Monday, July 24, 2017


Domina is something.

Here's the description from the Steam page:
Take charge of a ludus, acquire, train and upgrade gladiators, and pit them against your opponents in bloody arena battles.

Use strategic political wranglings to win favor from powerful Romans to increase the odds of victory in the arena and elevate your family name, all while trying to keep a group of brutish warriors focused, alive, and victorious.

Domina is a pixel-art strategy simulation vaguely based on Roman gladiator schools of antiquity.

What that doesn't really describe is the visceral gut punch this game gives you.

The arena fights are beautiful and brutal, with a remarkably effective use of music. I feel this little charge go through me every time the counter ends and the fight begins.

Managing your gladiators is a classic sim in the sense that there is never enough time or money to do everything. Unlike many other sims, though, making mistakes leads to death.

Now, let me tell you about Cassius.

I went through many playthroughs, trying to win the final series of battles, but never did. I could never develop enough depth in my stable to have a chance.

This one time, though, it didn't matter, because I had Cassius, the most perfect fighting machine the gladiator world has ever seen.

Early on in his career, he nearly died--several times--but he was always standing at the end, showered in roses thrown from the crowd for his courage.

As he matured into a terrifying killing machine, his fights rarely lasted longer than ten seconds in real time. His attack was savage, his defense superb.

I had no no one else who could fight, but no matter. Cassius was the one gladiator to rule them all.

After seventeen fights--all wins, with no survivors--Cassius came to me in the middle of the night with a request.

He asked me for his freedom.

He had lost the heart for combat, he said, the deaths of seventeen men weighing heavily.

I felt genuine emotion at his request, even though this was only a game.

To me, at least. Not so for Cassius.

I couldn't release him, of course. He was my champion!

I tried to improve his circumstances, giving him greater rewards, having an architect build him private quarters, anything to improve his morale.

It seemed to work. He was encouraged, said his morale status.

He fought two more times, both devastating victories. Then he asked me again.

I said no, of course.

Three weeks later, he asked again.

I just couldn't let him go, although I felt increasingly guilty every time he asked. There were only forty-five days left in the season, though. He would make it through.

Two weeks later, in the dead of night, I was notified that Cassius had escaped.

I felt a surge of emotion from this news. Good for him, I thought. I was too cowardly to let him go, but he had the courage to take his freedom.

What would happen now, though? Would he be recaptured? Would he be brought to me, a broken man, beaten for his insolence?

I did not want this to happen.

I did the only thing I could do to make sure that Cassius would always be free: I stopped playing.

Then I uninstalled the game.

I still have the save game, frozen forever at the moment when Cassius broke free.

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