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Chariot Wars Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Chariot Wars squanders a solid concept by failing to get the fundamentals right. The racing mechanics are atrocious and most of the stages are plagued by frame rate issues. To make matters worse, all of the levels are locked behind a painfully difficult story mode. Even if the technical problems are fixed, Chariot Wars would still be a disaster on almost every level. Rating: 10%
Chariot Wars
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  • Review Score:

  • D-
As every major company races to fill their driving games with the most popular cars, I'm encouraged that there are still developers going the opposite direction. It's not that I don't appreciate the work that goes into modeling licensed cars and real world locations, but there's so much more that you can do in a video game. Perhaps this is why I was intrigued by Chariot Wars, a brand new racer that trades massive horsepower for a single horse pulling a cart.

Set in Ancient Rome, this recent Steam release is dripping with potential. This is an excessively violent time in history, full of gladiators and chariot racers willing to kill in order to get ahead. It's also a time before massive skyscrapers reached into the sky and roads were paved. If done right, the Roman Empire could be a fertile jumping off point for just about any genre. Unfortunately, this lousy racer is another stark reminder that a video game needs more than a solid concept.


The year is 128 AD and Circus Maximus is upon us. Famous names from around the empire have come to compete in this epic chariot race. But just as things are about to get underway, Quintus Octavian discovers the body of a crucified Ben-Hur. This sets him off on a quest to uncover killer and bring them to justice. He does this by taking Ben-Hur's place in the race, a mission fraught with dangers.

You would think that tracking a killer by pretending to be a charioteer would be the worst thing to happen to Quintus, but I would argue that appearing in this frustrating racing game is even worse. He doesn't stand a chance on the race track, and it's not because he's woefully out of practice. This is, without a doubt, the worst playing racing game I've seen in years. It's so buggy and hard to control that I had to double check to make sure my computer wasn't about to explode.

Chariot Wars is the kind of racer that has you starting in dead last, forced to spend the next two laps trying to catch up. This wouldn't be so bad if they were more subtle about what was going on. You don't just start in last; you actively watch all of the competition speed ahead as if they were being pulled by rocket-powered horses.

Chariot Wars (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Things go from bad to worse when you try steering the chariot. Because there's no game pad support, players are forced to use the arrows on the keyboard. This is not ideal. It effectively limits the gameplay to pushing the gas pedal, braking around corners and steering left and right. You can pick up tokens on the track that act as a speed boost, but all that does is make the game even more difficult to control.

The awful frame rate doesn't help. My computer exceeded the recommended specs, and yet there are moments when the game chugged along at a single-digit frame rate. This is especially bad when other racers are on the course, but it's not exactly smooth in the single-player time trials. This compounds the control problem, giving Chariot Wars a decidedly floaty feel. It's easy to over steer and get into trouble, and once that happens you might as well start the race over from scratch.

There are only a few stages to race, each with a night and day variation. The locations are nice and the tracks aren't offensive, but there isn't enough variety and everything is locked away at the start. About the best thing I can say about the stages is that tracks are nice and wide, something you'll appreciate and your chariot zigzags to victory.

Chariot Wars (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

In theory, winning each tournament will unlock upgrades, including a faster horse and fancier chariot. It also opens up another few pages of the story, told entirely through comic book panels. I hate to say it, but this is the best part of Chariot Wars, and even then the story will feel awfully familiar.

The game's opening cinema ultimately sets the player up for disappointment. It's full of exciting crashes and racers who fight amongst themselves; none of which makes an appearance in the finished game. The cinema sets up the prospect of adding weapons, something that never materializes. In fact, it's hard to not look at the introduction movie as little more than a lie.

Let's not mince words here; Chariot Wars is a crushing disappointment. As bad as the graphics are, the frame rate is even worse. What's more, the game is staggeringly frustrating to control and it has a funny habit of breaking at inopportune times. Couple that with characters that look like placeholders from the 32-bit era and a racer that seems to be floating above the chariot, and you have one of the worst games of the year.
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