Wednesday, June 30, 2010

12 Months, Sixty Dollars and a PS2: June

Okay, so my favorite local second hand, MUST HAVE MUSIC AND MORE, has a slew of Playstation 2 games and recently I discovered that a great number of them are being sold for the low, low price of $4.95.  For those of you who have been following along at home, this is how I came across Pryzm , Chapter One: The Last Unicorn, that little gem that I alone made famous last year!  As I was browsing through the stacks the other day I saw a good number of these $5 games that looked at the very least interesting, if not potential diamonds in the rough.  After thinking it over I came to a conclusion:  The PS2 has a vast library and very few catch the attention of the popular culture, but lots and lots of games get released. Somewhere in those stacks of discarded, unloved games must be some really great games just looking for someone to play them and at the risk of five dollars a go, I think it’s worth finding just what is out there.  The result is this on-going experiment, a journey that you and I are going to take through the unwanted library of the PS2.  So strap in, kiddies, we’ve got twelve months, sixty dollars, and a Playstation2 and we’re about to discover what we’ve been missing!


Lucas Arts

This game just kind of showed up on the shelves at MUST HAVE MUSIC AND MORE over the course of the past couple of months and I considered it for May, but my guy there said it was pretty involved and I knew I would be traveling so I decided to wait.  It turned out to be a good decision.  For you see my friends, what we have here is a steal.  An honest to goodness, steal.  Gladius is worth every penny of its original MSRP, and I know in 2004 someone bought it from Blockbuster for $20 I have the receipt (to the right), heh.  So the fact that this bad boy can be obtained for a mere Lincoln is truly a crime against high quality video games everywhere.  Especially when another local second hand is asking $19.99 for the Wheel of Fortune for the PS2.  What the hell?
Well, while Gladius is no Wheel of Fortune, what it turns out to be is one incredibly deep and fun turn-based strategy game.  Closer to what the original Dungeons and Dragons role playing game was founded upon (wait, WAIT, come back, I realize that I just made reference to the three most socially awkward words in the English language, but I promise I’m going somewhere good with this, just hang out a second), Gladius makes use of real role-playing elements like customization and character building and blends it with a well crafted, turn-based battle system.  The result is a strategy game that requires intelligence and cunning and ends up being a great deal of fun. (see, if I had left out those three difficult words, you’d be thinking about how great this game is and not worried about telling your friends you actually like this game, stick around I promise the game is sweet)
Gladius is a game all about combat, most of which is meted out in various arenas scattered throughout the land.  You command a “school” of fighters who travel throughout the region contesting in these arenas to improve their prowess and win fame and glory for their kingdom.  When the game begins you may chose to fight for the Kingdom of Imperia (think Romans) or the Kingdom of the Barbarians (think Barbarians or “Fringe Peoples” if you are caught up in post modern political correctness).  Whichever you select, you will start with two warriors from that kingdom from which to build your school; ultimately you will be able to support twenty warriors!  The remainder of the game is all about battling it out in the various contests across the land, constantly improving your characters abilities and equipment and recruiting more and better warriors to your school.  There appears to be some manner of plot that is centered around an evil being and the Kingdom you chose to represent, but honestly, that seems more like the trappings of what is expected from adventure games like this and less like an integral part of the game experience.  Oh sure, there is a world map to explore, “random” encounters to engage in , and side quests to help you increase your might, but make no mistake, this game is all about the battling.
Gladius is also all about the time commitment.  Don’t expect to pop this game in for a quick ten to fifteen minute play.  It’s not going to happen.  This game wants most of your Saturday afternoon and all of Tuesday night.  It took me about an hour and half to work through the tutorial levels and really get my school off the ground.  From there, however, the entire world opens up and you are literally free to explore the land and construct your adventure however you want.  The game play is engaging enough to make you want to invest whole chunks of time into it, so don’t worry about the game becoming more like a job.

If you are like me and these kinds of games tend to suck you in (I spent  72 hours straight playing Might and Magic VI back in 1998 when it first came out, but I had a girlfriend at the time and she played it with me, believe it or not), then taking home Gladius for $5 is like finding that rare Oreo that has the double stuffing in the regular pack.  But even if you cannot find it for the steal I did, you should still have this game in your PS2 collection.  I doubt you’ll have trouble finding it for more than $15, and you are going to get every penny’s worth of fun from it, and more!

(final note: I must tell you that this game also sucked my wife in and she has spent more time than I have playing it!  Say that about Dungeons and Dragons! Ha!)

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