The Definitive 50 GameCube Games: #39 Gladius

The series so far: The Definitive 50 GameCube Games.

Welcome to the world of epic gladiatorial combat. Gladius is a deliberately paced turn-based strategy RPG from the minds at LucasArts.

The game begins with a choice: to go with the Barbarian-like Ursula, or the Roman style Valens, with Ursula’s quest considered the easier option.

No matter who you pick, you’ll head up a school of gladiators, traversing ancient lands in search of the kind of glory that can only be found in brutal and deadly combat.

Unlike more story-heavy turn-based strategy games like Fire Emblem, Gladius is more about building your own army. As you progress through the game, you’ll have the chance to recruit numerous characters in exchange for hard-earned gold. Some of them are better established heroes, but most are run-of-the-mill mercenaries.

Everyone and everything, from the humble bandit, the mythical yeti, and the noble wolf are available to join your team.

Just because this is a turn-based game, doesn’t mean quick reflexes aren’t required. Precision control is needed for time-based attacks. Depending on who you’re controlling and what he or she is up to, you’ll need to watch out for different swing meters. You may need to hit A at just the right time or manage a combination of button presses.

Still, thoughtful strategy is the leading way to conquer Gladius. You’ll need to watch for the rock/paper/scissors like match-ups, in which medium size characters triumph over light ones, heavy dudes beat down medium ones, and light fighters down the heavies.

Effectively managing height, the directions your characters face, and popularity in arenas all affect the quality of your attacks as well.

Gladius is an incredibly deep game, lengthy to the extreme, and truly challenging. If you’re in to turn-based strategy games, this one is an absolute must.

It is frankly tragic how under-appreciated and obscure it remains.