The Gladiator

Hello everyone! Time for a new character preview, and this time we’ve got a particularly fierce one for you. Allow me to introduce The Gladiator:

In a game where you are generally moving very fast and aiming at other very fast dragons, it’s tricky to make a close-quarters fighter. Well, it’s easy to make one, but difficult to make it work. We did it once with the Pirate, but he’s primarily focused on area of effect damage. With the Pirate, your goal is to get as many people near you as possible, and then explode. The Gladiator is more of a one-on-one fighter, capable of locking down individual targets but not terribly effective against large groups.

When it comes to new riders, their most important feature is the primary attack. It’s the thing that players will be seeing the most, and so it has the most profound impact on how a given rider feels (whether you’re on the giving or receiving end). Thankfully, we were pretty clear on what we wanted the Gladiator’s primary attack to be from the beginning, because when it comes to iconic gladiator weapons, whips are awesome, and whips made of fire are even more awesome.

3D render of the gladiator

Now, Flame Lash has the distinction of being our first real "melee" weapon. It’s something we’ve wanted to add for quite some time now, but most melee weapons don’t make much sense for our game, given the high speeds involved. Fortunately, whips fall into a sort of gray area between melee and ranged weapons, and if it’s made of magical flames then we don’t have to care as much about the actual range being impractical.

the gladiator's burning grapple ability in action

Thankfully, at the end of the day we’re making a game about dragons here, so realism concerns aren’t quite as important as how fun something is. Otherwise the Gladiator’s Burning Grapple wouldn’t exist, because the whiplash (hah) from lassoing a high-speed dragon would tear him clean off his dragon. As is, we’re okay with it being a little unrealistic because it fills a gameplay need:Specifically, some way for a short-range character to deal with high-speed targets.

Burning Grapple currently lassos a target, slows that target down, and speeds you up. It also turns your dragon so that you’re facing the target, making it easier to catch up with them. Think of it like waterskiing behind the enemy dragon. Originally, we were afraid the ability just flat-out wouldn’t work from a code perspective, so we had to plan a second version of the ability… one that just slashed the whip around in a circle, dealing AoE damage to enemies. And thankfully, we didn’t have to resort to using it, since the backup would’ve infringed on the design space inhabited by the Pirate.

gladiator riding the fire dragon

When we first playtested the Gladiator, the whole team immediately fell in love with how cool this guy was. Of course, it probably helped that the programmer who set up the ability had left absurdly-high debug values on it, so you could slap someone for half their health every half-second from halfway across the map (*glare*). But even after I fixed that, it was still a hit.

I haven’t talked about the Gladiator’s passive that much because honestly there’s not much to say about it. The Gladiator can absorb a massive amount of damage, but once he reaches a certain threshold, his Berserker Rage kicks in, giving him a boost to damage and reducing the endurance cost of his dragon’s abilities. Berserkers are a pretty solid and enjoyable trope, and the Gladiator seemed like an appropriate rider to try out such an ability. Also one of the first things we said when we saw the concept art is “we want to see him foaming at the mouth,” so it was doubly appropriate.

color concept options for the gladiator

Now when it comes to which dragons work best with the Gladiator, there’s a minor issue. The dragon that seems to work best with this guy hasn’t actually been released yet, so I can’t talk about it. Just know that something cool is coming in the very near future, that will further enable close-quarters combat in some pretty awesome ways.

That said, there are a few particularly good combos with the dragons out there right now. The Fire Drake’s Demoralize passive makes it even easier for the Gladiator to keep a target from getting away, and the Lightning Drake’s speed and maneuverability make it easier to close in on a target. Of course, if you want to get tricky, the Bone Drake’s Teleport gives you an escape route if it turns out that getting close to your target was a poor decision.

That’s about all we’ve got on the Gladiator, or as we referred to him in early design meetings, Gladicat. Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any questions or other thoughts!

Stephen Hmiel Gravatar

Stephen Hmiel, Game Designer