When the Deadliest Warrior series premiered on Spike TV, I was enthralled. Yes, they took all sorts of liberties when it came to the "scientific analysis" of these hypothetical battles, but it was thoroughly entertaining and even a little educational. I certainly wasn't alone in my enthusiasm and the TV show gained quite the following.
And so, they wanted to expand the franchise into the arena of video games. The first game was released and then the second game, and now the whole thing is bundled up in one neat package called Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat. Available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as a disc-based retail offering, this package promises a fair bit of value for its budget-friendly $29.99 price.
A Three-Round Battle
In a sense, Ancient Combat isn't a brand new offering, per se. Instead, it bundles up three separate releases into one bundle, adding in a few extras to entice you further. The first of these is the original Deadliest Warrior: The Game, which was initially released on XBLA in July 2010, followed by PSN in October 2010. The second of these is the suitably named sequel, Deadliest Warrior: Legends. which was originally released in July 2011 on both XBLA and PSN. And the third of these consists of several episodes of the Spike documentary TV series.
Adding to the package are 30 new weapons, a new Graveyard battle location, and all the DLC. The review copy that I received consisted of two discs -- one with the two games and the other with the TV content -- but I'm told that the retail version consists of one "hybrid" disc. In either instance, the games don't load like a conventional disc-based game. Instead, they appear as if they were purchased as a digital download, showing up in your game library.
The Original Warrior
Deadliest Warrior: The Game offers about a dozen different warrior types. These are not specific individuals, but are rather representative of warriors from different eras in different regions. You can choose from the likes of the Roman Centurion, the Japanese Samurai, the Scandinavian Viking, the Shaolin Monk, and the Native American Apache, among others. Each of these characters has a short, mid- and long-range weapon, as well as armor and a special weapon.
While you may argue that the 3D fighting game configuration here is akin to Tekken or Soul Calibur, it's a lot simpler and doesn't involve as much in terms of complicated combos. Instead, there is more button-mashing and simply looking for opportunities to dodge and go in for the kill. This makes the game more accessible, to be sure, but it lacks depth. The responsiveness of the controls can also be on the clunky side of things.
It can be fun for a while, but if you're expecting more of a pure fighting game experience like Street Fighter or Virtua Fighter, you're going to be sorely disappointed.
The Legendary Warriors
Following the original Deadliest Warrior: The Game was a the sequel, Deadliest Warrior: Legends. Here, instead of warrior classes, you get to take on the role of specific historic figures. These include Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Shaka Zulu, Sun Tzu, William Wallace, and Attila the Hun, among others. As before, you get short, mid-, and long-range weapons for each character.
The core gameplay remains largely unchanged, save for a few minor tweaks. For instance, you can now control if your projectiles shoot high, medium, or low. The game has also gotten more violent, adding in the element of dismemberment and decapitation. Those of you who remember Time Killers will appreciate this kind of idea, as it is possible to keep fighting even if you have one of your arms lopped off. There are some other inclusions, like being to grab or push your opponent. You'll also notice that the lifebar has effectively been eliminated.
These tweaks are an apparent attempt to add some depth to the game. While they do add for some interesting dynamics, now it's arguable that the controls are getting too complex for what is presented as a simpler arcade-style fighter. Again, this is fun for a while, but it lacks any kind of real lasting appeal.
The Risky Warrior?
Yup, it's Risk. The classic board game of world domination has effectively been imported and adapted to suit these scenarios. While there are some minor additions, like using the "X-Factors" associated with certain characters, the net result is much the same. The X-Factors may give an advantage to one character in a "forest" environment, but a disadvantage in a "swamp" environment, for example.
The other addition is when you want to capture a castle. Here, you participate in the usual fighting game battle (except it's just one round rather than best-of-three) and you must win that battle to claim the castle. They've also set up scenarios that mirror those of Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, and so forth.
The Televised Warrior
In addition to the two games, you also get unreleased episodes of The Deadliest Warrior TV show on disc. These are supposed to be DVD quality, but the version that I received didn't have the kind of HD (or "HD look" anyhow) that I've come to expect from productions like these. The show itself is still entertaining, but the video quality does leave something to be desired.
It should be noted that while these are marketed as "unreleased episodes," they're not new episodes. They are simply episodes that have aired on TV, but have never been included in a DVD or other on-disc offering.
MEGATechie Epic Battle or MEGATechie Fallen Warrior?
At the end of the day, Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat isn't really all it's cracked up to be. Absolutely, it provides a pretty great value at just $29.99, considering that you get two complete games, all the DLC (which includes extra characters and weapons), and several episodes of the TV show. That said, the games themselves are lacking.
You don't get the depth and the level of nuance that you get with a top-level title like Street Fighter X Tekken or SoulCalibur V. The artwork is similarly of a lower tier with weaker character animation and detail. During the victory animations, for instance, the voice acting doesn't match up with the "cardboard cutout" faces. The mouths sometimes don't even move.
Fans of the show may find some enjoyment in this cohesive bundle, but it's more likely that you'll leave the arena disappointed.