A lifelong fan of simulation games, it was with great pleasure that I agreed to test Gladiator School, a tycoon developed by the independent Swedish studio, Raptor Claw Games.
The start of a game involves a brief configuration of the character, including the choice of an avatar, a name and an emblem. The story is quite simple and simply mentioned at the beginning: a respected fighter retired from the Roman army, I inherited a land where I decided to found my own school of gladiators. It all starts in the market place, as I get ready to buy my first slave.
I opt for Minucia even if his statistics are not very foolish as I will discover very quickly during his first fight.
Without knowing what I'm getting into, I validate my choice and find myself in my school, the tutorial being limited to a simple panel at launch detailing the major objectives.
The rest is discovered through experimentation, help nonetheless remaining accessible at any time via the question mark icon at the top right (or via F1).
The school is quite limited at the beginning, but it will be possible to expand it twice during the game (small, medium and large) for a large sum of gold coins, adding more space and unlocking new possibilities (care beds only appear on the medium size, for example). Even in construction mode, on the other hand, it is impossible to improvise to organize the school as you wish, you have to be content with placing the elements on pre-determined places, the school always remaining similar from one part to another. Once the constructs are installed, most are upgradeable for various resources, increasing efficiency.
The school is defined by various parameters that directly affect the performance of gladiators.
From this same menu, I have the opportunity to hire staff members to play on my performance and ultimately save money. For example, the Herbalist is very useful, producing medicinal herbs every 5 days to heal the wounds of gladiators (when you know that the herbs cost 200 pieces bought individually at the market, the calculation is quickly done. ..). The school is also opening up to the public, to earn money with entrance tickets and a faction system is in place, reflecting my relationships with different groups, other schools or bandits attacking the school. regularly (bandits that you either have to face or pay for them to leave, an option that can be deactivated from the menu at launch).
Later in the game, by unlocking an upgrade, my school becomes able to develop their own fighting style.
I also have the possibility of installing additional buildings that relieve the gladiators of secondary tasks: cooking (food), sawmill (boards), vineyard (wine), bookstore (skill points), forestry (boards), pig farm ( meat) and contracts office (top-up payments, reduced daily fees and more management options).
Each gladiator, whose name is automatically given but can be edited, is defined by his characteristics of health, stamina (which defines the number of actions he will do) and damage. These characteristics increase by making him train on the various devices installed in the school, following, if necessary, the program defined for him. You can see at the bottom left that my gladiator Minucia has evolved well, now inflicting 36 damage (far from her initial 1!).
It is important to pay attention to the gauges of hunger, fatigue and mood to avoid penalties during combat. If the gladiators fall below 9% mood, they crack and hit everyone, putting the other gladiators in the heap (a good nap wakes them up, but it wastes a day).
Anyone can have a job in the school, sweeper, chef or carpenter. This uses his stamina points to clean up the school, turn steaks into edible roasts, or even cut wood into planks (to improve constructions). Of course, if endurance is used for these tasks, it cannot be spent on training to increase martial abilities. But you have to eat well! So it's all about compromise.
While fighting, my champions get skill points, which can be spent to unlock bonuses. Here are for example those of Minucia:
- attacks have 20% of being critical and inflicting additional damage
- melee attacks have a 20% chance to ignore enemy defense
- 20% chance to dodge enemy attack
- special move: two-hit combo attack
- ultimate: reduces damage taken by 50% over the next 5 turns
Skill points are also used to manage equipment, with upgrades being bought at the market or earned as rewards in battles.
To obtain new gladiators, two solutions. The first is to go through the market, where selections of gladiators of different qualities are always available. Or you have to wait to find new recruits at training camp, the quality is always uncertain.
Each gladiator of course retains a market value, which can be resold at any time if the school's finances fall, its value depending on its characteristics, its victories ...
Every day, action points are available to directly intervene in the school:
- research: launch a research to unlock new game elements, generally lasting (access to the league, quests in the tavern, more buildings to build, recruiting camp, fighting style ...).
- speech: to boost the morale of gladiators (20 on average if successful).
- boost: improves the training of a gladiator (gains 10 health points or 1 damage point if successful)
- brawl: group training earning 1 skill point for each
- party: cheers up and nourishes gladiators
- promotion: increases the notoriety of a gladiator or of the school, allowing to increase the value of a champion or to attract more people to the next fights
- fights: start a fight
Points are reset every night, during the bedtime phase.
Thanks to the action points, but also one-off quests launched from the tavern, fights can be organized. Initially, only the arena is accessible. The league is unlocked through research, while the animal arena requires several prerequisites that I have not yet unlocked (animals cost 2000 gold minimum).
Once the location has been chosen, it is either possible to go there, or to send the gladiator. In any case, the first step is to choose your gladiator, hoping that this will suffice against the opponent.
Then, if we move, the spectators arrive, leaving time to read the predictions of the bettors.
Finally, the fight begins without the possibility of intervening.
Finally comes the time of the reward, with behind the choice of an additional bonus between life points, stamina, damage, skill points or weapon level.
In the event that the combat is started in automatic mode, as soon as the gladiator is chosen, this is added in a new menu entitled Events and a combat log is simply delivered before moving on to the last similar stage of the rewards.
When I first launched Gladiator School, I wasn't particularly thrilled, with its handcrafted graphics, quite special and far from the realism that I appreciate. My first fights were catastrophic, crushing defeats for the honor of my school. There are also bugs left, my gladiators no longer clean the school and sometimes refuse to interact with the training machines, or some features do not seem complete. Without a tutorial to guide me, even having gone through the help, I did not quite understand what I could do, systematically running out of money.
Then, with a little insistence, I unlocked or discovered some subtleties. The days that seemed empty have become far too short, with various fights to lead, the league to play, new recruits to integrate, training to continue, supplies to monitor. Everything began to come together, making you want to continue playing, just for one more day, just to improve a gladiator or to have one last fight. And, without realizing it, the real hours have passed. Perhaps a bit pricey, Gladiator School offers a good shelf life, however, with a permanent death option for players looking for an extra challenge.
If the graphics don't put you off and you like simulations, you'll have a great time at Gladiator School just like me after the first hour of wandering. But its flaws may make you wait for a promotion to invest at a lower cost. A video to help you form your final opinion:
The game is available on Steam: