Game: Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat
Developer: PipeWorks Software
Platform: Xbox 360
Puerile Moments in History
Upon headshotting Vlad the Impaler, Sun Tzu unceremoniously shouts, “Impale that, Vlad!!”
Upon the dismemberment of Hannibal’s left arm, Joan of Arc yells, “Where are your elephants now?”
Upon beheading Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu screams, “”I guess you Khan-t do that!” and does a little dance.
Upon killing Hernan Cortes, Alexander the Great asks, “That’s gotta be better than death by syphilis, right?”
In my head, Sun Tzu is a total badass that can kill with a single shot from his repeating crossbow and, while he has ammo, sounds a lot like Samuel L. Jackson (Can we just agree that Mr. Jackson is someone who just embodies badassery?). When Sun Tzu’s out of ammo, he runs around the arena and sounds a lot like the knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“Run away! Run away!”). Thanks to Deadliest Warrior: Legends, I can live out this fantasy in all of its nerdy, embarrassing glory.
Deadliest Warrior: The Game and Deadliest Warrior: Legends are fighting games that pit historical warriors against each other and were released as Xbox Live Arcade titles in 2010 and 2011, respectively. They have now been repackaged into a retail disc titled, Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat. Included with the two games are six episodes on which the game is based – Deadliest Warrior. The show examines warriors throughout all of history and then tries to figure out the deep questions that all kids want to know – “Who would win in a fight of Ninja vs. Pirate?”
Deadliest Warrior: The Game takes generic fighters, whose names are said with special emphasis in my head – Apache!, Centurion!, Knight!, Ninja!, Pirate!, Rajput!, Samurai!, Shaolin Monk!, Spartan!, Viking!, Zande! and places them in 3D arena combat. The fighting system itself is, in my opinion, nice and simplistic. I am not a fighting game enthusiast and my style of play can be best described as “button mashing” and I found a lot to enjoy in this game. Each character can switch between a long, medium, or short range weapon with corresponding high, mid, and low attack options. Bouts can be ended with a single headshot, regardless of the status of your health bar. Customization of your warrior’s weapons and armor adds some more depth to the gameplay. As you play through the Arcade mode you can unlock new weapons and new armor that have different stats in terms of speed and reach.
This is not Street Fighter folks, though you would be forgiven if you are reminded a little of Mortal Kombat. All of the fights are accompanied by an overabundance of spewing blood, falling limbs, and beheadings. You can chop of your opponent’s arms and legs and watch as they hobble about painting the floor and walls with their blood. Hopefully, they’ll also be yelling, “I’m not dead yet!” at the top of their lungs. If you’re good, or lucky in my case, you can behead them and see their body crumple over. It’s all so over the top that it’s hilarious.
I had fun with Deadliest Warrior: The Game, but I was drawn a lot more to Deadliest Warrior: Legends. Most of the fighting engine has been carried over, but instead of no name peons for combatants, you get famous historical figures – Alexander the Great!, Attila the Hun!, Genghis Khan!, Hannibal!, Hernan Cortes!, Joan of Arc!, Shaka Zulu!, Sun Tzu!, Vlad the Impaler!, William Wallace! There is a key difference though and I think this difference is what made me want to keep playing.
There was a game released for the original PlayStation called Bushido Blade. I loved that game. It was a 3D fighting game that had no health bars and in which you could maim your opponents or kill them outright with one strike. There were no flashy superpowers and no kung fu movie aerial combat. It was just you, your sword, and a small supply of stamina that determined how long you could run around screaming, “Run away! Run away!”
Deadliest Warrior:Legends improves on its predecessor by removing the health bar. That’s right, the only indication of your overall health is the amount of blood you are spewing, the number of intact limbs you have, and whether or not you’re twitching on the ground. It’s odd, because in many ways the fighting engine is the same, and yet, with the removal of information, I liked the game more. It brought to the fore how similar the mechanics of the game are to Bushido Blade and with that, the nostalgia kicked into high gear. Plus, the impact of actual historical people cannot be dismissed. The ludicrousness of these battles gets highlighted even more when you have names. For example, just imagine as Joan of Arc steps up in her full plate armor to take on Vlad the Impaler (DRACULA!) as he licks his sword. Seriously. I’m still giggling.
When I got a chance to fight, I laughed. I would often laugh so hard that my sides hurt. Sadly, getting to an actual fight was frustrating. The load times for this game are unacceptable. When you’re just itching to see William Wallace in his kilt chopping down <insert anyone here>, sitting and waiting at the interstitial screen is a total mood killer. Installing the game to the hard drive didn’t make a noticeable dent in the wait times. I’m going to chalk this up as part of the conversion from being a downloadable XBLA to a disc based game, but it’s still frustrating.
Deadliest Warrior:Legends also adds a Risk-lite turn based strategy game called Generals. In this game, you strategically place battalions across different tile types and try to spread your fame, glory, and probably disease across the entire game map. It’s a refreshing change of pace that could easily be fleshed out and sold as its own title. I’m not sure how much crossover there is between the fighting game crowd and the turn based strategy crowd, but if you exist in that part of the Venn diagram, Deadliest Warrior:Legends was tailor made for you.
Recommending people play Deadliest Warrior:Legends is easy. It’s fast, fun, and comes with a neat strategy game. Recommending people buy Deadliest Warrior: Ancient Combat is a trickier proposition. On one hand, it comes with both games, 6 episodes of the show, all of the DLC, and a new arena to fight in. On the other hand, the load times are dreadful and do a lot to hamper the flow and fun of the game.
In the end though, if you like to laugh and are hankering to see Sun Tzu put a crossbow bolt through Attila the Hun’s face, this is probably the only way to see it happen without breaking the laws of physics.
Note on Achievements: I will readily admit that I am not the most skilled at fighting games. Sadly, as try as I might, I couldn’t get many of the Achievements in either game. They’re shockingly difficult and specific and should you get them all, you should feel quite proud of yourself! One example – As the primary player, kill an opponent while at critical health, with your leg and arm injured.