saving up enough money earned from victorious bouts to buy your own freedom. Every day you either train at the “ludus” to upgrade your stats or go to one of two arenas where you can choose what fights to enter, earn money prizes, and shop for better equipment.
Seriously, it’s a great fucking system. It provides a more than adequate set up and motivation for the somewhat monotonous hack-and-slash combat where the next reward (an expensive new sword, a higher gladiator rank, etc.) is always just around the corner. Even the combat was a brilliantly original system where the location of a weapon strike was coordinated with placement of the button on the controller (ie. “triangle” aims high, “square” aims left, etc.). With proper tweaking there was tremendous potential for Colosseum’s combat to become a revolutionary take both on PvE and duel melee fighting.
But absolutely everything about the game was incompetently executed, if not outright broken. Enemy AI was generally braindead to the point that most gladiators wouldn’t even bother trying to defend themselves as you hacked away at their heads with an axe (duel AI was far better, but only by being recklessly aggressive, much like Super Smash Bros AI). The four combat styles (unarmed, small shield, big shield, and dual wield) were cool but helplessly unbalanced. There weren’t enough match types and most were slight variations on each other. A pointless story takes up too much time and laughably, blatantly rips of Gladiator at every available opportunity. The needlessly punishing weapon-drop system could more or less end your chances for survival at any point throughout a 20 hour campaign.
And yet I’ve played through Colosseum at least ten times. Back when it came out I introduced it to a couple of friends and we poured dozens of hours into its primitive multiplayer duels. There are so many great ideas buried under so much shit that if I even end up being a billionaire somehow someday, I’m going to find the old developers, give them a truck-load of cash, and tell them to remake the damn thing with some proper oversight and play testing.
Anyway, if you have a PS2 and can find Colosseum: Road to Freedom on Amazon or something, try it out.
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