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For Sparta

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Gamecraft Studios
Release Date: March 22, 2021


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PC Review - 'For Sparta'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 3, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

For Sparta is a fast-paced single-screen action game that boasts roguelike features such as gameplay-changing items and procedural creation of monster waves in an arcade-like arena.

For Sparta starts off with The Battle of Thermopylae, popularized in pop culture by the graphic novel "300" and the film of the same name. For those familiar with either this or the actual historical event, 300 Spartans descended from their city to stop the invasion of the Persian forces of at least one million soldiers. Over the next few days, 299 of these soldiers died in battle and you, King Leonidas, are the last one left. You are about to die, but you vow to take all of the invading Persians with you.

The gameplay loop is easy to understand. You enter a small arena with nothing but your sword, throwable spears, and the ability to do a dodge roll. As the relatively short day goes on, enemies spawn in, and you have to kill everyone who appears. Fallen enemies leave behind sparkling pick-ups to be used as currency, while others leave behind blueprints. Once the day ends and you collect everything on the field that hasn't disappeared yet, you can set up camp, where you can spend the pick-ups on blueprints to change some of your abilities before starting a new day and repeating the loop.

The blueprint lineup varies wildly between practical and fantastical. Health refills are the most valuable items to buy, since there are no other ways to replenish health in the game, and the same goes for upgrades like higher attack power for your sword slashes and spear throws. You can get other throwable weapons and different melee weapons, but it doesn't take long before you start going off the beaten path with things like black holes and rotten eggs. You'll get the chance to use your sword to reflect projectiles back at enemies and throw some of your own in a spread pattern. There are even blueprints that can turn you into a giant. Depending on how lucky you get with the randomized blueprint drops, you can have a Spartan who is a bonafide walking weapon.

Conversely, while you are tasked with fighting off the Persians, you're not strictly fighting against them but against the creatures in their employ, such as scorpions or bats carrying bombs. Other times, you'll fight what looks to be undead wizards being flanked by bees. It's a bit silly, but it reaches into the game design of yesteryear, where fighting an army also meant fighting against wildlife.

Despite some of the unintentional silliness on display, the combat remains solid throughout. The range of your weapons is good, but you'll need to get used to the throwing arc and distance of the spear and the fact that you must aim by running toward the targeted spot. The hitboxes for foes are well proportioned, so they can't get in cheap hits. The game asks you to play strategically instead of mindlessly whaling away since enemies usually give off red flashes before attacking, and each hit can inflict quite a bit of damage. It's well balanced in this regard and makes for enjoyable fights, especially when you're surrounded by more enemies.

What will throw off modern gamers is the fact that the title adheres to arcade game sensibilities despite featuring many roguelike traits. For instance, there is no end game here. No matter how many levels you reach, there's no actual ending to see. There is nothing that carries over from one run to another, except for your own personal experience with the game, so you never start off with a slight advantage on a new run. There's no ability to save your progress from a current run, and there are no other modes to play or glossaries to fill up once you encounter new foes or enemy variations. It's all about replaying the campaign for the sake of getting better and nothing more; players will have to wrestle with this before investing the time to get better with it.

Like the rest of the game, the presentation is simple to a fault. The singular dirt arena isn't exactly the most pleasing of environments, and the lack of changes throughout each run makes it visually boring. The enemies, on the other hand, are distinct, so you quickly recognize what you're fighting against, and Leonidas looks decent enough in his simple sprites. The sound effects are good, and even though the introduction makes Leonidas sound like a Kratos imitator, he never utters any more words beyond this point. The music is fine but, like the battlefield, the presence of only two tracks means that you'll promptly ignore it once it starts playing.

For Sparta is fine once you accept its general simplicity. The attempts at adding depth, such as the enemy variance and the multitude of power-ups, work rather well, even if it veers toward silliness, and the core gameplay remains tight and easy to understand. The lack of actual variety in the backdrop can become problematic, and the lack of any real progression can be a deterrent for those who aren't into classic high score chases. For those who are, For Sparta is worth looking into, especially considering the low $1.99 price tag.

Score: 7.0/10

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