It's all to easy to think that Lucasarts only publish Star Wars games nowadays. It has been a long time since we have seen them branch out and flex a bit of that creative muscle that they were so well known for. Apparently they have decided to get back to grass roots and focus on the genres they are good at and try to recapture some of the magic of their glory days. What we didn't expect to see was a title as original as Gladius.

Gladius not only has original subject matter, it also has quite original gameplay. While turn based tactical combat RPGs are commonplace in the land of the rising sun, they aren't something that American developers seem willing to turn their hands to. So it's great to see Lucsarts trying a different genre and welding on some very interesting subject matter.

If you can't tell by the screenshots Gladius is set in a semi-realistic fantasy world based around ancient Rome. We'll leave the story summary to Lucasarts:

The darkness of the Great War has passed and the lands of Gladius are peaceful once more. Now combat takes place only in the gladiator arenas, where schools from around the world compete for the title of Imperial Champions. Follow the grand saga of two young heroes, Ursula and Valens, as they recruit and train a team of warriors and compete in the gladiator games. Battle with deadly weapons and powerful magic as you learn vital combat tactics while you enhance and customize your own characters. Strategies are nearly endless, with 16 character classes and over 100 unique character types from which to choose. But be warned. Evil is on the rise again. And a new hero must step forward to vanquish the threat. So train well, for the dark must not prevail.

The game mechanics seem relatively simple to grasp. You manage a stable of gladiators who are competing in a series of tournaments. Victory brings riches and rewards which can be used to improve your characters skills and equip them with better armour and weaponry. Magic also plays an important role in Gladius, so it's not just Gladiator - The Game. An epic story is promised and the two main characters each have a separate story line to play through. Lucasarts are promising that this should give keen gamers around thirty six hours of game time.

Gladius is coming to all three console platforms so graphically it isn't mindshattering - obviously, compromises have to be made to make porting easy. Having said all that, it still looks pretty nice and the art and design work is beautiful. We played it for a short time at E3 and found the gameplay pretty compelling. Those who enjoy basic RPG mechanics like levelling up and equipping your character will find heaps to enjoy. The tactical combat side of it will need more play to get a clearer idea of how deep that will be but the Gameplanet team are already extremely excited. Now where's that leather codpiece?