System(s): Windows (Also available for Mac)
Release Date: March 2014
Publisher (Developer): Matrix Games (Matrix Games)
ESRB Rating: (Everyone 10+, though there is some violence)
Roman chariot racing is a genre of game that only had one good game: Circvs Maximvs. Qvadriga is the computer game equivalent, and does a fine job of keeping the board game feel, while taking advantage of the computer to add in more details. While the game is mainly about chariot racing, you’ll travel the Empire seeking the fame, fortune, and better racing gear, in a quest to become the the most famous racing team in history. Let’s begin!
Racers, start your…er, horses?
The first thing you must do in Qvadriga is pick your faction, which grants a bonuses to your charioteer/chariot/horses. It’s not a major deal, as you can buy the same or better as anything you start with easily, once you have the money (your first time around, though, it doesn’t hurt to pick bonuses that improve skill and toughness).
Your charioteer is rated for skill and endurance. Skill is probably key here, as a low-skill charioteer can flip his chariot on a turn, making it tough (but not impossible) to win, or even not die in a race. Your charioteer can improve over time, granting a tiny role playing element to the game, but as rating only have three levels (none, one, or two), it’s not a major factor in the game. You’ll also need a chariot; this is the cheapest component, which is good because these things break quite often. Chariots are rated for toughness and acceleration–as you get better in the game, you’ll want acceleration more. Finally, you have a team of horses, rated for speed and endurance.
You start play with three full sets of gear (charioteer, chariot, and team of horses), but you’ll go through many of these in the campaign.
There’s a pile up ahead
After thirty seconds or so of set-up, it’s time for the first race. The basic idea is to complete three circuits of the track the before anyone else, but every race has a random special rule–sometimes the crowd is throwing things, sometimes your charioteer is drugged, and there are many other possibilities. There’s a “real time” mode to play, and a “turn based” mode, where you stop every ten seconds of game time, and give new orders. It’s best to start in turn based until you’re very familiar with the game, as it’s very easy to make a mistake and get your charioteer killed.
Riding a straight path is easy, but the curves are deadly–if you go too fast, there’s a good chance you’ll flip the chariot, or slide into an outer path. You can hit the brakes, but that will let others pass–not a good strategy for winning! If you’re not content to simply be the fastest, you can try to crash your chariot into an opponent, or even take your whip to him–it doesn’t take much to kill a horse or opposing charioteer this way (and they’ll do it to you!). You can also whip your horses, granting a short term burst of speed; whipped horses eventually slow down, so you have to balance your need for speed with your longer term goals of winning the race (and paying for vet bills).
Winning gets a pile of gold, but simply crossing the finish line is profitable, allowing you to pay your medic/craftsman/vet bills and put some aside for eventual upgrades.
Qvadriga‘s strength is the sheer number of tracks available. In Roman times, nearly every city of any merit had a track, and Qvadriga lets you travel throughout the empire, from Syria to Eqypt to Gaul to Spain, gaining fame and fortune. Each city you can visit offers something special (eg, better horses, better experience, or higher payouts), and even comes with a historical overview–there are lots of little details like this that add to the gaming experience.
The overall goal of the game is accrue enough fame to be allowed to compete for the Emperor in the Circvs Maximvs, the greatest of all racing arenas. Three victories in the Maximvs completes the campaign, and your final score is tallied. A race takes a few minutes to play, a whole campaign but a few hours (you can also just play single races, but I just don’t see the point); this is a great light game with plenty of replay value.
Although the scope might be small, Qvadriga really does an awesome job of being the best possible Roman chariot racing game it can be. It packs a surprising amount of gaming punch into its genre, and it’s tough to think of anyone that wouldn’t find fun here.
Product Page [matrixgames]