My knowledge of Deadliest Warrior was recently increased when one of my fellow staffers told me how much his kid loved the TV show. I was like “What? It’s a TV Show?” Yep, I am that disconnected from the franchise that it is. Well after doing a bit of research I now have an understanding of what the TV show is about, that being one where historical or contemporary warriors, or historical figures, are pitted against each other with weapons of their time. So it makes sense that this premise could be a game. Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat is a retail disc release of two DLC games, Deadliest Warrior: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends. Both games are now on one hybrid disc, along with 6 never seen before episodes of the show. So how does this retail package stack up?
What really surprised me is that although this game is disc based, it requires you to actually install both games from the disc onto your HDD and you then access them from the dashboard to play them. My question is “does this really make any sense?” If the publisher wants them to be installed, why offer them on a disc in the first place. Given that that these titles can be bought on XBLA, this is just plain crazy if you ask me to tell you the truth.
Both Deadliest Warrior: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends are weapon based fighting games that, like the TV show, pit various characters against each other in weapon combat. You use weapons that are very specific to the time period and region that your character originates from. Unlike many other weapon based games both of the games on the disc take a realistic approach to the matches and they do not last long at all given the weapons you use would do some SERIOUS damage in real life. Given this realism, there is not a whole lot of depth in either of the games, as you simply try to hack and slash your enemy quicker then they hack you. Both the games have copious amounts of gore and much of what fun exists comes in dismembering your opponent. The basic controls allow you to pull off low, medium and high attacks. I have to say that that my interest in the fights in both games passed quite quickly after a few matches of doing the same thing.
Although both games are very similar, there are some differences between the two. First off, Legends forgoes the generic characters (e.g. ninjas, pirates, Indians, knights, etc) and actually uses historical figures (e.g. Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc and more) to battle with. It adds a touch of more realism to the game. Matches in Legends seem to end much quicker, especially with the addition of projectile weapons. Attacking from a distance with a single headshot beats out those trying to come at you with a sword indeed. Another difference between the two games is that in Legends you and your opponent no longer have a health bar, as you rely on stamina. If your stamina depletes you’ll have to try to let it regenerate, but given how quick the matches end you won’t have much, if any, time for this to occur.
The biggest difference between the original and Legends version of the game is that Legends features Generals mode. In layman terms, this is a strategy game not unlike the famed board game “Risk”. Here you choose your general/character and strategize where to put them on the map the start the turn based game. You’ll find that certain regions on the map require a set number of soldiers to take over that area. Where the fighting gameplay mechanic comes in is that when you attack a castle you’ll enter a battle using he game’s fighting engine and if youare the victor you then take over that castle. Strategy enthusiasts may find this a simple strategy game, but it is a nice addition at making this more then just a weapon based fighting game.
Longevity is a factor for Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat, as there is only an Arcade mode to play as a single player. You basically battle through eight levels and you’ll do this quickly as fights do not last that long. You will unlock new weapons as you make your way through the Arcade mode too. Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat does have a multiplayer mode. You can choose to play against one other fighter locally or online. I have to say that just like the single player experience, matches are over very quickly. Playing with friends at home can be fun, but it won’t keep your attention too long. It is cool to see who can “chop up” each other the quickest, but given the lack of depth in gameplay, this can get old fast. Online was pretty quiet, given that not a lot of people, if any, are playing this game over the World Wide Web.
Visually speaking, both games on the disc run at a very fast clip and there are blood effects a plenty. These titles are definitely not for the young ones to see given you basically try to hack up your opponent as much as you can. One of the neat things is that as you come to the end of a fight you the game goes all “slo-mo” giving you an extra chance to really dismember limbs and heads off your opponent. As I played I could not help but notice that animations are not always smooth and some characters can come off as stiff and odd looking. I have to say that backgrounds, well nicely rendered, lack a lot of the ambience that may be found in other fighters. You’ll also find some clipping now and then too especially with the weapons.
Sound in Ancient Combat is also somewhat lacking. The voice acting is very “b-movie” like and doesn’t add to the atmosphere. This is very disappointing given that Legends is based on real historic characters, and the dev-team missed an opportunity here to bring them to life. I didn’t notice much, if any, music either, as there is none present during gameplay and most is heard in menus and post-battle. Finally, the sound effects are average at best, and as you “slice and dice” you’ll even hear a few strange ones that have you wondering how the dev-team came up with that.
Having not played the original titles on XBLA I have to say that I am very disappointed with Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat. The premise of realistic weapon based fighting is intriguing, but the overall execution of the gameplay elements misses the mark and the cost of the retail disc is more expensive then buying both of these as DLC titles. I am sure that some fans of the TV show will enjoy it as the added bonus of six unseen episodes of the show is enticing, while a few others who aren’t fighting game fans will find this game ok too, but the rest of you gamers out there will want to take a pass as Ancient Combat falls short compared to so many other good fighting titles that are on the market today.