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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Creative Assembly

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Deep strategy

- Great production values

- Hours and hours of play

- "Automange" function

- Elephants!

 

 

- Will no doubt overwhelm novice strategy players

 

 

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Rome: Total War

Score: 9.0 / 10

One thing is for sure, Rome: Total War has rock-solid staying power.  Almost four months since its initial release, I’m still playing it.  Whether it’s jumping into the campaign or tackling one of the historical encounters (again) it’s a game I can’t seem to give up (even with constant haranguing from AE’s President and Master Supreme to get the review in, “Now!”).

 

rome total war review          rome total war review

 

Rome: Total War (RTW) is set during the time of the Roman Republic and at the start of the main campaign you choose one of three Roman families.  There’s really no difference between the families but their starting points are different.  My first run-through I chose the Julii because they have to do battle with the Gauls.  A childhood filled with reading Asterix comics had fully convinced me I would have to match wits with the super-powered Gauls and face-off with the formidable Obelix.  Initially I was disappointed that Asterix and Obelix are absent, but I soon came to appreciate the more realistic bent of RTW.

 

There are two distinct entities found in RTW: city building and combat.  Even thought they are distinct they are entirely and intrinsically intertwined.  If the cities are being managed effectively, you’ll often have an easier time on the battlefield.  It works the other way as well – do poorly on the battlefield and city management becomes more difficult (or at least frustrating).  RTW relies on family (this is Italy after all) as only they can serve as generals.  This is where RTW role-playing elements come into play.

 

Your family becomes something to carefully nurture and maintain.  Losing a general (or two) during the course of a battle can have repercussions far later in the game.  If the dead general can produce no heirs you’ll be scrambling for bodies as the area under your control (hopefully) expands.  Successful expansion and battles won 

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mean increasing the chances they’ll acquire their own entourage, which in turn awards further bonuses to the family members.  The good thing here is that members of the entourage aren’t fixed – they can be assigned to other family members.

 

Once the city management is in place to build and expand appropriately (there’s also an automanager but where’s the micromanagement fun in that?) you’re in a better position to do war on the field of battle.

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It’s all too easy to gush about how fun the real-time strategy portion of RTW is and how fantastic it looks in action.  The camera has good control options (zoom in, zoom out etc.) but pulling way back is the best way to watch the directed chaos, particularly if there are elephants involved or you’re laying siege to a city.  Or you can go right down to the level of the soldiers to watch them hack away at each other, and die screaming.  Throw in some great 3D terrain and you get a game that’s just as much fun to watch as it is to play. Not only that, setting up ambushes and executing your battlefield plan is actually easy – easy!  In a game that features thousands of soldiers on the field this is particularly mind-blowing.  (Almost as mind blowing is an auto-resolve button for these battles – who would want to miss this?)

 

rome total war review          rome total war review

 

There are downsides, of course (some of which have been patched up in the last few months) like some questionable AI moves and one or two clunky aspects of city building.  Out of the box there are a few more problems – one in particular and widely reported regards the naval units becoming “stuck” – but who doesn’t download patches nowadays?

 

While I wouldn’t way Rome: Total War is a good title for novice strategy players, there’s plenty of depth and fun in this masterful effort from Creative Assembly without being overwhelming.  Anyone who mildly enjoys strategy games should buy RTW.

 

- D.D. Nunavut

(January 16, 2005)

 

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