Written by Tyler Sager on 2/23/2004 for PC  
More On: Coliseum
Coliseum adds a unique twist to the sports management genre: the very real possibility of death. That star gladiator with the winningest record, sure to be the talk of the town for years to come, can find their career literally cut short in the blink of an eye. Combine this threat of death and dismemberment with a fairly good sports simulator engine, and Coliseum becomes a decent, but not terribly exciting, time-killer for sports-manager-simulation fans.

Coliseum is essentially a text-based management sim. There are no flashy graphics or fast-paced gladiatorial combats here, just number crunching management of a team of three warriors out to prove themselves in the Arena. The entire thing could be played out on a spreadsheet, in all honesty. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but players wanting exciting, pulse-pounding gladiatorial action need to look elsewhere.

The game begins with the creation of the manager himself, which is accomplished by the rolling of a few stats. Once this is done, a team of three wet-behind-the-ears gladiators is assembled, and the season kicks off. A season consists of 40 battles (shorter seasons are available with the patch), followed by a championship for the top-ranked gladiators. For each fight, there is plenty to keep a manager busy. First, players must decide which of the three fighters is best suited for the particular battle. Should you send in your all-star or give him a bit of a break? Do you try to focus on the career of just one of your fighters, or do you give each a chance at glory? Only using one fighter for the entire season could greatly increase their record, but you run the risk of having a dead champion and two pitifully-ranked fighters on the day before the championship. In addition to the risk of fighters dropping dead in the heat of battle, there is also the very real possibility of a champion receiving a dreadful injury or disease. They can still fight in these wounded or diseased conditions, but they won’t be at full potential.

In addition to just choosing which fighter to send into battle, players also have a host of other duties. Training schedules can be set up for the sidelined warriors, advertising and publicity must be managed, and side-bets can be placed on the other battles taking place in the Arena. Warriors can be auctioned off to the highest bidder, and free agents can be hired on. Players can even buy enchantments and performance-enhancing potions for their fighters, although these cannot be used without risks to the health of their gladiators. There’s quite a bit to do every day, and finding the proper balance is actually something of a challenge. Battles themselves are pretty much hands-off and rather dry. Once a warrior is chosen, the fight begins. Before battle, players can command their fighter to take a defensive or offensive stance, and then the swords start swinging. Battle consists of a series of messages flashed on the screen, accompanied by the occasional clang of a sword or grunt of the fighters. Players are sometimes given the option mid-battle to tell their fighter to change tactics, but that’s it for control. Battles tend to be a bit on the random side, at least as far as I could tell. I’ve several times seen fighters with great ability scores lose handily to completely inept opponents. And I really didn’t see a lot of difference between defensive/aggressive, either. Perhaps there are just factors I’m unaware of at play here, but I found this randomness to be a touch aggravating.

There is also a bit to do between seasons, with the usual trading of players and signing of contracts. Each fighter ages from season to season, so a champion who cheats death every year will eventually find their abilities fading as they get older. Once the new team is decided, the next season begins and it all starts over again.

Since Coliseum is a glorified text-based management sim, there’s really nothing at all exciting about the graphics. The menu pages are clean and functional, and that’s about it. As for sound, it’s nothing more than a few grunts and growls during battle, and I could have been just as happy without any sound at all. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, since the game is just a series of menus. Coliseum is very resource-friendly, and should be able to run on most of the machines able to access this review on the internet.

All in all, Coliseum isn’t a great game, but it manages to pass the time. Those wanting a decent, budget-priced-text-based-sports-management-with-a-twist game will find it, while everyone else will most likely be better off steering clear of this one.
A text-based sports management sim set in the gladiatorial arena. There isn’t a lot of excitement here, but it is a decent enough budget title for those interested in the genre.

Rating: 6.1 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.

Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.
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