Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 at 11:28pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
In the press bag of goodies at Toy Fair this year was a USB flash drive with an awesome Glatorian Arena logo on it. It contained the Bionicle: The Legend Reborn trailer, and perhaps more obviously, a demo of the Glatorian Arena game. I recently sat down to play through it a bit and get a feel for what you guys have to look forward to when it's released later this month. Read on to see what I thought!
For a free web and downloadable game, this looks great. Granted it's no Crysis or Mirror's Edge, but the 3D models look spot-on and and environments seem like Bara Magna. The user interface (UI) is appropriately themed and goes well with the rest of the game. The game was made using the Unity 3D Engine making it easily portable to Windows, Mac OS X, and the web, while at the same time making it easy to make a great-looking game.
The audio was also very appropriate, if a bit simplistic. For a small game like this, it works well, and gives you plenty of context to help you know what's going on in fights, or just to give some ambiance at other times.
The game is broken down into four areas. The first is the main navigation area, seen below. This allows you to choose and upgrade your character, view your status, or go to one of the three other areas.
The first area, and the one you'll probably spend the most time in, is the Arena. As you can see, there are five different Glatorian Leagues, Rookie, Veteran, Copper, Silver, and Gold. You have to work your way through each, battling tougher and tougher opponents, until you prove yourself to be the master of the arena. Each of these leagues can be played with the different characters, and your progress is tracked individually for each one. You start out as Gresh, and after you complete the Rookie League you unlock Tarix. I assume additional characters are unlocked either by beating more leagues or by using the other characters.
Once inside the arena you'll find yourself across from your opponent. The controls are straightforward, the arrow keys move you around and X, C, V, and SPACE perform different offensive and defensive moves. As you do damage to your foe (or vice versa) your health bar will go down, and once it reaches zero your health gear with turn and your bar will refill. It's a cool way of incorporating the action figure game. Additionally, you have three Zamors that you can fire in each match.
With Gresh I found the combat a bit repetitive. I figured out what seemed to be his best attack and kept using it, generally winning the matches pretty easily. Each character seems to have their strengths and weaknesses though, as when I tried the same strategy with Tarix I got my butt whooped. I didn't get a chance to play enough to see quite how different each Glatorian is, so we'll have to wait and see what the rest of them are like. It may take time to master each character's potential, or maybe there's a 'master move.' It's still pretty fun though!
Once you've (hopefully) defeated your enemy, you'll see some statistics about your fight, which show which moves you primarily used and can help you improve in the future. After you return to the main area, you can click on your Glatorian to go to their character sheet. This shows your overall fight stats and your character's abilities. After winning matches you earn points that you can spend in either Strength, Toughness, Agility, or Mind to improve your character's performance. This is key to winning matches.
In addition to earning points for your character, you can also unlock Awards. They're very similar to Achievements on the Xbox 360 or Trophies on the Playstation 3. You can unlock them for winning matches, beating opponents a certain number of times, spending points in a specific area, etc. You can get them from the other two areas in the game as well.
The next area on the list is the Spikeball Match. You (and another version of you?) go against two Skrall in game that seems like a cross between basketball and rugby. Matches last one minute and you reset back to your starting positions every time a point is scored. While this might seem fun at first, I found the game very difficult, and have yet to even score a point. It seemed like every time I had the ball and tried to shoot, it would either not go in the direction I wanted it to or would get intercepted by the Skrall, who would then break away with no way for me to catch up with them, allowing them to easily score. Also, the Skrall can steal the ball from you, initiating a tug-of-war minigame where you have to mash the spacebar as fast as you can to prevent them from taking it. In theory you can steal the ball from them too, but I was only able to successfully do it once or twice. Maybe it's just because I don't play sports games, but this game seemed overly hard, and I don't see young gamers faring well with this.
Finally, there's the Outskirts. There's not much here yet, but a blocked off staircase promises more stuff to come. The five Agori and a Zesk are outside in this marketplace bazaar-type area, and you can talk to each one in turn to learn more about them and Bara Magna. It's not a bad way to get some story information in there. Otherwise there doesn't seem much to do here.
I think Glatorian Arena is going to provide lots of fun for many fans of Bionicle. I'm already foreseeing the threads with people discussing the best strategies for each character or the best spots to put your skill points into. Completionists will no doubt spend a while trying to collect all 45 of the Awards. The Spikeball game hurts the overall package, being very difficult and seeming somewhat tacked-on (you don't seem to be able to change your character, so you're stuck with Gresh). That said, I still look forward to the full release so you guys can all play it too!
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