Shadow of Rome
Timber Wolf's Shadow of Rome Review
Excellent controls with fluid animations for those gory kill moves.
Plenty of match types and gladiatorial combat to keep you busy.
Decent depiction of classic Roman architecture.
The terrible, horribly awful stealth missions.
Voice acting that leaves much to be desired.
The story isn't even close to historically accurate, nor is it all that interesting.
Adorn yourself in your favorite armor, sharpen your weapon, and enter the arena to do battle in front of hundreds of bloodthirsty fans. Welcome to Rome!
After you do that, it's time to bore yourself with monotonous and predictable stealth missions. Welcome to Rome?
Much like a gladius, Shadow of Rome is a double bladed sword. On one side you have some truly excellent and satisfying gladiatorial combat that would appease even Caesar himself. On the other side, you have bland stealth missions that slow the game down to a crawl and leave you bored and frustrated.
So, let's start off with the good stuff.
For most of the game, you play as the he-man Agrippa. You start out as a Spartan warrior deep in Germany, slaughtering the barbarians. This short sequence is highly entertaining, as you and fellow Spartans carve your way through a German fortress. You're then brought back to Rome after Caesar is assassinated and Agrippa's father is accused of the murder.
From then on, you're a gladiator and you'll do all of your fighting in the ring in front of a screaming crowd. This is the best part of the game.
There are many factors you must pay attention to when you're fighting. One is, of course, your enemies. They come at you in massive numbers and are relentless in their attacks, especially in the later levels. You'll find yourself on your back a lot, desperately trying to avoid the tremendous smack down falling upon your head. Your enemies can and will use any weapons that happen to be lying on the ground and chances are that they'll get to them before you do. Which is bad, because then you're left trying to punch out some huge gladiator before they take a swipe at you with a giant mace.
Speaking of weapons, they are also another factor that you have to pay attention to. Simply finding a weapon to fight with is half the battle. You then have to use it wisely because all weapons break fairly quickly. Weapons have a durability meter. It goes down every time you hit an enemy with the weapon. When the meter runs out, your weapons breaks and you're left with only your fists. Now, this is a good balance strategy for the game to prevent you from unleashing too much slaughter in a short time, but weapons break far far too quickly. You'll be lucky to get 30 seconds of fierce fighting out of most of the weapons. Then you'll have to look for another one. This is a total pain when you're surrounded or enclosed by tougher enemies that actually do have weapons. I can guarantee that theirs won't break before you fall to the ground in a pool of blood.
There is a nice assortment of weapons for you to use however. Each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. You'll have the short sword (good for stabbing), the short scimitar (good for hacking off limbs), the mace (good for smashing heads and armor), the spear (good for long-range attacking), the halberd (great for wide sweeps to knock enemies off their feet or even cut them in half), the huge mace (for even more smashing power), the huge sword (even more slicing power), and many many secondary weapons that have their own uses in battle (such as shields, daggers, bows, etc.).
Combat in the game works extremely well in most cases. Agrippa is capable of many blood splattering moves that will leave the crowd in an uproar of cheers. Since you have two hands, you can hold two weapons at the same time. Some weapons however are so big that you have to hold them with both hands. Smaller weapons allow you to hold your primary weapon in your right hand and a secondary weapon in your left. My favorite combo is the sword and shield. I can first charge with my shield to knock an enemy over, and then give them a good stabbin'. Good stuff.
Finding new and brutal ways of dismantling your opponents in the ring will earn you the crowd's favor. Each time you do something that excites the crowd, you are rewarded "SALVO" points. The better your moves, the more points you're awarded. Racking up a lot of excitement with the crowd means they'll throw you good weapons or items. Only problem is, they rarely throw it right to you. This means that there's always a good chance that an enemy will run right up and steal your hard earned super weapon (and then thoroughly smash your brain in with it).
By the way, this game is gory. Arms and heads will fly off in all directions, as will the copious amounts of blood that you'll be spilling. Mercy has no place in the arena.
There are a great variety match types and missions to perform in the arena that will keep you entertained and engaged until the last drop of blood is spilled. You can treat yourself to arm hewing, head smashing, and neck slicing for hours and hours.
At one point in the game you're even treated to some chariot races. High-speed combat while riding in a rickety chariot is a thrill a minute as you desperately try to stop your wheels from falling off in the process of ramming your opponent and swinging a long axe at their head.
If the game was JUST this gladiatorial combat and nothing else, Shadow of Rome would be a truly exemplary 3rd person brawler. However, Capcom felt it necessary to attempt in adding a story element to the game to make it a more complete package. It is here that they have failed. They decided to implement ridiculous and tiresome stealth missions.
Between every few missions as Agrippa, you're forced to take the shoes of the late Caesar's nephew; Octavianus. Aside from having a stupid name, Octy can't fight to save his life. In fact, one hit will send him to his grave. So instead, you'll have to sneak him around in some of the most mundane stealth missions ever.
The enemies are complete idiots and are easy to avoid most of the time. But like I said earlier, one hit and you go down. Most of the levels are set up to allow you only one possible path to the goal. So unless you do exactly what you need to do, you'll fail.
This tedious path of trial and error is a slow, clunky, and outright boring blemish on SoR's face and serve no purpose aside from being the filler to break up the relentless gladiator matches.
Most of the story is revealed here, but that's not saying much. You'd probably expect a factual history lesson. Think again. For most of the game, Capcom has substituted accurate history for their own rendition of it. Which isn't so bad, I guess. But it would have been nice to take a trip to the REAL Rome.
Forget the story, forget the predictable stealth missions, and forget that little blond haired wimp, you just want to get back to the slaughter. And slaughter you will! Fortunately enough, the stealth missions are normally over rather quickly and you'll then be able to enter the ring again for a while.
So yeah, here's the rundown:
Gameplay: 4. The gladiatorial brawling is excellent. The amount of brutal variety available to you will keep you entertained for hours and hours. However it's such a shame that the insipid and frustrating stealth missions often bring the game to a screeching halt.
Control: 4. While they are mostly tight and responsive for the most part, all too often you'll be left spitting on your controller because you just can't pull off what you want to. However battle controls are an excellent. The camera (unlike most Capcom games) works fairly well and won't hinder your viewing angle too often.
Story: 3. A far shoot from factual history. Capcom's rendition of the story of Caesar's murder is riddled with plot holes and poor voice acting. It's only entertaining enough to make up slightly for the boring stealth missions.
Graphics: 5. I love Roman architecture, and SoR captures its beauty in grand scale. Character models are also perfect, with some good facial animations. Graphical slowdown is mostly absent, but you'll find yourself walking through molasses when you really start to spill blood as the visual effects clog up the screen.
Sound: 4. The only problem here is the voice acting and script. It's mostly cheesy and brings you out of the experience a bit. However the majority of the audio is rich and satisfying. The screams of your bleeding enemies and the cheers of the crowd will leave you thirsting for more.
Lifespan: 4. The story mode will last you a good deal of time. When I finished, my game clock read a little over 19 hours. After you finish, you can then go back and replay all of the gladiatorial matches again and try to earn silver and gold cups in them. Doing so will unlock even more new content.
FunFactor: 4. SoR is one of those addicting games that passes time without you really knowing about it. The matches are devilishly engaging and you'll find it difficult to put down the controller. Again, I have to drag down the score because of the stealth missions. If the game was nothing but combat, this category would get a 5.
Shadow of Rome is almost epic, but the uninspired stealth gameplay drags it down to a class more accurately described as mediocre. Combat is fun, killing people is fun, appealing to the crowd after slicing your enemy in half is fun, but running through the same monotonous levels over and over again while trying to find the one right way to beat the level is not.
A great rental and maybe even a good buy. I suggest you play it if you're a fan of 3rd person fighting games.
Shadow of Rome earns an even 4 out of 5.