Who would win? That age old question has been asked for centuries when it comes to just about every past warrior known to man. For the past three years, Deadliest Warrior has been answering with recreations of battles, where knowledge of weaponry is combined with dramatizations, enabling an audience to finally know the victor to the feuds that never were. 345 Games seen the potential with the concept, and aided in bringing the television show into the video game world two times now, with both Deadliest Warrior: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends, which were released originally on the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network.
After finding success, a retail version has now been delivered, bringing together both titles and a bevy of extra features to the fans in one small package labeled Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat. Are these two Warriors enough to compete on shelves? Let’s find out.
The first thing you should know about both Deadliest Warrior titles within Ancient Combat is that they both fall into the fighting game genre. When first hearing about the weapon based combat mixed in, I went into the first title expecting to see something like Soul Caliber. I was wrong with that comparison completely however as Deadliest Warrior: The Game and it’s sequel are very far away from the traditional fighter as there is no rush to deplete any HP bar, and instead require the player to simply take out their opponent as quickly as possible by using the arsenal provided. Forget about combos, or any other traditional fare as well, as the main concept of each match is to simply out power the opponent by using the weapons provided, while defending against incoming attacks. These unique core mechanics stick throughout both titles on the disc, but each game still plays quite a bit different from the next.
Deadliest Warrior: The Game actually has HP bars, but they’re completely useless. Players are equipped with long, mid, and short ranged weapons to do battle with, and must use them accordingly to take out their foe as effectively as possible. Long ranged weapons such as throwing stars and arrows can be launched across the map for mass damage at a distance, while swords and other blades are utilized for the mid and long ranged slashes. Yeah, you can just slash away and drain the given life bar, but a good portion of the time I was able to perform a kill just seconds in as it’s very easy to perform a beheading or toss a well aimed projectile and end a match-up entirely. This takes away a ton of strategy from the overall experience, but in a way the extreme take on realism is rather refreshing to see and puts a much higher emphasis on defense.
Legends is nearly identical in terms of gameplay, but is much more refined. Instead of playing with generic personas such as a Monk, Ninja, or Apache, players can select from more famed warriors, like Joan of Arc, Hannibal, and Alexander the Great. 345 wisely rid the game of that HP bar as well, which puts the focus entirely on the kill. Grapples also replace what were once finishing maneuvers, and can allow a devastating attack to be executed in order to severely weaken or destroy a foe. Yes, you can still finish anyone off in one hit, but the animation sequence seen in grapple attacks is worth the risk of getting up close and personal.
Both titles’ main campaign mode of sorts work exactly the same as well, with the player running a gauntlet until the end. This would be fine and almost like any other fighter, but the low difficulty makes for quick matches and shortens the life of the game itself. For Deadliest Warrior: The Game’s Arcade mode, I clocked a finish of the mode in around ten minutes on normal, as most of the time, spamming projectiles is all that is needed to plow through an opposing warrior. These methods can rob you of the simulation experience that Ancient Combat has the potential to deliver, but also proves that there isn’t a ton of skill needed to succeed.
Oddly enough, even with the short Arcade mode, I still went back in time and time again. You see, half of the charm of Deadliest Warrior is getting to use the impressive variety of weapons that each character has in their arsenal. Throwing stars feel much more distinct than other projectiles like the crossbow, and the small detail in character speed and animation make each blade, axe, or spear wprth taking to the battlefield, increasing the main game’s re-playability greatly. Each title features an online mode, but as it stands, there isn’t a lot of action left on the servers and those who want to duke it out with a real person would be best to call up a friend or battle locally.
As far as extras go, Legends brings the most to the table by including a nice little time killer by the name of Generals. This strategy game has the player pick a warrior and then lead an army into battle against an opposing squad in order to claim a fort. Much like the show, each warrior is equipped with various abilities to assist in survival, and assigning the correct brigade to the appropriate terrain is crucial in order to claim victory. It’s definitely an admirable mini-game of sorts with a good number of clever ideas behind it, but there isn’t a lot of reward for success aside from a pat on the back, which makes Generals’ current state feel like a missed opportunity.
Even though the same development team worked on both titles within Ancient Combat, it’s very easy to spot the visual differences between the two. Deadliest Warrior: The Game has a somewhat bland character design, making each warrior seem like a random enemy from a very early Xbox 360 action game. The amount of blood and thrilling animations make up for this a bit, but if you are going in for a graphical spectacle, you would be best suited to start off with Legends. Everything from the models to the arenas have been given much more detail, which makes every battle feel more authentic. Even watching something as minor as an arm ripping off looks better in the sequel, as the brighter colors and more polished appearance does wonders to give Legends a more big budget aesthetic.
The soundtrack for the game isn’t bad, but doesn’t play at all during anything than the menus. Yeah, this could very well be a huge negative for most out there, but yet again, I feel like this development decision works in the favor of the game, as for authenticity purposes, you really don’t need music to create an epic match-up. The sound effects that fill in also assist well, with the main audio capturing wind, footsteps, and swords clashing to near perfection. It really goes to show that you don’t need a song blaring to feel intensity between rivals, and the strong point of both titles is the fact that each can pull off excitement with just the warriors involved.
Licensed games are a dime a dozen these days, and if a gem is created among the lot, it’s usually due to the team behind it playing it safe and taking the clone route during development. I wouldn’t necessarily call either Deadliest Warrior title a gem, but the games packed within Ancient Combat are both fun and unique, which is definitely something you don’t see everyday in the currently crowded market of fighters. It’s almost a disservice to consider Deadliest Warrior: The Game or Deadliest Warrior: Legends serious fighting romps though, as these two are all about paying homage to the show and deliver some decent, yet somewhat bite-sized simulations to anyone who want to rip through the greatest combatants of all time.