I admit, I’m a pretty big fan of Spike TV‘s Deadliest Warrior show. For those unfamiliar, the show takes two of history’s greatest warriors and analyzes their respective fighting styles and arsenals to see exactly who would win in a fight to the death? Ever wondered who would win between a pirate and a knight? A samurai and a viking? George Washington and Napoleon? This is the show for you.
And like any other well running show, especially one supported by Spike TV, someone came along and thought “Hey! Let’s make a video game out of it!” Which is a good idea in theory. In actual execution? Not so much.
Enter Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat, a mish-mash of the two games released on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, Deadliest Warrior: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends, in addition to six episodes of the titular TV show to round out the package. This combination of the games also includes all the DLC released for each one, as well as some weapons and stages that are exclusive to the disc-based release.
Pop in the game and you’ll be confused as you’re brought right back to your own game library instead of the game actually starting up. Look hard enough and you’ll notice that both games now appear in your library as if you had downloaded them like normal. An odd choice of delivery considering there are plenty of similar compilations that throw even a simple menu on the front allowing players to pick the game they want.
And since Ancient Warriors is simply nothing more than a physical representation of the two combined games, the review will be split up to represent each as such.
Deadliest Warrior: The Game
The first foray into trying to make a Deadliest Warrior game wasn’t a very well received one.
The game provides 11 different fighters, all formerly featured on the TV show. Each fighter has their own advantages and disadvantages. Ninjas are quicker but have no armor. Vikings are power hitters but are considerably slower. Apaches carry more ranged attacks, and so on. Combat is done through your traditional high, mid and low targeted attacks, and players are tasked with mixing these, and projectile attacks, into whatever area their enemy is vulnerable. Simple stuff. Almost too simple. There are some simple combos, but none of them reach the caliber of any other fighting game on the market.
Add this into the fact that combat is way too fast for its own good and you’ve got a big, bloody mess on your hands. I tried numerous times to get a handle on performing special moves or pulling off some of the more intricate moves, but the computer never allowed me to.
There are also a few features that will infuriate if you’re playing with friends. Hit detection seems to be ever-so-slightly off. There were many a time when I went for a low attack due to an enemy defending with a shield, and the hit was deflected anyway, despite the shield not going below his knees.
I’m also not a fan of the lucky one-hit kill that’s possible with projectile attacks. If you time it right, you can throw a spear or launch an arrow right between your opponent’s eyes and get a one-hit kill, no matter how much health your enemy has. This is nice, but happens way too often to make it fair. Especially considering that some projectiles can be picked back up after you use them, this is a horrible mechanic.
There’s also no depth to the game at all. There’s a practice mode, a standard arcade mode and a challenge mode allowing for mini-games like slicing down as many pig carcasses as you can in order to earn new weapons and armor styles for your fighters. That would be motivation enough to keep playing had the game been fun, but it’s not, so it’ll feel more like a desperate attempt at keeping your attention.
Deadliest Warrior: Legends
This successor takes the formula in the other game and mixes it up a bit. You’re no longer playing as nameless warriors from their respective eras, fighting as specific people like Joan of Arc, Vlad the Impaler or William Wallace instead. So there’s more of a fun feeling to this game knowing that you’re dealing with real people this time around.
The game has the exact same structure as the previous release with arcade ladders, practice modes and whatnot, along with unlockable weapons and challenge modes. Unfortunately, that means you’ll still be begging for more actual content.
Sure, they’ve added the new Generals Mode, a mode not unlike the old board game RISK that sees players moving their army around to different territories with the ultimate goal of taking over your enemy castle, which itself is done by the same fighting match that the rest of the game is. The mode is amusing, but I didn’t feel a desire to play it more than once. If I want to play RISK, I’ll go play RISK.
Combat has seen a few tweaks. For some insane reason the health bars at the top have been removed, which means you’ll never know who’s winning until someone actually falls.
There are also a few additions in terms of being able to specifically break limbs, ring people out and grab your enemy, but none of them really work due to the still annoyingly quick combat. What results is the same button-mashing festival that the last game ended up being.
Look, what’s here is almost fun, and it was a great idea, but it’s hard to get the taste of playing a game that felt like it had no effort go into it out of your mouth. Not only did the developers not learn terribly between the making of the first and second game, but this disc-based release was the perfect opportunity to go back and fix EVERYTHING to make them enjoyable. The fact that two perfectly acceptable opportunities to improve a game weren’t taken advantage of is not only disappointing to a gamer who really wanted these games to be great, but insulting to those who expect a quality product when a game is re-released.
Being honest, I’ve never had a game fall into my “never-to-be-played again pile” as quickly as Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat. Usually, I might keep a game around because I might not have given it a fair chance or because I might find it enjoyable in a certain mood, but I’ve never felt such a strange combination of frustration, disappointment and boredom. This game is a mess that I can’t comfortably recommend to anyone, even fans of the TV show. Keep writing your historic fan fiction. It’s probably more fun.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game that we received for review purposes.
Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat is a good game in theory, but there are a host of flaws that muddle what could have been an otherwise enjoyable fighting game.