Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Gladius

Go To

A turn-based tactical RPG developed and published by LucasArts and Activision and released for the Nintendo Gamecube, Playstation 2 and Xbox in 2003, Gladius focuses primarily on, appropriately enough, gladiatorial combat.

Playing as either Ursula or Valens, you aim to win the prestigious Caltha Tournament. However, you end up having to destroy Mortuus, the Dark God. You can recruit a roster from a very large selection of combatants. Because the number of recruitment slots are not enough to recruit one of each fighter, and the fact that some fighters work better with others, the game has great replayability. The arenas you fight in towards the Caltha Tournament are all unique, ranging from a simple pit in the ground for close quarters fighting, to a trench-like miniature roman battlefield, to palace gardens with lethal rotating statues. All of your units are completely customisable. The player can change any unit's (even the main characters) skin color, hair color and armor style, offering a nice personal touch to the team. Each weapon, shield, and helmet has its own unique appearance which shows on your character.


The gameplay is turn-based, with each character having his own turn speed. Facing, height advantage, and weight class all play a role in battle. The game also allows players to plan out their movements ahead of time, so fighters move during other people's turns.

The game sold poorly but received excellent critical reviews, often called "one of the best games you've never played."

The story ends with many unresolved plot points, but given its abovementioned low sales and LucasArts no longer existing as a developer, a sequel is unlikely.

Not to be confused with the similarly-spelled Gradius.


This game contains examples of:

  • Amazon Brigade: There are leagues (ones that are required to progress) that only allow female entrants (by contrast the only time males are required is when you need to deploy both a male and a female).
  • Amazonian Beauty: The Amazons, quite obviously. Tall and beautiful women, these archers can exploit their sex appeal against male opponents.
  • Ancestral Weapon: All of Munio's equipment, which can be used by Valens.
  • Annoying Arrows: Archer classes have great range but do mediocre damage. Even moreso with skeletons, who gain an increased defense against projectiles, which makes sense... a bit (no flesh to bleed).
  • Anything That Moves: Ogres can learn the "Lecherous Grin" skill, which consists of blowing a kiss that lowers the targeted enemy's defense, and can be used on any opponent, even insects and undead warriors.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Depending on your school's level, you can only have so many gladiators in your school, with 4 being Permanent members by game's end. This starts with 8 in the beginning, and goes up to 20 come Chapter 3. Battles also make things interesting.
    • In a League battle, there tends to be a limit as to how many gladiators can fight in the Arenas. Some, like the Pit in Roanor, are very small - most battles there have 4 gladiators fighting at once, usually less. Others are larger, potentially allowing two teams of six gladiators each to duke it out. This could be simply justified by Battle Rules.
    • Wilderness Encounters can be rather strange. A Gladiator school with 20 fighters could be held up by a measly pair of Bandits, and as for the number of fighters who can combat the would-be robbers - maybe only five can fight them off on screen, instead of the whole school. Makes one wonder what the rest are doing. Dealing with off-screen enemies perhaps?
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI is odd. For one it equips their ranged units with "bear form" that it uses when they are engaged in melee (A fairly reasonable idea, given that bear form gives melee abilities and ranged units can't attack at melee range), but it will always drop the shift if you move away, taking another turn and even do this in a points battle (all fighters are immortal and have to do as much damage as possible, ranged units are the most damaging units). The AI has some oddities it won't even justify, like passing up a chance to attack your back at a height advantage to attack your side at a disadvantage.
    • Another good example is the channeler AI. Although stealing a friend's elemental charge is the best way to prepare your spells, it gets a little ridiculous when multiple channelers are fighting each other over each other's charges and not bothering to, say, attack you in any way. It could become annoying to watch this in a cycle.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ursula at the end of the game. She is a Valkyrie after all.
  • Back Stab: A specialty of the light classes, especially bandits and secutors.
  • Barbarian Hero: Ursula and Urlan. Most of the units you can recruit in Nordagh apply as well, with special mention going to the... well... Barbarians. Portrayed much more sympathetically than most examples of this trope.
  • Battle Couple: One cup has this as a theme and requires you to deploy 2 units, 1 male and 1 female (this is the only time you are forced to deploy a male). Nothing stops you from deploying the twins Ursula and Urlan here (except that they don't really complement each other ability wise, being both physically based medium class combatants). It's a Lucasarts game after all.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • Until you get them on your side, anyway. And they're oddly small....
    • Played straight with the giant bears (and cats), who take up four squares on the board, can hit two squares with one attack, and can't be recruited.
  • The Berserker: The berserkers. Just maybe... Obviously, it's in their name! They even have abilities that allow them to attack for an extra turn.
  • Big Brother Bully: Urlan. He improves.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: An entire tribe of them exists, and you can even recruit two of them, although only one permanently.
  • Body Horror: The Dark Wolves and Dark Cats look like skinned animals with human skulls. The only visual difference between them is their battle pose.
  • Booze-Based Buff: Almost every Satyr specific skill. This includes restoring health and curing status ailments. Strangely enough, they never seem to get drunk.
  • Boring, but Practical: Channelers have the ability to teleport for a paltry amount of affinity. It's not too flashy, but it's handy for getting around, especially considering the Channeler's otherwise slow movement animations.
  • Breakable Weapons:
    • Shields will break from sufficiently powerful strikes. Myrmidons can buy unbreakable ones, and the special equipment for your lead character unlocked near the end also comes with one.
    • It's also possible for Helmets to be broken by a special attack designed to do this.
  • Canis Major: The greater wolves, with an emphasis on major.
  • The Captain: Centurion units. They're decently beefy Heavy combat units, but what sets them apart from full-on bruisers like Samnites is their spread of team-boosting abilities.
  • Character Select Forcing: Goes with Required Party Member. Because specific leagues need specific character types, it is nigh-impossible to compete in every league. Even if you rent party members, you can't have any more than your number of character slots allow.
  • Combat Medic: Ursula, Channelers, maybe Centurions and, surprisingly enough, high level wolves.
  • Combos: Available to all classes. Good for charging up affinity and doing good amounts of damage. Bad because enemies charge their defensive affinity just as fast and, if you miss, the rest of your combo fails and if the enemy can counter attack in any way, you get hit for each attack you would have gotten in.
  • Critical Hit: Overpowered due to being controlled by the swing meter. Not only do you do increased damage but you also ensure the attack hits. This makes Heavy characters, who normally have about a 5% hit chance on Light characters, extremely imbalanced. In fact, accuracy only plays a role in status effect attacks to anyone who has mastered the swing meter.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Despite being directly related to the dark gods, the undead Unalive gladiator skeletons will follow the arena rules and will allow the gladiators to be healed after each match. You can even recruit one of each of the Unalive classes.
  • The Dark Side: As dark legionnaires and dark beast can attest, it's not as powerful as one would expect.
  • Deadly Game: Averted. No one dies in the gladiator matches, due to having the best healers at your service. Despite this, there are always exceptions, and there's no safety net outside the official matches.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In several ways -
    • By participating in certain fights, and winning them, gladiators from the other schools may ask to join that of Ursula or Valens. Useful to get that Minotaur.
    • By beating certain leagues, and by earning certain badges, you earn the right to recruit certain types of gladiators. Some will even ask to join for free.
    • Beating the Defeat the Tombstones Quest will grant you a badge. Stand by a tombstone at night, and, should you not have one already, an Unalive Melee will appear, and ask to join your school.
  • Dem Bones: Undead Legionnaires and Undead Summoners are rather common foes, especially at night. That being said, it's possible, after meeting certain requierments, to recruit them yourself.
  • Duel Boss: Quite a few. Justified given the gladiator setting.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: Affinity attacks avert it, amusingly; there's no real innate strength bonus given to any Affinity element over another. The only rule is that a person's defensive affinity will nullify affinity attacks of that respective type, which may not always match that of their weapon.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Munio's equipment in Valens' story, Valkyrie equipment in Ursula's storyline.
  • The Empire: What? Were you expecting Imperia to be a pacifist theocracy? The world is currently at peace, but they qualify in the backstory.
  • Enemy Summoner: Summoners, both Living and Undead, will summon Mooks, and the only real way to kill off said Mooks is to kill the Summoner, because if just the Mook is killed, the Summoner will summon another. Very useful to have as allies though, as they can do the same for your school.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Courtesy of Good Bad Bugs not reading a flag in the code, Eiji's mind-controlling Charm skill, adapted from the Amazon's, does not discriminate based on gender.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Ludo leaves Munio's party three quarters of the way in the Windward Steppes arc, and has already left Valens' side when running Orrin's school by the time you meet him.
  • Fanservice Pack: The main characters have alternative outfits whenever you unlock a new region to visit, and they are required to wear the themes of that place. In the Windward Steppes and Southern Expanse, they have to wear less clothing and armor due to the heat.
  • Fantastic Racism: Mentioned a bit. Again the undead Unalive (having any in your party causes a bigot to slightly annoy you at one point on the world map) and the other "monsters", but for the most part, over shadowed by actual human on human bigotry. None of the four regions seem to like each other, except the Expanse, which seems rather neutral. Almost suspiciously so, possibly due to being rushed.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: In the most thinly veiled sense. Imperia is Rome, Nordagh represents the Nordic countries, the Windward Steppes are Asia, and the Southern Expanse is Egypt. The maps even match almost exactly.
  • Fake Balance: At around the level 18 mark, heavy enemies will start to wield the one hit kill Executioner's sword, although past that level they stop appearing and equip more reasonable equipment. To a lesser extent, the Dervish, who are inexplicably immune to air affinity weapons (not just air affinity attacks).
  • Fartillery: Used by Ogres and Samnites. Actually very effective, since it lets a Samnite fart enemies away from point zones in Capture-oriented matches.
  • Friendly Skeleton:
    • It's possible to recruit some skeletons into the school, after meeting certain criteria in Mordare.
      • To get an Undead Summoner, simply beat The Dead of Night league, which involves going up against three rounds of Undead Summoners and Legionnaires - this will let you recruit one for free.
      • To get an Undead Legionnaire, in addition to having participated in the above series of battles, you will need to first rescue Sigi from Mongrel Shaman (after talking to her shopkeeper boyfriend first), then, after the prior Dead of Night battle, see the shopkeeper again, after which, you have to deal with skeletons at a graveyard. Doing so grants you the Talisman of Unlife, letting you to recruit Undead Legionnaires for free.
    • The Undead Summoners and Undead Legionnaires encountered in the Official Games tend to follow the Rules of the Games — for instance, should a living gladiator fall unconscious during the fight, they will let the healers take the unconscious gladiator out of the arena.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: When fighting in Orus, the active volcano, you are frequently told that there are other dangers than your opponents. A player would assume that there would be steam or lava spouting from the cracks of the arena floor. Sadly this is not the case; the entire floor is safe. (Although they might be referring to the group of unaligned, annoying archers who will shoot you during some matches, which you cannot kill.)
  • Gladiator Games: The entire concept of the game.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • Channelers, although they, like most other Arcane classes, have no real weakness in the class triangle.
    • Berserkers are even weaker than Channelers, lacking the evasive defenses of the other Light classes while still retaining their low health and being unable to equip any armor. Made up for by their extremely useful shouts and the fact that they can... go berserk, becoming Heavy classes with a bonus to health and damage, and their high turn rates. They also receive a damage boost when in critical condition.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Skeletons, Bandits, Dark Legionnaires, Dark Beasts, and other similar beings might be out for your life's blood in the Wilds of the world. But, while in the arena, they play by the rules. Some will even join your ranks.
  • Hair of the Dog: The name of a Satyr skill which removes any status effect. Including bleeding. Go figure.
  • A Handful for an Eye: Used by bandits and secutors.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Eiji, who helped with the theft at Roanor. She was meant to be The Mole just like Gwazi, but had a genuine turn of heart after spending so much time with the heroes.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: A rare example where the player can't actually name any characters, but in-game dialogues still use the a template. The characters talk to each other and address each other by name. A funny instance is when they address a summoned skeleton, which they address as "Undead_Melee", underscore included.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: One arena in Nordagh has a three-stage battle. The first two stages are fairly tame. The third stage pits you against a high-level giant bear which will kill you in one hit at early levels. The organizer explains that he keeps the bear around to avoid giving the full payout. That said, you can actually beat the bear if you're strong enough, but the first time you definitely won't be. Beating this bear is key to accessing an endgame sidequest.
  • Hulking Out: Berserkers can do this by "going berserk", disabling their shouts and losing control over them for increased stats and becoming a Heavy class.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The save data for the GCN version (possibly others as well) is labeled "Lucasarts [sic] Gladius" (normally only the game name is listed). This label is not used elsewhere.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The side effects of failing an attack against a secutor or a satyr. Lowers your turn rate, probably due to shame, but the crowd goes wild.
  • Inevitable Tournament: All of them and there's one in each city. The leagues are optional, but you need to conquer a certain amount to qualify for each city's tournament.
  • Javelin Thrower: Javelin and spear throwers are incredibly strong offensively, enough to reliably kill most classes in a single hit with good equipment, though they are vulnerable if you can get close.
  • Karma Houdini: With no sequel in sight, it appears that Ludo and Nephilia get away.
  • Last Of Her Kind: Ursula, last of the Valkyrie.
  • Leaked Experience: Characters on stand-by still gain some EXP even when they did not participate in a fight, although it's on a small percentage from the EXP obtained by the actual participants.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Considered the game's main fault, varies by platform, but the Gamecube is hit the least. It's so bad you can exploit it with long loading spells to stretch out the time limit of king of the hill battles.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The final test to be able to recruit Yetis in Ursula's mode (which you should do, because it's the only way to recruit a heavy in the first chapter) is a Duel Boss with a boss that is level 5 (the current cap, so you can't outlevel him), you are forced to use Ursula (who the boss has a Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors advantage over) and can kill you in a single hit if he uses the right skill. Winning requires that 1) the foe starts as far away as possible (easy enough to control, just enter and exit the prep menu a few times), 2) you get to move first, and 3) he doesn't use that skill. Assuming all this works, Ursula can run over to a nearby rock and buff herself, survive one attack thanks to the buff and height advantage from the yeti and return with a combo attack, survive a second attack from the yeti, then finish him.
    • The first mission beyond the Point of No Return in which you face off against The Dragon and two ogres is likely to be this if your main characters are above level 18, since said ogres then are guaranteed to be wielding the above-mentioned Executioner's Sword and the fight can thus open with two of your four characters being instantly killed off. That One Level for many.
  • Magical Eye: The Cyclops, who can use their eye to strike fear into opponents and shoot laser beams. With a class-specific accessory, the Blindman's Eye, they can also have perfect aim.
  • Mega Neko: The greater plains cats.
  • Mighty Glacier: All the Heavy classes except maybe the Cyclops, have way more health than the Medium and Light classes.
  • Miles Gloriosus: For all the flesh tearing and eating the Cyclops boast, what do they say when they actually get hit? A very meek and desperate "Help us!". Notable because this is actually a spoken line, which are uncommon (although not rare).
  • The Mole: Screw you Gwazi.
  • Money for Nothing:
    • During the Steppes chapter and onward, leagues start rewarding a lot more gold and extra equipment, making it incredibly easy to max out on equipment upgrades before getting halfway through the league. The previous chapters were far more reserved in their prizes.
    • You can also find random valuable equipment buried on Imperia's beaches if you search at the right time of day.
  • Noble Bigot: Urlan starts as this. Ludo stays as this.
  • Non-Indicative Difficulty: Ursula's story starts harder than Valen's (despite being labeled the opposite) as there is a very limited number of good classes that can be recruited in Nordagh while Imperia has a much better variety. On the other hand, the requirements of the battles are very obviously built around the assumption that the player plays through Ursula's story first, because Imperia has stricter requirements than Nordagh, and that the enemies in Nordagh become much more aggressive and lethal in the silver-rank levels.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Implied in Valens's campaign, where he tried to buy the party time to gain the favor of the affinity Gods. Not very clear in Ursula's where he still buys the party time, but it is implied he is protected by his Imperial connections.
  • Obviously Evil: Mutuus and Nephila have absolutely no sense of subtlety.
  • Oh, My Gods!: In this case, the characters invoke the Affinity Gods — once for each element, plus Light and Dark.
  • One-Hit Kill: The Executioner's Sword and Death's Head staff both have a chance to do this on any successful hit.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Dark Dragon has eight dark knights attached to it and 4 summoner heads. Apparently dragons also don't stay dead and require wards to keep dead. You actually fight in the remains of a sort-of-dead dragon at one point.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: The minotaurs are heavy classes with ridiculous move-to-attack range, defense and damage. The only downside is that they can only be recruited by a quest, you can only recruit two, and whether or not they even join you is random.
  • Out of Focus: Galverg. He's introduced at Roanor as a hulking, immoral brute, and is responsible for killing Ludo's father. You can't fight him outside of an outside-league fight where he spawns randomly. After you leave Nordagh he is never mentioned again until right after the Caltha Tournament, where he shows up as... The Dragon? A mind controlled puppet? It's not really clear.
  • Panthera Awesome: You can recruit wild cats in the Steppes. Their actual species (mountain lion, tiger, panther) can be customisable.
  • Permadeath: Dying outside the arena. Which is a shame, because after you beat all the leagues random encounters are the only battles which give full experience.
  • Point of No Return: Completing the Caltha Tournament sets you on the endgame path of each respective hero, rendering the leagues and sidequests unavailable.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Most classes (there are a few female only ones and monsters have indeterminate sex) have possible recruits from both sexes and beyond a few cups that has restrictions on a unit's sex (such as one cup that requires 1 male and 1 female to be used and 2 cups, completing both is required to beat the game, allow only females be used) pointless.
    • Averted with Eiji and the Amazons, who possess certain distracting skills that only work on male opponents.
  • Rain of Arrows: Trope in play in about three matches. Thankfully, only one of them have the archers specifically targeting you.
  • Race Lift: You can do this to anyone by customizing skin colors.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Averted in many dialogues. There are a lot of awkward pauses, stuttering, and conversations that just trail off. Awkwardly.
  • Required Party Member: The Leagues have specific entry requirements, such as certain classes. Certain missions also necessitate the use of your main characters.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The Satyrs, which fits in their Musical Assassin shtick.
    Satyr: "Into battle I run. Time to have a little fun!"
  • Schrödinger's Player Character: Subverted. You meet up with the other main character later on. But the one you start with only happens to have Usus with you, which probably explains why your school is more successful than the other protagonist's.
  • Sequence Breaking: The last large tournament warns the player that they are not allowed to leave once things get started. If you do attempt this, it skips to the ending cutscene for the tournament and the game continues as if you had won the whole thing.
  • Shapeshifting Heals Wounds: Units who shapeshift recover a percentage of their HP each time, whether it be to or from their original form. This can be taken advantage of by having a very wounded shapeshifter repeatedly shapeshift until they're in fighting shape again.
  • Shield Bash: The Murmillos are an entire class that is dedicated to this trope, and they are easily one of the game's deadliest classes at short to medium range. The Samnites can also do it.
  • Shout-Out: There's a Minotaur named "Tr'gdor".
  • Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration: The Undead Summoners and Legionnaires do have the ability to heal from injury over time, but will remain Undead.
  • Sole Entertainment Option: YOU were the entertainment, being a school of gladiators and fighting in arenas throughout the game.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: Played straight with anyone you expel. You can actually invert this trope for profit by hiring new gladiators, stripping them naked, and expelling them (temporary gladiator costs are dirt cheap compared to their armor and weapons). Subverted with Ludo and Gwazi who give you their stuff.
  • Stealth Pun: Oddly enough quite a few for a game in this setting. For instance, there's a wolf named Phydeaux and the Wyrd league which seems innocent enough, until you see the name of the battles for it which include "peculiar pairs", "strange battles", etc.
  • Stout Strength: Male Samnites aren't ripped like other gladiators, but that doesn't stop them from hitting hard. The same applies to Ogres and Minotaurs.
  • Stripperiffic: For both sexes, as would be expected when the game's setting is primarily based off a combination of Roman gladiators and barbarians. Nephilia definitely takes the cake, though.
  • Summon Magic: Summoners, both the Living and Undead versions, are capable of summoning extra muscle. Granted, the Undead Summoners are limited to just Undead Melee, the Living ones can summon elemental avatars, large scarabs and scorpions, and of course, Undead Melee. In either case, said summoned minions are useful to distract powerful opponents, like that one Greater Bear you have to capture in the wild, while ranged combatants shoot arrows and throw javelins at them.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Medium warriors beat light warriors, which beat heavy warriors, which beat medium warriors.
    • That said, in the hands of skilled players heavy warriors will almost always beat light warriors, as their only real handicap is low accuracy, which is easily overridden by a mastery of the Swing Meter. Although Light characters can still have an advantage when it comes to number of turns.
  • Taking You with Me: The Unalive units spew poison upon defeat. Sometimes the soldiers even self-destruct.
  • Teaser Equipment: The town of Imperia displays high-level equipment meant for when you challenge the endgame tournament, with suitably high prices. Depending on which character you choose, it will either be the first or second region you visit.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Ursula (little bear) and Urlan (Etymology unclear, 9/10 "Big bear"). They don't know they are twins though.
  • Throwing Your Shield Always Works: The Murmillos can throw their shields like Captain America. Higher-leveled versions of the skill go further and do more damage, to the point where you can reasonably kill most lights and even some mediums in one hit.
  • Trial by Friendly Fire: Some abilities gladiators have, can possibly harm their own allies, alongside the other team, such as the Exploding Javelin ability by spear throwers, and a few others. This is because they affect a wide area. Can even be exploited in Points Battles, as the Gladiators have Infinite Health.
  • The Undead: There are Undead Summoners and Undead Legionnaires, who function similar to their living counterparts, but have a few unique abilities, like the fact that they are free to get, and Legionnaires can always be found at a tombstone at night. They are immune to bleeding and are very useful to have. That being said, they tend to show up as enemies a lot.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Grim Reaper, a spell learned by undead summoners, kills the target in a set amount of turns. However, it uses up all affinity, takes quite a few turns to have effect and is negated by killing the caster. Somewhat subverted in that it's quite easy to use and only the final bosses are immune to it.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Each unit is individually named, no matter how many playthroughs you do. So don't be surprised if, after years of forgetting about the game, you still remember the names of the units which served you well in battle. The Permadeath trope in random battles can also cause some tears if you're not careful.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Downplayed, and justified, version. Got a tough Wilderness battle to deal with - bring in the Summoner and his Undead counterpart, have them spend a turn getting affinity, and then summon some minions, who can do the dirty work, while support characters shoot arrows and throw javelins at them. Should the minions get killed, either by the enemy, or by an area affecting ability from an ally, simply summon more. After all, it's not like they'll be around after the battle anyways. Also, the Summoned Skeletons drop their gear, which can be useful.
  • Visual Pun: Barrels are named after their contents (they don't actually spill, it's purely decorative). Example names are beans, rice, waste, monkeys, and laughs.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: A trademark of the Nordagh barbarians and gungnir. The latter especially put it to use if an enemy gets too close to use their ranged attacks.
  • Waterfall Puke: Ogres, not known for their cleanliness, can use this to cure them of their negative statuses. Even through a helmet. Yeah...
  • You Fight Like a Cow: Lots of characters banter during the battle, which range from encouragements to teammates and taunts to opponents.
  • You Killed My Father: Mutuus kills Munio, Valens's father, although Valens was too young to remember it at the time. Also Galverg, who killed Ludo's father. The latter instance is brought up once and never mentioned again.