Rome: Total War Review


October 3, 2004 by

Rome: Total War Image

Winning several sacks full of Best Of E3 2004 awards from magazines and websites around the world, Rome: Total War has been one of the most anticipated PC game this year, especially for fans of the strategy genre. Since developer The Creative Assembly created Shogun: Total War and Medieval: Total War, gamers around the world have been waiting for the developer to create a new, more advanced title to add to the series. Not only has The Creative Assembly managed to create a strategy game that is more advanced than many others on the market, but they have also made an interesting, creative and fun game.

Rome: Total War may seem quite daunting to new players or casual gamers to begin with. Therefore, The Creative Assembly have cleverly designed a tutorial, titled the Prologue mode, which quickly and painlessly teaches players the basics that are required to start conquering the world. Once you have learned enough basics in the tutorial mode, you are then free to exit the mode at will.

The Imperial Campaign makes up the majority of the single player mode, with the main aim on controlling the world. Players have the choice of playing the full campaign, which can take anywhere from a week to even a months or more to complete. If you arent ready for this lengthy commitment, you have the choice of playing the quick version of the campaign, which takes only a few days to complete, requiring you to control fifteen territories.

The Imperial Campaign gives you the choice to control four different factions: the Roman Julii, Roman Brutii, Roman Scipii or the non-Roman Gauls. Each faction begins the game in different areas on the map and has access to different types of soldiers. The Roman factions receive missions occasionally from the non-playable Roman Senate, which represents the people of Rome. You are able to accept or decline missions from the senate at will, however declining a large number of missions will result in the Senate attempting to remove you.

The management of your controlled towns and cities, as well as the location of your armies and where they will travel, are all managed on a board-like map, complete with detailed terrain, vegetation, roads, towns, cities and travelling armies. Rome: Total War also allows players to control a variety of different fleets of war ships, which can also be used to transport men to land overseas. Battles often occur in the ocean, however, the battle is automatically determined depending upon the skill and number of ships in that fleets.

Determining the next settlement to gain control of or eliminating another army is also controlled on the board-like map. Each army is represented with the commander or captain of that specific army, along with the factions flag. Beginning a battle with another army is as simple as ordering your army to attack another, which then gives you the choice to resolve this battle yourself or let the computer AI decide what the outcome would be. The same goes for taking over a settlement, however, first you need to besiege and choose which siege weapons you will use to gain entry to the city, which can range from rams to break down the gates or siege towers to access the top of large concrete walls. Once inside, you will need to rid the city of the enemy army, and raise your factions flag in the centre of the city.

As said earlier, you need to gain control of territories in order to rule the world. To gain control of a territory, you need to control the city in that territory. There are also smaller towns in a number of territories, which would be wise to also gain control of.

Each settlement that you control requires a governor to rule it. This keeps peace and order amongst the peasants and also allows you to choose which buildings to build and recruit more men for your ever-expanding army. Without a governor, the game will automatically run the town or city, and not allow you to control it.

Not only will you need to prevent your peasants from rioting, you also need to keep health levels high to prevent an outbreak of plague, which will cause population levels and profit rapidly decline something you dont want to occur whilst trying to gain control of the world.

Each male member of the family is ranked in terms of the ability to manage settlements or command armies to glorious victories. Family members will receive bodyguards and other followers as their skills increase. Marriage and death also occurs in Rome: Total War, which keeps the game realistic as new generations of governors come into reign. One problem with this, however, is that once children family members are able to lead an army or control a settlement, they somehow appear at the capital of your faction, even if the parents are located in a settlement on the opposite side of the map. Although this does allow you to locate your family members who are yet to be assigned a job easier, it does become annoying when you are constantly required to cart your family members around the board.

Although managing your settlements is enjoyable, the actual battles are where the fun begins. At any one time, a commander or captain is able to control up to twenty separate units. Therefore, the scale of this battle can range anywhere from a twenty-men army to a several hundred. Each faction also has a different selection of units available, keeping the gameplay exciting and interesting.

Sheer soldier numbers will not win a war in Rome: Total War. Instead, tactical battle is the key to success. You will be required to conjure different tactics for each battle, given that there is a large number of different units available in the game, almost each battle is different from another battle in some way, wether it be the placement of units, the location, defences or the types of units which are being used. For example, attempting to run up a huge mountain whilst the enemy await you at the top will only result in your army being exhausted once they have reached the enemy, therefore making a defeat more likely. Getting your units to form special formations, such as hoplites phalanx, will also aid to your victory.

As well as your army units, you are also able to recruit non-fighting members, including diplomats, spies and assassins. Diplomats are used for obtaining trade rights and forging alliances, as well as demanding one-off payments or surrendering their land to you. Spies are used to provide you with information on what units there are in an army or settlement, as well as what buildings there are in a settlement. Assassins have the ability to assassinate enemy governors, generals or buildings from an enemy faction.

Rome: Total War also includes smaller, single-battle modes: Historical Battle, Custom Battle and Quick Battle. Historical Battle pits gamers into an actual war, such as the Siege of Sparta and the Battle of the River Trebia. The Custom Battle allows you to choose how the battle will be won, the location of the battle, what teams will be included and so on. Finally, the Quick Battle pits players straight into a battle.

Graphics in the strategy genre have never really been amazing compared to those seen in higher-detailed genres, such as first person shooters or adventure games. In Rome: Total War, however, the attention to detail with each soldier, weapons and buildings, as well as the terrain and vegetation, is outstanding. Simply put, Rome: Total War features the best graphics in its genre. The number of enemies on-screen, with each individually well detailed, is outstanding.

The battle between soldiers has been captured brilliantly. Although there is the odd occasion when a soldier or two are facing the wrong way, the almost realistic battle sequences between two or more soldiers or cavalry is remarkable.

Not only are soldiers well detailed, but the terrain, vegetation and buildings also boast great detail. The grass and trees look great. Every stone and log is evident in buildings and walls. The weather also is detailed and realistic, wether it be pouring down rain, snowing or the scorching hot sun of Egypt, The Creative Assembly has made the world of Rome: Total War feel realistic in almost every way possible.

Although sound doesnt make a game, it does play a big part in making a difference between a good game and an excellent game. Thankfully, The Creative Assembly has managed to create atmospheric, cinematic music, which enhances the gameplay greatly.

Sound effects in Rome: Total War are realistic. From the sound of your soldiers footsteps, the clash of swords, burning fires or the pounding of your cavalrys hooves, everything sounds just as it should. It would be almost impossible for The Creative Assembly to create anymore-realistic sound effects.

The voice acting is also of high value. Before each battle, your commander or captain will give an appropriate speech to enhance the morale of his troops. Both your soldiers and enemies will yell during battle, including fearful yelling of Retreat! when a unit is heavily outnumbered.

I knew Rome: Total War would be an excellent game, however I never expected it to be this good. The attention to detail in almost every aspect of the game is almost draw dropping. The gameplay is interesting, exciting and unique. You may have noticed that I have pointed out very few problems with this game. The problem is actually finding a problem with Rome: Total War. If you are looking for a high-quality, enjoyable and well-detailed strategy title, be sure to look into Rome: Total War.

System Requirements
Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP
Pentium III 1.0GHz (1000MHz) or Athlon 1.0GHz processor or higher
8x Speed CD-ROM drive
2.9GB of uncompressed free hard disk space
Direct X 9.0b (Included)
100% DirectX 9.0b-compatible 16-bit sound card
3D Hardware Accelerator Card

Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.