Sky 9 Games' latest 2D beat-em-up sends us back in time to the Roman Empire, where tales of betrayal, bloodshed and revenge have been dramatized for us in a slightly untruthful yet entertaining way. In Siegius Arena, you assume the role an unnamed centurion who has been double-crossed and backstabbed (literally) by one of his own men in the Dacian Wars. He is promptly sentenced to death in the Arena, where he is forced to take up arms and fight for his life.
You'll have a grand old time hacking and slashing through the bloodthirsty masses, albeit not without finding a few gimmicks. There are three battle arenas, each one more difficult than the last. You raise the crowd's "excitement bar" by cutting down everyone who comes across your path without getting hit. When the excitement bar is full, pressing Spacebar activates your ultimate attack. While all this sounds reminiscent of a normal beat-em-up, the controls are somewhat wooden, and the sluggish movement of your character will lead to his to untimely death more than once.
Later opponents are stronger palette swaps of previous enemy types, and the lackluster action makes for a mindless button mashing experience that offers little in the way of replayability. Stunlocking and the good ol' hit-and run strategy are both extremely effective. A flurry of light attacks can deal the same amount of damage as one heavy attack within seconds, rendering both the latter and the purchasable throwing javelins next to useless. Unless you are unnaturally skilled, you'll likely have to go to previous levels to farm for gold. This becomes a tedious grindfest that may force you to stop playing out of boredom. When not engaged in battle, the shops provide you with overpriced weapons, items, and spells on which to spend your well-earned loot. This equipment is absolutely necessary to turn the tide of battle, to the point where this game could almost be titled "Shop Arena". Unfortunately, most of the helpful upgrades stay locked until later in the game.
In spite of what has been said, Siegius Arena somehow still manages to be interesting and fun. This game has great visuals and a bold atmosphere, taking on a much more serious tone than the original Siegius RTS. Its rousing, majestic soundtrack fits perfectly into this mold, but I feel there are not enough varying tracks spread out through its 36 levels. Siegius Arena is a great half hour endeavour to help you vent your frustrations during a coffee break. However, it's plagued by repetitive gameplay, long load times and significant difficulty jumps. If you are looking for a hack-n-slash with replay value and a plot, find another game.
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