Tavern Quests – Gladiator-battling action with a new board-game progression
Not many gladiators can say that they have every played a board game to decide their fate, but this will change in Swords and Sandals 4, a battle game where you and your opponent take it in turns to attack each other in battles that are interspersed throughout a board-game like structure, rolling the dice to decide your path and ultimately, your fate.
Who’d be a Gladiator?
Being a gladiator is a surprisingly tough occupation, and I should know, I’ve read up to five paragraphs of solid, infallible Wikipedia facts about them. Not only do you have to constantly put your life on the line almost for the sole purpose of an audience’s entertainment, but you are so engrossed in the profession that one doesn’t have the time for hobbies, pastimes, or even a lengthy stroll down the beach to take your mind off the constant threat of death, or at very least maiming as the audience looks on and chants in support of these violent acts. Also weapons and armour are expensive, so it’s not really a lucrative job to have either. Swords and Sandals 4: Tavern Quest gives it a bit of a lighter spin, however, as it takes the traditional format of the turn-based gladiator battle and stretches it over a board game format where rolling the dice allows you to progress. It’s something I haven’t seen before, and I hate to admit it, but it somehow works very well, and this review will hopefully show you the reasons why.
Turn after Turn
It seems that developer 3RDSense may have been thinking outside the box with this game, because they have been playing about with the whole ‘turn-based’ idea and have taken the whole thing very literally. Firstly, you have the standard turn-based battles that have always been indicative of the Swords and Sandals gameplay. You use the buttons on the screen to make your gladiator perform various attacks and also to taunt your opponent, rest so that you gain some HP back, or perform magical attacks. The game allows you to add attribute points to your gladiator so that he becomes stronger along the way. This game marks the first real attempt at a storyline structure in the series, however, and the format it uses is identical to a board game in that a die is rolled and you travel the corresponding number of spaces on each map, picking up beneficial items and running into battles along the way. It’s actually refreshingly original, and it may actually be what the series was needing after the travesty of Swords and Sandals 3.
A New Dawn
The game is now littered with features that it didn’t have before such as mini-games, a variety of different boards (read: levels) to play through, and even the selection of different classes of gladiator at the outset. In addition to the customisation that the player has always enjoyed in the series, you can now choose between playing as a Fighter, a Mage, a Paladin, or a Bard. Each of the classes of character have their own benefits, such as the Mage being able to regenerate magic much more quickly than the others, and the Fighter being able to dual-wield with his weapons. RPG fans will be familiar with this choice, but as off yet, I haven’t seen the ability to choose the class of your gladiator in any other of these turn-based titles.
Back from the Brink
Though Swords and Sandals 3 looked to be the beginning of the decline of the Swords and Sandals empire, 3RDsense have somehow managed to pull it back from the brink of failure. The ‘roll-the-dice’ format seems to fit in perfectly with the take-it-in-turns battles, and the mini-games/side-quests that intersect that action at regular intervals are a refreshing twist on an idea that I had assumed was dying a death and not doing so quietly. I recommend this game to fans of the series, and I implore first-time players to give this one a try.