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- Spartacus Legends
If you don't like being surrounded by hundreds of bloody men, don't worry. It won't cost you a thing.
I'm not sure how Ubisoft and developer Kung Fu Factory managed it, but they've convinced Microsoft to let them launch a free-to-play fighter for Xbox Live Arcade. Unlike Sony for PlayStation Network, they're notorious for not allowing anything to cost nothing, but maybe Microsoft is finally taking a page out of the mobile and PC space. It's about time Microsoft had Microtransactions.
As you might expect from the name alone, Spartacus Legends is a gladiatorial fighting game based on the hit series on Starz featuring an onslaught of shirtless man slaves who need to act violent against each other in order to diminish the homoeroticism (apart from Argon, of course). Even the cast of 300 would be jealous. Along the way, they earn glory, money, and way more drama than they bargained for. Of course, Spartacus Legends is a straightforward video game and dispenses with all the plot devices for a more digestable Mortal Kombat-esque fighter with weapons, armor, and blood.
Some of you might recall Gladius, a turn-based strategy title where the main characters seek fame and fortune for their gladiatorial school by traveling from city to city and participating in their numerous arenas and contests. Spartacus Legends essentially works the same way, with you attempting to build a roster of fighters capable of executing their foes with ease by following a few easy steps: purchase new members from slave houses, equip them with armor with whatever silver left in your purse, and level them up diligently and cautiously. Participating in dangerous pit events might have lofty rewards, but it might mean the untimely demise of one of your top-tier fighters.
That's right, there's perma-death... though it's more like death in an arcade game where it asks you to insert more coins to continue. The first time one of your gladiators dies in battle, bringing them back from the dead doesn't cost that much silver or gold (the premium currency), but any subsequent revivals become increasingly more expensive. Sure, you could pay real-world money for gold to delay your character from passing to the underworld, but chances are you want to keep Spartacus Legends as free-to-play as possible.
It's much wiser to learn the mechanics of the game by picking the weapon type you're most comfortable with (double swords, broadsword, hammer, unarmed, lance, etc.), noting the weapon's power and range as well as the stats of each equipment piece, and always taking the opportunity to block, parry, or roll away. Button-mashing doesn't work well against online opponents who know how to punish you for your mistakes with a deadly combo. Abusing the evade button doesn't work either, since it drains your character's stamina meter and defense when the meter is too low.
That said, Spartacus Legends is about high risk, high reward. Hitting the power attack at the right time deals significant damage. While grinding away in low-tier events is all fine and good, you'll eventually need to face challenges that earn your characters perks and enter Primus arenas where you'll duel against some of the characters from the show. Defeat them, and they'll become recruitable in the slave house for you to command.
Spartacus Legends will strike Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in early 2013 for no charge.