Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
Gladiatorial combat RPG Swords and Sandals has been part of my life for a very long time, and yet I sometimes forget that it exists. Most recently I was reminded when I saw new Steam release Warriors: Rise to Glory! which appears to be a Swords and Sandals game in all but name. Then I noticed that Swords and Sandals 5 Redux is also on Steam. Maybe I’m not the only person who’s heard of this series after all!
I played the first one years ago and I think it might have been on Newgrounds, the repository of Flash games and animations that I spent far too much time of in my late teens, and I’ve probably played every release since. They were browser games, which makes seeing one on Steam slightly unnerving, and they introduced me to repetitive grind long before the new era of cleverphone games made that a norm I risk living with for a while every time I pluck something out of the app store.
In Swords and Sandals you fight, earn money to upgrade your armour and weapon, and then fight again. Forever. It’s precisely the kind of game that could so easily support microtransactions of various sorts – throw in energy that burns down every time you have a scrap and special equipment that can be purchased for gems (that can be purchased for real cash). It’d make perfect sense.
And yet, I’ve been playing these games for years. The appeal is partly in the weird characters, who are stitched together from random bits and pieces, and it’s partly the combat, which is simple but enjoyable in the same way that scratching an itch can be enjoyable. It’s turn-based but everything happens on a 2D plane. You move toward your opponent, trigger different kinds of attacks, and can leap backwards or forwards to get into or out of range swiftly. Stamina runs down as you fight so you can’t just spam heavy attacks and when you win, you can choose whether to execute or spare your opponent.
Itch scratched. I’ll probably still be playing these in ten years.