Should you download Herobound Gladiator? It’s free, so yes. But is it worth your limited time? That’s a resounding “sure, why not?” Herobound Gladiator is the multiplayer map version of Spirit Champion. It uses all the same assets. taking a single room from the SC world and turning it into a multiplayer arena in which up to four players hack and slash wave after wave of bad guys.
To be honest, it doesn’t go much deeper than that. Each player has three attacks: a fast attack with a sword, a heavy attack with a comically over-sized mallet, and a ranged attack with a bow. Players can also jump, dodge, and earn magical attacks and defense. There are a handful different maps, culminating in a boss fight, which then repeat.
It does give hints of deeper gameplay. As players rack up kills, they can level up their characters, earning special attacks, a couple of combos, new items for your character (samurai hat? Yes please.) It won’t be long before your character is somersaulting across the map into a jump attack combo, then picking off an enemy across the screen with your bow (I still haven’t found a use for the unbearably slow mallet). You can even earn new character models. For me this was one of the game’s largest draws, and where I’d love to see it expand. Earning new gear triggers that feel good part of any gamers cold cynical heart, but it’s not clear that the new gear affects anything gameplay wise. There’s great opportunity here to give players the ability to really earn personalized characters.
There is also a magic system, but I didn’t find it added much strategically. It’s a little annoying having to open a selection reel in the middle of a game to select which power you’d like to have on standby, healing, defensive, or offensive. But that’s a limitation of the gamepad.
Where I had most fun was playing this game with friends. The voice chat worked great, and the game pairs you up with your friends automatically, it seems. The players have a disembodied head of their avatar which follows their real world head movements. Nice touch. It’s a great place to just hang out and mindlessly hack away, or you can work a bit harder and fight with a little flair. Your kills are ranked against your friends at the end, so there’s opportunity for bragging rights (and I swear I killed more goblins than Daryle!). None of the battles were particularly hard, and I found myself quitting because I’d had enough, not because I’d died.
The graphics are bright and beautiful, using the same ¾ view from above as the other Herobound games. The character models are fun and detailed. I’m happy that it limits your play area to about 160 degrees so you can sit comfortably on your couch, rather than having to stand for a 360 degree view. I didn’t suffer any motion sickness or headaches and with the combination of headphones it’s easy to get lost in your little VR world.
You’ll need a gamepad, and the controls are serviceable. I would’ve liked an ability to custom map the controller, but that’s just me.
Overall, Herobound Gladiator is a good way to spend a little time in VR with friends. If a paid version ever launches I’d like to see some of the ideas developed more. There’s potential to have a really smart fighter here, but right now, it gets repetitive quickly. But again, it’s free. So download it and go to town. It’s one of the most polished experiences on the market and a nice glimpse into what’s possible on the GearVR.