The first episode of the new Starz original series Spartacus: Vengeance, sequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand, aired on January 27. The launch was accompanied by a new Facebook game, published by 6waves and developed by Large Animal Games, and designed to complement the existing Spartacus: Gods of the Arena social game.
Spartacus: Vengeance tasks players with leading a slave revolt in ancient Roman lands. This is accomplished through several phases of gameplay: the fugitive slaves’ camp, travel through the Roman lands, and combat.
In camp, the player is able to equip, train, heal and purchase new items for their army of fighters. Starting the game with just a single character, the player’s roster will gradually grow as they progress through the game, with different types of fighter recruitable as the player progresses through the game’s missions. Players may purchase new equipment using hard and soft currency, increase fighters’ statistics by enrolling them in a several hour-long training program, or heal wounded warriors.
Missions are accessed by moving over an abstract grid-based map, with symbols representing different locations. Moving a square in any of the four cardinal directions costs an energy point, but there’s a slight inconsistency to the game mechanics here: when adjacent to a mission square, the player is able to move diagonally into the space to tackle the mission despite being limited to four-way movement at other times. Interface inconsistencies unfortunately don’t end there, either — the mission information dialog text that appears at the bottom of the screen is rather obtrusive in the amount of screen real estate it takes up, and is also afflicted with an “always on top” characteristic that means it blocks part of the in-game help text if the player needs to refer back to the game rules. There also does not appear to be a full-screen mode for the game to both get around this issue and provide the player with a greater degree of immersion.
Taking on a mission takes players into the combat part of the game. Here, the player’s party of fighters is paired up against a party of enemies, and they are then thrown into combat. This is resolved semi-automatically — the participating fighters take it in turns to swing at each other, inflicting damage according to their statistics. While combat is going on, stylized, silhouetted figures adorn the backdrop, hacking at each other and frequently splattering the screen with blood.
The player is able to boost their fighters’ performance in combat by rapidly clicking on a “Rage Mode” button — filling the Rage bar by doing this allows one of the participating fighters on the player’s team to unleash a very strong “critical” attack. There’s a catch, though: whether or not this actually happens is determined by whether or not the player is able to accurately click on a timing bar when a gyrating arrow hits a “sweet spot” in the middle. It’s a straightforward system that walks a fine line between a casual player-friendly “hands-off” role-playing game system and the player feeling like they are actively involved in the combat.
The game monetizes primarily through its hard currency, which can be used to purchase special equipment, new fighters and hurry the training of members of the player’s party — a process which normally takes several hours. At the time of writing, however, the facility to hurry training is not yet implemented, meaning players have no choice but to wait for their fighters to complete their program. As a compromise, however, the player is still able to take the fighters in question into combat while they are supposedly training.
Spartacus: Vengeance offers some solid gameplay that has the potential to monetize well — if 6waves and Large Animal Games keep up a regular flow of new content, equipment and new fighters for players to use. Being a TV series tie-in, it would make sense to offer characters and other content that are relevant to the show’s progression on TV as time goes on. At this time, however, the items on offer for sale are relatively limited, leaving relatively few opportunities for income. It is early days for the game as yet, however, and at least part of its success will be determined by how popular its source material proves to be. It will be one to watch carefully, particularly for those with an interest in using social games as promotional tools, but it’s too early to tell whether or not it is going to work in the long term.
Spartacus: Vengeance currently has 10,000 monthly active users and 6,000 daily active users. Want to track its progress? Check out AppData, our traffic tracking application for social games and developers.
A slightly flawed but well put together licensed property that is yet to prove itself.