For Sparta Review: This is Madness

For Sparta is available on PC

You can find a video version of this review here: For Sparta Review [Low Priced Rogue-lite] – YouTube

Overview

For Sparta is an intense wave-based rogue-lite where you play as King Leonidas standing against a never-ending tide of Persians, giant insects, and bomb-throwing gargoyles? The setting is more of a guideline than a rule.

Well, King Leonidas won’t be bound by any rules if his enemies aren’t. You can gather all kinds of power-ups, from black holes, stun guns, or turning yourself into a giant.

It’s not in the history books, but Leonidas could totally cast magic missile.

The entire game takes place on a single screen. The action is quick to jump into and keeps going at a relentless pace until you fail. Death is a complete game over, but you can jump right back in within seconds. There is no meta progression, the game is simply about high scores and seeing how far you can get. And you know…Fun?

The game is also insanely cheap, seriously. It’s $1.99, two whole dollars.

THIS IS SPARTA!

For Sparta is a light weight but solid game with a shocking amount of content. It’s easy to pick up and play, but difficult to master and even harder to put down once you start playing. The retro style sprites are super charming too. I adore the little old school style power ups.

When you begin the game you can swing a sword and dodge roll. You can also throw spears that are governed by stamina that recharges over time. Enemies drop essence that fades quickly, but you can spend it on various random blueprints you pick up after each wave.

Now the game claims to have 200+ items, and while I didn’t count, I believe it. There is a massive array of power-ups you can acquire through blueprints, and they stack together beautifully, allowing for some ridiculous combos.

You unlock items with essence you have picked up.

One run I grabbed a power-up that split my ranged attack into three projectiles. One that made it rapid-fire, and another that made it a magical ball of energy. To top it off, I added something that made it stun enemies. It was just ridiculously fun and overpowered.

Interestingly the enemies follow a similar crazy pattern. I’m sure there is some kind of background algorithm going on, but it’s not something you can really get a read on just by playing. The waves you face seem entirely random.

One run I thought I had encountered a late-game enemy, only to encounter that same enemy on the second wave of my next run. The game just throws ridiculously varied enemy combinations at you, and while it can feel unfair at times, it keeps the action fresh.

I usually find these kinds of games can be repetitive because the early stages are always the same. That’s not the case with For Sparta. I never had any idea what I was going to fight each wave, and it really helps that the enemies themselves have a great variety.

Things can get out of hand fast.

Each one has very specific behaviors that you can learn and strategize how to overcome. You will need to pay attention because For Sparta is incredibly brutal. You go in feeling like a Spartan warrior, but the game will quickly remind you that you’re really just a dude in a loin cloth.

Your health practically melts away when you get hit, and healing is pretty luck-dependent as those items are in the same random mix with the 200 others. The game will kick you while your down, but it’s to re-forge you into something better.

Every enemy flashes red before they attack, and a large part of the game is figuring out when and where you can attack, and when you need to roll out of the way. Even reskins on the same enemy sprite fight differently. For example, there are several variants of a scorpion tail that pops up from the sand.

One fires a single projectile before popping up somewhere else. Blue ones surface near you and sting you. Black ones show up and explode, while green ones fire a sporadic pattern of projectiles then a homing shot.

Acquire enough items and you get to satisfying combos like this, the game will get you eventually though.

The intensity can get jacked up to massive levels depending on what combination the game throws at you. You might be trying to chase down mother scorpions that are continually popping out babies to eat your face, while also avoiding a horde of Persians. You might be trying to dodge enough projectiles to make a bullet hell game blush while avoiding hidden bombs planted by another enemy.

Each run is unpredictable, and that keeps it from getting repetitive. It’s not all luck either. Your own skill at the game makes a huge difference aside from the busted combos. But to even get that far you have to manage your blueprints and essence.

Essence fades fast, and you have to constantly balance grabbing them, staying alive, and actually killing the enemies. Blueprints you pick up aren’t used right away, you have to choose what ones to activate using essence, so the game actually gives you a lot of choice in how to approach your builds. You get to apply some method to the madness rather than just being fed by the random number god, and that’s really nice.

The enemy variety is nice.

Each blueprint feels pretty significant too, even something as simple as pulling essence to yourself passively can have a huge impact. Many have trade-offs, it’s not as simple as just buying everything. Dropping a bomb when you dodge sounds pretty cool until you blow yourself up.

Some power-ups alter your spear throws, such as transforming it into a stunning taser, or it may change your main weapon to daggers or a spear. Some heal you, grant you armor, and a massive variety of other stacking effects that are really fun to experiment with.

Verdict

For Sparta is a small but mighty game with a ferocity to honor its namesake. The gameplay is fantastic, and it very cleanly side steps the repetitive pitfalls the genre sometimes falls into. Its laser-focused direction does it a lot of favors. It’s not a long-term grinding game with a billion things to unlock, and it doesn’t try to be.

It’s a very arcadey take on the rogue-lite genre where the point of playing is pure enjoyment for the sake of doing so and the satisfaction of topping your best high score.

Leonidas, master of the tuck and roll.

The music and sound effects do become grating after a while, specifically, the grunting sounds Leonidas makes, and the one screen concept is neat, but a blank arena for every wave is a bit lame. But let me be clear, I’m nit picking.

The game is two dollars. It’s silly to even slap a score on it, but I’ll do it for the sake of consistency. I’m sure you have walked into a convenience store and blew two dollars on some sugared drink you pissed out an hour later. If you like rogue-lites this is a no-brainer, the hours of fun you will get out of it make it an incredible value without the risk of kidney stones.

A copy of For Sparta was provided for Gideon’s Gaming for the purpose of review.

If you’re interested in more cheap arcade style games. check out my reviews of Warp Glider and Breakpoint. Consider checking out my creator store or tossing in a Kofi donation to support this content.

Pros

  • Awesome and intensive skill focused gameplay
  • A Ludacris number of power ups
  • Great enemy variety and design keeps the game from getting stale
  • Laser focused game design with no bloat
  • It’s super cheap at just $2

Cons

  • Music and sound effects grow repetitive
  • One arena is a little lame
  • The pure randomness can feel unfair at times