The idea behind Coliseum is a good one. It’s a text-based sports/strategy game where the player manages a stable of gladiators through their careers, which definitely makes it unique. Unfortunately, the execution falls flat, and in the end Coliseum plays like a shell of a game.

Snap16The biggest problem in Shrapnel’s Coliseum is that there isn’t enough to do in the long run. Each fight constitutes one “season day†in the world of Coliseum. A typical day goes like this: Check to see who your warrior is scheduled to fight; drop some coin to train your other fighters; consider buying a stat increasing potion; place a wager; give your warrior basic pre-fight instructions of either aggressive, normal, or defensive; read the text of the fight; and check the brief league news screen. Then repeat. That’s basically it.

Of course other things can happen in the game, such as a warrior suffering a lingering injury, receiving suspension for bad behavior, or even flat-out dying, but the experience is ruined by a limited number of choices. You’re merely a spectator in the game’s world. (On top of that there are very few stats to study, and a text-sim is all about pouring over a wide array of numbers.)

It’s also worth noting that this is not a Roman gladiator simulation—it’s more fantasy than history. There are magical enhancements, which are actually interesting, as well as potions. The game misses a great opportunity to play up this fantasy theme by not offering multiple fantasy races or spell casters. Some variety would go a long way here. Every warrior is apparently a human with an aggressive-sounding name like Gore Flamespitter.

Even with its gameplay issues, the absolute worst part of the package is the save game system. If you quit a previously saved game without re-saving, you lose all of your progress—your old saved game is no longer valid. It’s ridiculously easy to wipe out your entire managerial career by simply not saving your current game. So despite being somewhat interesting in theory, the execution in Colosseum isn’t all there. But you gotta give it credit – it pretty much covers the text-based Roman fighting game niche single-handedly.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, WinXP

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