Gladiators Online: Death Before Dishonor Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD



Maybe it’s because I used to have a small crush on Roman History, and seeing Latin names used correctly rekindled that love slightly. Maybe it’s because this game billed itself as “recreating the thrills and adrenaline experienced by Rome’s most talented warriors.” All I know for sure at this point is that I went in excited, and came out with a rather sour taste in my mouth.


Luckily, he spends the rest of the game in a full helm…

Gladiators Online: Death Before Dishonor is a free-to-play online game crafted by Dorado Games for the PC. Billing itself as an action-strategy game focused on thrilling combat and epic gladiatorial feats, the game actually runs closer to a business management sim you’d find on Facebook that occasionally breaks out into short fight scenes when you feel like it. Focusing on managing, training, and equipping your gladiators, actual fights might take up 20% of your gaming experience with Gladiators Online.

The combat of Gladiators Online, what little of it there is, is extremely disappointing on a multitude of levels. For one thing, combat in Gladiators is fairly simplistic and annoyingly cramped. After being dumped into an arena with another player, you can maneuver using the WASD keys; moving very slowly towards each other, you then have the astounding options of mashing the space bar to attack or hold the shift button for a block that might or might not work. Sure, you can use the W and S keys to side step and evade attacks; and you may have some nifty skills, which do actually provide the most strategic portions of the game. But they don’t actually do much to change the game from “Mash W+S+space bar to win”.

Blocking, on top of requiring good timing to avoid being told your defence was late, has a one percent chance of actually working. I’ve had gladiators with block chances over 60% who’ve whiffed far more than they’ve actually blocked. I got so fed up with the blocking system in Gladiators that I actually stopped using it altogether, using Evasion completely as it tended to act more reliably than blocking did all around.


While not needed, premium currency does give you a nice boost, and gives a fair amount for decent prices.

Skills, while usually bestowing a nice effect such as bleeding or removing an opponent’s ability to guard, are surprisingly useless. Each one enters an animation, which may or may not enter a slow-mo cinematic upon activation, that looks awesome the first couple of times, but wears out its welcome after the third time your gladiator decides to whirl his spear overhead before slamming it into your opponent. There are a few useful skills, but their usefulness is entirely dependent on your play style. For me personally, I never noticed my matches going faster or slower in a skills vs no skills match.

Although, the skills are also the closest you’ll get amongst the four gladiator types. Each gladiator class gets it’s own set of special skills to use in combat, usually with some level of overlap; and each gladiator gets their own specialised stat. Aside from that though, mechanically, each one is the same. With two flavours of swordsmen and two flavours of spear wielders, one might think that distance, attack speed, or any number of other small variables would change to give each type of fighter a unique feel. One would be wrong in that regard.

One would also be wrong in assuming that this game has anything beyond 1v1 pvp. In real life, the gladiators participated in numerous challenges that would make for excellent multiplayer mayhem nowadays. Naval battles where they flooded the arena, fights versus wild beasts like baboons and lions, massive brawls between multiple gladiators that would sometimes reach the point of being a war contained in a Colosseum, but Gladiators has none of this. Each match is the same old trick of two men enter, one man leaves; with nothing to make match one different from match three hundred. It gets tiring extremely fast, especially with the amount of waiting you need to do between matches.

That’s right, what would a social MMO be without the prerequisite wait times needed to keep players from rushing to the top? After the fights, the other 80% of the time you’ll spend in Gladiators Online is waiting. Waiting for your gladiators to finish healing, waiting for their stamina or morale to recover, waiting for them to finish training, waiting to close out an auction on that new slave you want, and waiting to find an opponent are all things you can look forward to doing in Gladiators.

Gladiators also accentuates the waiting by allowing you to pick your poison when dealing with the waiting pools. For all the aforementioned forms of waiting (except for the enemy search and auctions), Gladiators Online will let you decide whether you want the fast and expensive option, usually providing the amount of healing/stamina/morale you’d need for the price of a good piece of beginners equipment. Alternatively, there’s the cheap-o option, healing you for a small to moderate amount over time but being free, with some options in between.


After ten or twenty minutes, I’d usually concede to the penalty like the lowly cur I am.

There’s only three wait pools and that really grind my gears however, the aforementioned ones above for healing and stamina being minor grievances that’ll last at most five minutes to complete, are the Training, Auction, and Enemy Search time sinks. The last of which isn’t even an intentional time sink so much as an unfortunate circumstance of the community.

When your gladiator levels up in the arena, he doesn’t gain attribute points immediately. He gains “Training Opportunities” that can be used to get the necessary attribute points needed to rank up your damage, block chance, etc. Why this is necessary, I’ll never understand; but on it’s own, it’s a fairly harmless mechanic. What’s not so harmless is the wait time, which can stretch from forty minutes to two whole hours real time to complete. Not to mention, you can’t use the gladiators while they’re healing or training. For forty minutes, you could be blocked off from your entire roster of fighters and be stuck doing nothing but admiring your possible piles of money.

Money, which aside from being used for a myriad of things, will likely be spent at the slave market the first chance you get. The slave market is the only way to get new gladiators, and unless you’re spending premium currency, the only way to purchase these new gladiators is to place a bid on your server’s auction. I never pegged down what the exact time a fresh auction loaded in at, but the highest wait time was around seventeen minutes. Seventeen minutes where you need to place your bid, wait, and hope someone doesn’t raise the price to an outlandish or unachievable level for you. A task which is easier said than done when one takes into consideration the amount of price snipers lurking around, waiting for your bids to reach the “Less than a minute” display, and then guesstimate where the final five seconds of bidding are to out do you. Trying to buy one low level gladiator to fill out my barracks took me half an hour, and I got sniped a grand total of three times.

Both training and the auction house though pale in comparison to the player search system though, as this system is flawed to an interesting degree. Since higher reward matches have a higher chance of the emperor condemning your gladiator to death (a permanent wound to your roster and house rank), not many people will play these modes. As a result, you’ll see a ton of low risk matches with three thousand plus players in them, (Represented by the actually very useful “Unused” stat the game displays) and around two to three hundred in the medium to high risk matches. Dragging out the time it’ll take to find a person to play against to a ridiculous degree.

Understanding that it sucks to get picked last in dodgeball, the game does give you the option to play against an AI opponent. Whether it’s because of how simple the combat is or because it’s just well programmed, the AI actually does a very good job of emulating how a normal PvP match probably would’ve gone. However, not taking any pity on you because you got last picked at dodgeball of all things, the game reduces all Exp and attributes you would’ve earned down to 75%. Meaning if you want better rewards and all the fans you would’ve earned normally, you need to sit in queue for upwards of thirty minutes, waiting for someone else to finally join in the pool.

It’s a shame that the game is bogged down by its mechanics as well. Beneath the poorly polished surface are some shiny bits and pieces that could make for a better game. The writing for the characters is formal and proper in the management screens, but then you’ll hear some of the most vulgar slurs possible from you and your opponents gladiators trash talking each other. The arenas, while big empty nothings that act as nothing but set pieces, are incredibly detailed for something that only serves as background dressing; depicting beautifully rendered Roman Coliseums and arenas in gorgeous detail.

Overall, Gladiators Online is a disappointment. While it’s not a Pay-2-Win system like some have claimed, it’s still riddled with bugs and flaws that really stop this game from even reaching the “OK” point for me. I couldn’t readily recommend this game to anyone, even with it’s free price tag, but if you’re into gladiatorial combat and not paying for things; then give this game a look. Since it was released relatively recently, there’s still plenty of time for content patches and updates that might make things a bit better in the future, and I look forward to seeing if things improve along the line.

Disclosure Warning: I was provided a code that unlocked the Rudarius DLC pack on steam, giving me a slight in-game currency advantage over other players.