We Who Are About To Die is a gladiator-themed RPG roguelike that throws you into the depths of medieval, gladiatorial-styled combat from independent developer Jordy Lakiere. Revolving around physics-based combat and directional attacks, you’ll battle your way through an endless progression of fights to earn fame and gold, or die in the process. Step aside Russell Crowe, there’s a new gladiator in town, and this one is even more entertaining.
I immediately got way too attached to the idea of my initial gladiator. Each time you start, you get a randomized background story for your fighter – the motivation for why they fight, which although layered thinly, was enough to immerse myself in the experience (or this might have been the Gladiator soundtrack blaring in my ears while I played). It’s a solid foundation for your character, and each randomized story offers different perks and starting equipment, dependent on the scenario.
Evidently, I should have cared a lot less initially, because it would have made the immediate death of my character a lot less gut-wrenching. The game’s combat system will take a LOT of getting used to. I really struggled adjusting to it all in my first couple of attempts (even during the tutorial), because I simply hadn’t played anything quite like We Who Are About To Die. That’s not a knock on what it delivers in any regard, it’s just different and you’ll definitely need some time coming to terms with how the controls and directional attacks all co-exist, but once it all starts to click, it’s a euphoric feeling.
We Who Are About To Die’s controls aren’t necessarily the easiest to use and master. There’s basic WASD movement, but on the combat side of things, the complexity of camera movement and aiming your attacks scales with however much time you’re willing to put in. There’s standard, overhead and underhand strikes, which are balanced against blocking and parrying, but the complexity lies in the 3rd-person perspective trying to coexist with the mouse being entirely in control of the camera.
Because of this, at times combat can feel slow and a bit confusing, as you really have to strategize your strikes and attacks in an attempt to land that finishing blow, but in my point of view, this enhances the overall joy of combat. It’s not necessarily meant to be a quick fight. You and every fictitious gladiator you are fighting against are quite literally fighting for your lives – the least they can do is make it challenging. Yes, at times the camera gets lost and is a bit confusing, but it never lasts longer than a few seconds.
I might have the bias of enjoying this style of combat from similar games, but it’s always just felt more rewarding to me to best your opponent in strategically and physically – it feels a lot less like luck when each fight is a battle of the mind and sword. The game of course is still in Early Access, so there’s all the chance that this system gets refined a fair bit before it’s eventual full release but in it’s current state; I’m a big fan!
Rewards from successfully fighting your way through the gladiator pits takes the form of fame and gold. Gold will allow you to improve your arsenal of weaponry or acquire training equipment that can be used to improve your skills between bouts. Fame, on the other end of things, isn’t as much of a commodity, but for this aspiring fighter; it acted as the addictive poison that corrupted every gladiator I played as. I only chose fights that offered the higher fame/gold rewards, because naturally I assumed I could handle it. Fame corrupts the mind.
Dependent on the RNG odds you have, there’s a healthy amount of variety in the types of fights you’ll engage in as well, ranging from free-for-all pit fights with multiple opponents, team-based fights or classic 1 on 1 gladiator bouts. From my experience, the 1v1 fights were always the more high-rewarding, but also the most challenging, as you couldn’t scurry away behind other fighters in hopes of the A.I switching targets.
Each and every fight also has a sponsor, which upon managing to survive each battle, rewards you with goodwill towards that specific sponsor. The higher the goodwill, the higher the rewards from these types of sponsored fights, which counteractively also reduces the goodwill towards other sponsors. It’s a delicate juggling act, which at times seems a bit frustrating if you keep getting fight options from sponsors you have a negative standing with – but this is the joy of rogue-likes.
Progression the game was a lot more in-depth than I was initially expecting. There’s a multidate of factors to consider between every successful fight, that can enhance your gladiator in a variety of ways. Over time and through training you can earn skills that can increase gameplay mechanics such as movement speed, weapon speed, and stamina to match your gladiators play style and weapon-choices.
Weapon choices is really where you get to pursue your ideal playlist, and there is a a broad variety of weapons to choose from. Some weapons like spears have longer reach, which give you the opportunity to pierce your foes from a further distance, while blunt weapons like a mace allow you to hit harder through armour and shields. All of these skills and weapon options, combined with the unquiet attributes assigned dependent on your character backstory give an endless stream of replayability (given the controls don’t deter you), which is a really good sign for a game that should only get better as more content is developed and refined throughout it’s Early Access period.
Aesthetically speaking, the game does a perfectly fine job at presenting it’s visuals and sound design. There’s nothing revolutionary or ground-breaking, but it all does the job in a really neat package (considering it’s still in the early infancy of it’s Early Access program).
In my opinion, We Who Are About To Die is the perfect example of what an Early Access game should look like – the premise is really strong and fun, the foundation is setup for growth and improvements, and there’s plenty of opportunity for me to throw in outdated Gladiator movie references while reviewing it. We Who Are About To Die – I Will See You Again. But Not Yet. Not Yet. We Who Are About To Die is accessible now in Early Access on Steam.