Sic transit gloria mundi
That is a latin expression that means “Thus passes the glory of the world“. In the days of the Roman Empire, one of the most dangerous but also most profitable ways to seek glory was the chariot races or Equirria as the Romans knew them. Racers could rise from rags to riches by being successful or they could die mercilessly on the Hippodrome. Patrician families and wealthy merchants spent lots of wealth sponsoring teams in order to win their families more respect or political influence and, of course, a lot of money. A lot of money was also to be made through gambling. In the later years of the Roman Empire and the early days of the Byzantine Empire, Emperors and their political rivals started supporting teams too, which was the cause of much political struggle between supporters of different teams and that even started a civil war. Chariot Wars attempts to recreate the glory days of that sport that sparked much passion among Roman denizens. It is an interesting premise and a rather unusual one for a game.
Chariot Wars is an arcade racing game released and developed by OM Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS computers in addition to iOS and Android mobile devices. Chariot Wars is their second game after a racing arcade game called Waveryder although that one is based on futuristic motorboats rather than Roman chariot racing. They have two other games in development.
The plot goes as follows: In the year 128 AD Emperor Hadrian has summoned the Circus Maximus. Racers from all across the Empire gather to compete in this championship featuring many venues for great prices and for glory. The day before the opening race, the racer from Judea, named Aaron Ben Hur, is found brutally murdered along with an unidentified woman. Aaron Ben Hur was the grandson of Judah Ben Hur, the legendary racer from the days of Emperor Augustus and a Christian convert. The Emperor will task the head of his bodyguards, the Praetorian Guard, Quintus Octavianus with replacing Aaron Ben Hur at the races while attempting to track down his murderer. The story is presented as a graphic novel in intervals between races and is one of the highest points of the game. However, the game is too hard and ridden with errors so it becomes impossible to advance the story.
After a prolonged FMV intro we are presented with the game’s menu. The FMV is pretty high quality. The menu is overly simplistic, but it provides access to all of the game’s features. The game is considerately lower quality than the FMV intro. We can choose championship mode or time trial mode. Championship mode is where the story unfolds and time trial mode allows us to practice in the same tracks of championship mode. There is, in addition, a multiplayer mode, although it requires registering in a third-party webpage to compete.
The game’s graphics were developed using the Unity Engine. Having played several games developed with Unity, Chariot Wars seems like a total waste of precious resources. The chariots and racers look okay… for a game developed ten years ago or so. At the start of the race, our chariot seems to be floating in mid-air and it immediately touches the ground as the race starts. This seems rather… odd. The racer constantly repeats the same animation of whipping the horses despite the fact that the chariot may be standing still at that time. The horses always seem to be running. The tracks look as if the developers had crammed as many as possible objects from free Unity libraries at the same time. And there are a lot of visual bugs, glitches and performance issues. I can’t help but wonder if the mobile versions are ridden the same issues or just PC players were stuck with this horrible version.
The playability is equally bad. We start dead last in the race and we have to spend the first laps trying to catch up with our competitors. Of course it doesn’t help at all that our chariot is slow as a turtle and our rivals’ seem to be jet-powered. The HUD during the race is disruptive and prevents us from seeing important parts of the track like a close turn or whether there are rivals nearby. Our chariot handles terribly, making us very prone to wrong turns or crashes. The absence of a mini-map doesn’t help at all. There are some coins that can be picked up during the race to charge up a “power” bar. When the bar gets filled, our chariot gets a speed boost. The speed boost is not useful either, since the screen gets all blurry and the chariot becomes even more incontrollable than earlier.
The music sounds pretty good and is the other high point of the game, but the sound effects are pretty awful. The menu sounds and the picking up coins sounds don’t match the tone of the game at all and the horse makes always the same sound when crashing. Since you’ll be crashing quite often, it tends to get horribly repetitive.
Chariot Wars does make an effort but ultimately fails to achieve an accomplished representation of the aforementioned glory days of the chariot races during the times of the Roman Empire or to become an entertaining game at all. Whatever redeeming features it may have, they drown in an ocean of bugs, glitches and performance issues. The playability is just too bogus to allure players. At 25 dollars apiece, it’s far too expensive to justify acquiring it. Do yourselves a favor and skip it unless the developers somehow magically solve all the issues mentioned in this review.