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The Backlog Volume # 7: Total War: Rome

Platform: PC(Windows/Mac)

Publisher: Activision, Sega, Feral Interactive

Developer: The Creative Assembly, Feral Interact

Genre(s): Real-time, Turn-based Strategy

Released: September 22, 2004

ESRB Rating: T-Teen

Hello all and welcome back to The Backlog. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these, so bear with me while I attempt to shake off the rust of the past few months. As my welcome back gift to you, I present Rome: Total War.

Rome: Total War is a real-time, turn-based strategy game in which you can select from a few different Roman factions and enter a campaign to eventually, hopefully, take control of all of Rome. You can choose from the Julii, Bruti, or Scipii. There may be one or two others, but I can’t remember off hand what factions those were or if they were actually playable. During your campaign, you will come into contact with rival factions such as Germania, Egypt, and Carthage, and also rag tag bunches of barbarian hordes that can be easily squashed on most occasions.

There are also other game options such as a shorter campaign, classic battles, create a custom battle, but I’ll be focusing on the regular, long campaign since that is the mode I played and absolutely loved it.

I used the Julii faction, as history buffs may recall, this was the house that produced Gaius Julius Caeser all those years ago. The campaign plays out across a map of Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia, with you faction controlling just one or two territories. Your goal, control 50 territories and Rome before time runs out, which, if I remember correctly, is 250 years. Obviously at the start, you are allied with the other Houses of the Roman Empire, but over time, after you kill everyone else off, those bonds give way to greed and lusts for power. Make no mistake, the Bruti became my bitch before it was all over, and when I became the dominate force of Rome, it was just me, the Scipii(resilient assholes) and the Egyptians left.

To gain control of new settlements, you must first build an army by forming different units. My personal favorites were cavalry and archers. Obviously infantry units are a must, but it helps when you can soften up some opposing units with archers(catapults are also good once you upgrade the archery ranges enough). The cavalry also comes in handy if you need to rush in and turn the tide of a skirmish or just to finish off some opposing units.

Once you win a new city, you have three choices on what to do with the citizens. You can occupy the settlement and make the populace new Romans, which they aren’t very happy about and doesn’t gain you very much in the way of loot. You can enslave the sorry bastards and ship them across your empire, which also does not score you much denarii. Or you can execute a bunch of them and gain lots of money from looting, but drastically lowers the population and slows down your initial development of your new province. I usually butchered them since I’m an greedy asshole and wanted the cash.

It is also important to note that unless you have a faction heir in the city, your controls of what to do there is rather limited. You get faction heirs in two ways. The first is by having sons that are ‘of age'(for the purposes of this game, of age is 16). The second way is by approving of a suitor for your daughters. This route is great for selecting strong military commanders or governors if you prefer. Without someone from your family in the city, the city runs on auto-pilot and you can only select an overview of what the city does, whether it be build population(low tax rate) or build military(honestly I never saw where this accomplished much). As luck would have it, the game usually tries to keep your number of male heirs and the number of cities under your control in a pretty even ratio.

In order to keep cash flowing in, you’ll need to monitor your cities tax rates along with their happiness. The happier they are, the higher taxes you can charge them, and the more money you can raise in that settlement. In order to keep the good and honorable Romans happy, you need to keep the cities infrastructure upgraded. If the population in a city outgrows it’s infrastructure, the mob gets unhappy. If they get too unhappy, they get unruly. If they get unruly, they start rebelling and will kick your noble asses out of town and you will have to reclaim it. It’s not too hard to reclaim the city though, just more of an annoyance than anything else.

There is a naval aspect to the game, but the battling is rather limited on that end and is completely simulated. The boats are a good way for transporting troops along the coasts though.

I’m sure I’m missing a couple things, but that’s the most of it. Definitely a great game for anyone that is a fan of turn based strategy games, but not hard to pick up for anyone that isn’t very experienced with this type of game. The graphics are pretty good for being several years old. The battle maps are very spacious, whether in and around a village/town/city or open land(hint: use trees for cover whenever possible). As far as the sound, prior to each battle, your commander will give the troops a speech to fire them up, they can get a little repetitive, but if your general isn’t experienced, it can also get kind of funny with some of the absurd things they will mention. It didn’t happen to me much, but I did have a “what the hell did they just say” moment or two. In addition to that little gem, the battle sound effects are also up to par with what you would expect from a game that is getting a little long in the tooth.

All in all, this is a fun game with pretty solid replayability. If you do any amount of PC gaming, you would most likely enjoy this offering, so do yourself a favor and give it a shot. This gets 3 out of 4 stars. Until we do this again, Game On folks.

Official Score:

3stars

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