Historically, turn-based strategy games are anti-climatic: build your nation, go to war and fight battles with no true control over the troops. Rome: Total War, however, has mastered a new breed I like to call TBS-RTB (Turn Based Strategy – Real Time Battle).
The drawback for many gamers regarding turn-based games rears its ugly head when gamers decide to do battle. You get yourself psyched and ready for war, only to discover that all you can do is set your men in place and tell them to go for it, hoping all the while that they’ll not decide to retreat just seconds before victory. Rome: Total War defies this. Why not let the gamer actually control the battle? Creative Assembly brought this concept to fruition with its Total War series, and Rome: Total War is the latest edition to continue that addictive model.
The game has received a lot of fanfare for this move, including from the History Channel, but it’s definitely warranted. Rome: Total War has shattered the de-facto standards, an addicting game that successfully immerses gamers in the Roman era of war. The story in itself is one of historical immersion, taking place during an era when war was every nation’s means of growth and world domination. The initial tutorial begins with you as the Roman Julii faction and does an excellent job at introducing you to the game’s nuances: the worldview interface, the battlefield and the intricacies of conquering the world.
The worldview is laid out like other TBS games, but with an appealing 3D view augmented by a nice camera that zooms in or out for more (or less) detail. The core statistics for each city, such as population growth, happiness and income, are identified on a banner elevated above the city. These banners simplify the discovery of an unhappy population that may revolt, making it much easier to maintain control over your empire.
The worldview menu is laid-out well, with easy access to city details, army details and other important information. And the GUI, which is also well executed, makes city management, finances, politics and troop management a breeze. Amazingly, the tutorial does a phenomenal job of explaining the details, and players have the option of turning on or off two tutors in the campaign itself, making the game accessible to genre newbies yet satisfying for stalwarts.
While general politics and nation building exist mostly in the worldview, you may find yourself spending more time on the battlefield, since Rome: Total War does battle so well. The option to play as 11 different factions provides a multitude of battle scenarios, and if you’re the reclusive type, the campaign alone will keep you locked away for days on end. However, if you’re the more social gamer, the online multiplayer options in Rome: Total War will suck even more time, since you can create battle scenarios with friends or foes for even more hours of PC fellowship.
The army units in each of the 11 factions are unique and provide several era-specific weapons such as trebuchets. Along with army units are spies, assassins, diplomats and naval units. Each of these adds a tactical advantage, from spying to see what the opposing army consists of to stalling them until you’ve prepared a little deceitful diplomacy. You can also send spies and assassins into other cities for a little pre-war intelligence or sabotage. Diplomats are your means of establishing alliances and trade agreements, both of which are essential to your financial success, which, in turn, is vital to building your armies. The naval units themselves are also excellent, both for troop transport and for blockading enemy ports to prevent trade.
On rare occasion, a game developer provides not only an excellent game, but a game with a nice juicy cherry on top. In the case of Rome: Total War, Creative Assembly topped it with two: the graphics and sound. Any game with a trebuchet is by default going to be fun, but zooming in to watch as the army units load and fire it is one of just several graphical joys in this game. The unit detail is great, the battles and battlefields are wonderfully detailed, and the camera makes it all come together. This epic game also comes with epic music, which adds to the thrill of building your empire. Even the trebuchet (yes, that one again) provides a great example of the audio detail, with creaking wood and crashing sounds for the projectile. On the whole, the sound adds to the immersion of the overall game.
Even with these cherries, Rome: Total War does include a few lemons, although they’re more nuisances than they are outright flaws. Some of the glitches were repaired in the first patch, but make sure to install the latest patch, or the multiplayer gaming may be disappointing.
The patch didn’t fix all the game’s glitches, though, most of which exist in the battle sequences. At times directing a squad of troops falls on deaf ears, with your troops just standing there until it’s too late. Other times you’ll direct the cavalry to attack a certain target, but they’ll instead ride across the battlefield and begin attacking a completely different target, often resulting in mass numbers of dead troops. The only fix is to quit the battle, which means you lose, and then load the Auto Save. The auto save will revert back to your pre-battle status, but only if you were the attacker. If you weren’t, then the Auto Save won’t take you back to the beginning of the battle. As a result, you may find yourself saving before the end of every turn, which can be both tedious and frustrating.
Another frustrating aspect, although not a glitch, is the inability to actually direct naval battles. You’ve probably gathered from previous reviews that I love naval warfare, but alas, all naval battles in Rome: Total War are automatically decided based on numbers, experience and type of ships. It’s very role-playing-esque, and I realize naval battles would be hard to render as well as the battlefield scenarios are rendered, but it would certainly be a great addition.
Still, despite the occasional glitch in battle, Rome: Total War is a superb game that easily consumes your day, evening, night and next morning. In other words, play this game with caution if you succumb easily to the desire to conquer the world. DailyGame will not be held responsible for any neglected responsibilities to friends or family. If you love RTS games, buy RTW. If you love turn-based games, buy RTW. If you love … just go get the game.
- Gameplay: 9.4
- Conquering the world through epic battles. It doesn’t get any better.
- Graphics: 9.6
- Excellent graphics for its genre, accompanied by great camera controls.
- Sound: 9.6
- Immersing music combined with essential war sounds, all packaged in surround sound.
- Replay: 9.3
- Consuming campaigns and multiplayer … what else do you need?.
- Overall: 9.5
- An addicting game that successfully immerses you in the Roman era of war.