Gladiator is a strategic action game set in medieval times. From the top-down view, you control a single character at a time from your army of mercenaries. Two allies accompany you at the beginning for the first few maps, but you’ll need to hire troops and train them to make a mercenary group strong enough to complete the missions ahead.
There are three difficulty levels: Skirmish, Battle, and Slaughter. This game is really tough to play efficiently. On Battle difficulty, it is easy to lose a unit or two in every fight (hire plenty of clerics!). Skirmish will make your life easier, but may make you look like a wimp. Thankfully, there are split-screen multiplayer modes which allow you to take up to three friends with you. Their help can be immeasurable and make the game much, much more interesting and fun. You can also choose to fight your friends as foes in a PvP mode.
The graphics are mostly simple tile-based art and involve some palette-swapping for effects. Repeated scenery is unavoidable since the tile-set is very small. This game was made with a scenario editor in mind, so this is what you should expect. You can create your own maps with the packaged map editor as well as your own mini-maps to go along with them, but you may not ever want to because the built-in scenarios are about as good as it gets unless you want to compile an entire campaign for your friends. With each built-in battle, you’re given a little diary entry that explains the current mission in the context of your journey. Most of the time these are interesting readings, but eventually they become an annoying additional press of the escape key.
Gladiator truly shines in what you can do with your troops and the expectations of new level-ups. The 14 classes you can choose from are: The shoulder-charging Soldier, the boulder-tossing Barbarian, the forest-walking Elf, the quick and supportive Archer, the teleporting Mage, the miracle-working Cleric, the dagger-throwing Thief, the tree-loving Druid, the corpse-loving Orc, the corpse-being Skeleton, the fiery Elemental, the kudzu-like Slime, the wimpy Faerie, the wailing Ghost, and a hidden class, the mana-pumping Archmage. Troops can be trained to increase their strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, armor, and level. Experience is gained when a character hits an enemy, but you have the option of dishing out a lump of cash to push them over to the next level. Your characters will gain new abilities with higher levels (depending on the character class) and some hidden effects result as well with higher levels (like greater damage). Most of the special abilities are really unique and are fun to play with.
In all, Gladiator is a fun game to play with friends or just for the heck of it when you want to run around with an uber-character on a low-level map. Friends definitely add to the experience, so don’t waste any more time! Go get friends!