The recent death of Flash marked the end of an era, and a lot of old games from the 2000s have pretty much become completely unplayable online. While it may sound a bit over-dramatic, this move by Adobe essentially wiped years of gaming history off the internet, with a few sites (e.g. Kongregate and Armor Games) recommending various solutions, such as custom browsers and extensions.
Despite all this, some well-known titles continue to live on as standalone games on other platforms, such as Sonny and Bloons TD. But do you know what really stood out to me? Swords and Sandals, which has an entire collection available on Steam, including “redux” versions of select titles that, as of writing this, are still being updated by the dev.
Gladiator. Gladiator. Gladiator.
Sound familiar? That header is pretty much, like, probably 90% of the lyrics for the entire series’ iconic theme song, and most of the people who’ve played the game probably sang it in their head as they read that.
In Swords and Sandals, you play the role of a gladiator who has to fight his/her way through a variety of eccentric arena champions. Each of the games actually have a story, though I never really paid much attention to it as a kid (admittedly, I still kinda don’t, but it doesn’t really take away from the experience).
The first game’s simple enough. You start off as a completely unarmed, naked fighter, and the game gives you ten skill points to allocate. Honestly, you don’t really need to think too hard about these stats, just pump them all into strength and you’ll get by just fine.
It’s as barebones as it can get. You got an armor and weapon store, and an arena where the duels feel like they’re just slapping contests where RNGesus gets to decide who gets to hit more (I’m guessing the attack stat helps with that, but plain strength seemed to work just fine anyway).
If you manage to beat the final champion, you’ll be at the maximum attainable level, and all you can do at this point is continue fighting new challengers until you die. It doesn’t take long to finish the game, and there’s really no reason to keep going after you beat it.
Swords and Sandals II is where the game gets way more interesting while still retaining the turn-based mechanics of the first. Here, we get introduced to new tiers of weapons and armor, ranged weapons, and even spells and enchantments.
Here, you get to fight even more arena champions, and tournaments get hilariously tougher as you progress. Seriously, for such a simple flash game, this game offers hours of challenging (though, incredibly repetitive) content.
With a plethora of bows, spells, and various types of melee weapons to choose from, the game provides you with a whole bunch of playstyles to try out. You know what I always went with though? The most unorthodox playstyle that I’m sure almost every player has tried at least once. The charismatic screaming man build.
Just to add to the overall silliness of the game, the taunt mechanic, which is typically used to waste your opponent’s turn by enraging them, becomes increasingly effective as you pump points into charisma. So effective, in fact, that it turns you into the goddamn Dovahkiin after just a few levels.
Not only does your taunt become a glorified Jedi force push, it also gains the ability to damage your opponent. As you reach over 100 charisma, your voice turns into a weapon of mass destruction that deals hundreds of damage, and you can finish the entire game just by screaming at everyone’s faces.
Some time after the release of S&S II, the dev created Swords and Sandals III, which deviated from the first two games’ simplistic design and introduced skill trees, more customization options, and an actual inventory system that lets you mix and match loadouts whenever you please.
In true Swords and Sandals fashion, the dev also added silly new weapon types, such as musical instruments and guns. Just straight up rifles and WH40K bolters, because why the hell not. Playing as a pure mage is also more viable now, with an entire shop full of spells that scale off the appropriate stats.
Screaming is still a legitimate tactic, though it’s not as effective as it was in the past, which is completely fine, since the dev clearly wanted the game to be more challenging. I suppose you can’t really have a “press this button to win” mechanic if you want the game to actually have depth, which this has a lot of.
The combat, while still turn-based and heavily reliant on RNG, is much harder than before. Now, you actually do have to grind duels to upgrade your skills and equipment, because the arena champions (and even some lesser opponents) will absolutely kick your ass if you come unprepared.
… And there’s more!
While S&S III was the last one that I played before it fell off my radar back then, more games under the franchise were released, though I never really tried them as they completely deviated from the whole gladiator theme, which was part of what I really liked about the first three titles. I’ll still play them though! I probably just won’t be dedicating an entire blog post for them, as I still have a lot on my plate right now.
They did go back to this forumla in Swords and Sandals V, but seeing as it has a roguelike mode (and people who’ve been here before will know that I absolutely love roguelites), I may just leave this for its own full review later.
Did I really spend this much time rambling about an old flash game? Yes. Yes, I did. It’s just one of those titles that, in my opinion, defined the era of browser-based entertainment, and I’m just glad to see that the person behind these is still apparently working on more.