Gladiator’s Arena review

Even though the Vampire Survivors influenced ‘auto shooter’ genre isn’t long in the tooth, I’m still surprised that it has taken this long for a Roman gladiator-themed rendition to come along – especially with a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 2000 box office hit Gladiator imminent. It’s thematically perfect, with its circular arena in which one man stands alone against hordes of enemies, grabbing loot as they survive one wave to the next.

This inexpensive indie release makes good on some of that potential. A slither of it, at the very least. You’re able to choose a starting weapon – such as a sword, shield, or spear – with more unlocked after just a few runs, including a crossbow with arrows that glide through enemies like a hot knife through butter. You’re then thrown into a small, single-screen, arena to battle lions, snakes, bears, and other creatures. They emerge from all four directions, with some moving faster than others. Only two types have the capacity to throw projectiles, and the screen is never chock-full of enemies, usually with no more than a dozen present at once, so there’s nothing here to quickly overwhelm.

Waves are brief, and between wavesit’s possible to upgrade health, armour, and critical hit chances in addition to purchasing a ‘special attack’ such as an earthquake. Said attacks lack any graphical flourishes, and I’m not sure if this was an oversight or intentional. I guess earthquakes are technically invisible.

Gladiator’s Arena review

A whole host of other issues soon come to light. Waves quickly become predictable, resulting in tedium settling long before unlocking even half of the permanent upgrades. The arena is so small that it doesn’t provide much room for evasion – not that this is necessary, as it’s easy to become overpowered. After just a couple of failed runs, I was mowing down enemies with a crossbow long before they were in spitting distance, only getting hit once or twice per wave and recuperating health so quickly that the occasional hit had zero lasting effect.

Eventually, every run resulted in becoming so overpowered that it was seemingly impossible to die. I reached wave 100 to see if that was where the game ends (it didn’t) and ended up returning to the main menu. From wave 70 onwards, it was possible to simply stand on the spot while my unstoppable gladiator’s crossbow fired snake-like waves of arrows at enemies. There’s nothing in the way of a scalable difficulty level here, as every wave is almost the same. New enemies stop being introduced after around wave 30.

Gladiator’s Arena review

Gladiator’s Arena will only hold your interest for as long as it takes the Platinum Trophy to unlock, which in my case was after 45 minutes of starting the blessed thing. The kindest thing I can say is that the basics are, more or less, in place – movement feels responsive, the choice of weapons is appreciated, and the waves are never overwhelming. There are a few options for build types, too, such as becoming a life stealer or an armoured juggernaut. With very little in the way of challenge though, especially for those who’ve already put countless hours into Vampire Survivors and Brotato, Gladiator’s Arena is too easy and not varied enough to leave you entertained. Thumbs down.

Afil Games’ Gladiator’s Arena is out April 18th on PS4 and PS5. It first launched on PC in 2023.