Imperator: Rome review - a great strategy, but not for everyone
Paradox Interactive studio is known primarily as the creator of large and complex strategy games. Series such as Hearts of Iron , Europa Universalis or Crusader Kings are by far the most outstanding representatives of the grand strategy games genre. So it should not be surprising that I had high hopes for the next production of these developers, especially since its action was to take place in my favorite era - antiquity. I will admit right away that my expectations have been fully met, and Imperator: Rome is another strong position in the portfolio of the Swedish studio.
It is also, in a sense, the missing link in Paradox's legacy. Each of the big strategies of this team so far referred to a different historical era and it can be presumed that the ambition of the creators is to prepare this type of title for each important period. The creators have already faced antiquity once, in 2008, releasing a somewhat forgotten Europe Universalis: Rome . However, it was a game released under the Europa Universalis series brand and, unlike other flagship titles of the studio, it received only one extensive expansion. Imperator: Rome, on the other hand, seems to be starting a new large series of games, promising many years of support and possibly more installments in the future. So let's consider how to build an ancient empire and why is it such a damn addictive activity?
How to become emperor
A few words of introduction are needed to give an honest review of a game like Imperator: Rome . Let's start with the fact that this title is a large and complex real-time strategy with an active pause, firmly embedded in historical realities. If you think that series such as Civilization or Total War have extensive mechanics, you may be in for a surprise. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage of this type of game. These are not productions where the speed of clicking is important in order to produce as many units as possible and flood the enemy base with them. We spend most of our time here analyzing extensive tables full of numbers and tinkering with the complex mechanism that is our country. For this reason, these games are definitely not for everyone. There is no fast-paced action or spectacular battles here, and our every move should be preceded by careful planning.
All of this also applies to the Emperor . This is a huge game, and it can take several months to learn the rules. This means, unfortunately, that the entry threshold here is very high and people who have not dealt with this species before will have to show a solid dose of patience and persistence in learning about the mechanisms of the game . However, it is worth making this effort, because Rome , like other Paradox productions, is a top-class historical engine. Upon closer examination, this title offers an amazing game of imagination in which we can personally influence the course of history and admire the consistency of our actions.
For these reasons, I must honestly admit that after more than 50 hours of gameplay, I got to know this production only partially . I am deeply convinced that after putting this text back and returning to the game, I will be learning the next nuances of fun for a long time. Therefore, this text is a fully subjective review based on individual experiences and not a thorough product analysis. So I will not try to answer the question of whether the Imperator is better or worse than other big Paradox games. I will be happy to tell you how I had fun with this game.
Europa Universalis: Rome II
While I want to avoid comparisons, I know that for veterans of the genre, the key will be to answer the question of what other game Paradox Imperator is most similar to. The creators themselves replied, pointing out that although their new production mixes elements of Universalis, Crusader Kings and Victoria's Europe , they want it to be treated as a sequel to Universalis: Rome .
Of course, the Emperor tells about ancient times, and the game itself begins in 304 BC, several years after the death of Alexander the Great. Rome is then one of the few major political forces in Italy and is only just beginning to march towards its future power. However, this is not the only playable nation, because we have over 400 kingdoms, tribes and empires at our disposal, located in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and India . The map itself is therefore the same size in the Emperor as in Crusader Kings II, supplemented with all expansions. The goal of the game is, of course, to build the largest possible power in the allotted time.
Considering the policy of supporting its production, which Paradox has been successfully pursuing for years, it can be safely assumed that this is a deliberate procedure. If the Emperor is successful, then he will have a number of paid expansions that may, among other things, increase the game's timeframe. Even though this title is already huge, there are places in it that are crying out for DLC , and it's worth remembering that this is a work designed with intense post-launch support in mind.
Thousands of tribes
The inhabited areas have been divided between 400 playable nations. Each of the available factions belongs to one of three categories: republics, monarchies or tribes. When deciding on a particular nation, we also choose a political system. In a way, this choice determines the rest of the game. For example, choosing Rome, which in the 3rd century BC was an aristocratic republic, we should take into account that our decisions will have to be approved by the senate, and our leader, in this case a consul, will be elected once a year. Thus, depending on the current political situation, each year we will receive different bonuses related to the person of our current leader.
The situation will be different if we decide to play with the monarchy. In this case, our king will be in power for life and will not have to worry about the opinion of the senate. This means that the bonuses we receive from the ruler will turn out to be much more permanent, and our foreign policy will not be so strongly dependent on the mood at the court. On the other hand, our ruler will have to constantly take care of popularity among the people . Its decline may destabilize the country and, as a consequence, lead to rebellion and loss of power. Of course, actions that will bring us popularity among the people will not always be in accordance with our raison d'état, which will sometimes force us to make difficult decisions.
The governor's sweet life
The amount of gold in our treasury does not determine how well our country is developing, and the sources of acquiring all kinds of development points are really diverse. As already mentioned, we receive some resources as a bonus from our ruler's stats. While in the republican systems our situation in this field changes quite quickly, so when playing a kingdom, it is worth striving to make our ruler as competent as possible. It must be clearly emphasized here, however, that the Emperor does not focus as much on the dynastic aspect as Crusaders Kings . We are playing a nation here, not a specific dynasty, which simplifies some of the erpeg mechanisms. Nevertheless, the new Rome can still tell amazing stories of palace intrigues, where the plot of House of Cards is a bedtime story.
One of the tools to interfere with politics is the ability to fill key positions in administration with specific figures. This provides additional stat bonuses, but also allows you to automate province management. They are grouped into larger units, called regions, for which we elect governors. They implement a policy chosen by us, which has an impact on the lives of residents of even several dozen cities in a given region. The local population is divided into four categories (citizens, free residents, tribesmen and slaves), and each of them increases our influence in terms of various types of points and statistics. The governor's policy, along with the religious and cultural structure of each province, determines the satisfaction of all these social groups, and thus the size of our profits.
However, strategic raw materials are not always within our reach, and even if they are, their exporters must be willing to cooperate with us. Diplomatic relations in the game depend on a whole host of factors. First of all, each country has a rank assigned to it, which determines its possibilities in the field of international relations. Playing as a single city-state, we can, for example, initiate a defensive league that includes other small states. On the other hand, powerful empires classified in the game as great powers cannot form alliances of this type. However, nothing prevents them from interfering with the politics of smaller kingdoms, forcing them, for example, to forcibly end some local conflict.
The greatness of our power affects not only our diplomatic options, but also what other ancient rulers think of us. If our legions begin to systematically conquer the small Gallic tribes, we can be sure that they will not be delighted with this fact and sooner or later they will start organizing defensive alliances. Basically, every successful war campaign increases the aggressive expansion factor that can quickly ruin our foreign relations. Unwanted war also increases the value of the tyranny index in our country, which has a negative impact on its internal condition. Therefore, before any major armed conflict, it is worth considering whether it is the best solution in the current political situation.
War is only one tool of international politics in the game. Nothing stands in the way of successful expansion by peaceful means. Importantly, unlike many other strategic titles in the Emperor , diplomatic solutions do work. We can improve relations with our neighbors by sending them gifts or by appointing temporary ambassadors. Especially the latter method is extremely effective and with a little persistence, we can even make friends with peoples of different cultures or religions.
Technical issues and a bit of complaining
Like the other great strategies of Paradox, Imperator: Rome features the most powerful graphics engine in history - the player's imagination. Most of this rich production takes place in our heads, so its graphic layer is subdued by today's standards. The entire game is played on a large world map, which can be viewed in several modes, supported by a multitude of tables and lists. Of course, this does not mean that the game is ugly, on the contrary, it is probably the most beautiful production of this type I have seen. The campaign map shows a variety of details, and the interface is full of beautifully stylized accessories. Character portraits, changing seasons or graphics accompanying pop-up decision windows give the whole a fantastic atmosphere of the ancient world. This impression is enhanced by the music, which - although repetitive - was recorded with a flourish appropriate to the era and the theme of the game.
This does not mean, however, that the Emperor turns out to be a flawless position. Although the graphics layer is not demanding and the title runs smoothly even on older hardware, a situation happened to me in which I unexpectedly saw the Windows desktop. I also have some complaints about the user interface. Although it was made really aesthetically, the amount of information it presents is overwhelming and sometimes they merge into an unreadable mush. An example of this is the data that can be obtained on provinces by selecting the appropriate map mode. They are presented in the form of small tables that appear above the provinces and often overlap, covering each other. Unfortunately, the game is also not free from minor woes and flaws. Perhaps the most frustrating thing was that after loading the save, the game automatically resigned my generals. With more than 15 legions under my command and hundreds of figures in the country, having to manually appoint commanders every time I started the game was really a pain. There is also no Polish language version. Although I personally do not mind it somehow particularly much, I understand that for some with so much text it can be irritating. Luckily, these few mishaps won't spoil the overall positive gaming experience.