Rome: Total War - game review

Date: 2004-11-26 08:24:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Total War is a symbol of a specific and tasteful combination of turn-based strategy game with a phenomenal view of great clashes in a three-dimensional graphic environment, whose scale is unparalleled in competing real-time strategies. Creative Assembly, the creators of the Total War series have proven their genius in the precursor Shogun: TW, confirmed it with the release of Medieval: TW and sealed in the latest ROME: TW. The fathers of these works devoted themselves to every bit of their children, consequently returning with a shield and conviction of the infallibility of the words of one Alexander, called by some the Great, who liked to say: I would rather live a short life of glory than a long one of obscurity ( I'd rather live a short life, but in glory, rather than a long life, but in oblivion.)

Waiting for Rome: Total War is the pain and suffering of the faithful, whose eyes saturated with the beauty (screenshots, videos) of the Creative Assembly child could not satisfy the hands and minds with the material form of the baby (playable version of the program). Even before joining the outside world, Rome: Total War , growing up in the inner zone of birth, gained love and respect among his brothers' followers. Feeded on the wolf milk of programming masters, our boyard grew up to be a wonderful young man who will probably knock down the gods from the "pantheon of wonderful" modern Olympus of virtual entertainment.

I will devote this paragraph to infidels who have never had the opportunity to taste the benefits of previous Creative Assembly accomplishments. Well, the game in Total War games has been divided into two separate parts, which I will allow myself to be called: turn-based and battle-related. The first one provides players with a map divided into provinces, after which we move our troops and administer settlements scattered around them. When our soldiers encounter enemy warriors, the program takes us to the second mode, to a three-dimensional battlefield, to allow us to lead the glorious or defeat of thousands of sworn swords to die for our splendor of fighters in an epic style. That's how you can describe the overall outline of this great game series.

In practice, of course, everything is more complex and expanded, and the enormity of options and relationships that we discover with each passing moment spent with these games can be overwhelming. As Virgil used to say: tempus fugit (time is running out), let's leave the past on the pages of history, interested in the previous parts of the Total War series I refer to the articles devoted to them on the Gry-OnLine website, meanwhile let's start the games. Rome demands blood!

The first thing that catches the eye when starting the game is a phenomenal menu. Like nothing extraordinary, moving pictures in the background are nothing new, and yet. Fighting, black silhouettes of warriors on a red background make a stunning impression, which, excited by phenomenal music, perfectly introduces the player to the atmosphere of the world of the Roman Empire. Yes, it is from 270 BC to 14 AD that the latest Total War game takes us. I waited for this program for over 2 years, so I didn't fail to start the campaign as soon as possible. At the beginning a great tutorial (Prologue) greeted me. A clear representation of the rules of the game has been combined with interactive activities under the guidance of a computer teacher.

After learning about what awaits us in a real campaign, we get the coveted opportunity to play our own, the greatest conquest in Europe, in history. In the campaign options we can choose, among others the level of difficulty of the entire game, as well as the expectations we expect from the opponent's AI during battles. We can start the game as one of three Roman families: House of Julius, Brutus and Scipio. At this stage of the game, we also have the option of choosing goals that determine our victory. We can play a standard campaign, in which the task is to conquer Rome and control a minimum of 50 provinces, or start a shorter version of the battle, which sets us the task of destroying a specific enemy and conquering 15 provinces.

The tactical map on which we make choices in turn-based mode is a very fragile aspect that everyone (fans of the series) did not fail to worry about. To the praise, the fears turned out to be unfounded. In Shogun and Medieval , this map was a flat piece of canvas, after which we moved figurines symbolizing our armies; what has to be admitted here had its charm and atmosphere, giving the feeling of being a real leader sitting in the recesses of the command staff. Rome offers a different perspective on our authority. This time the map of the world (or more precisely Europe, along with the Middle East and the northern ends of Africa) is a vibrant, mobile model, simulating a bird's-eye view of the planet Earth.

We will find here caravans moving along the tangled ribbons of roads connecting cities, a convex, three-dimensional relief with trees growing on the plains and snowy peaks of mountain peaks, it is also easy to find famous volcanoes such as Etna and Vesuvius, who on hot melancholy days shed hot tears of sadness. In all this beauty it can also be seen that the fighters walking on the board (representing armies) are not lead, soulless figurines, but living representatives of brave warriors. While moving, they take very realistic steps, and standing in one place do not remain idle. Each of the units on the board has a specific movement limit, which, like in typical turn-based games (e.g. the famous Heroes ), is presented as points to be used per turn. The board itself has been divided into squares, which are not a determinant of the range of movement of our troops (units can be moved very freely), but only determine the area of battlefields on which battles are fought in this mode. So you can say that the entire land area consists of dozens of carefully mapped zones, whose appearance is consistent in both modes.

The authors of the game have not forgotten about the change of seasons. The main map also shows all the changes we make in cities (buildings and the degree of development of the settlement are already visible from the turn-based board), and the unrest in the cities and the fires caused by it are, of course, smoke swirling over the towns. The camera in turn mode can be moved away and closer, unfortunately we were not given the opportunity to rotate it (which, on the other hand, could cause some confusion). This aspect of the game was done perfectly and it is good news that we will devote most of the time spent at Rome to decisions made in turn-based mode on the world map. Let's not forget, however, the battle mode that occurs when two enemy military forces meet.

As I mentioned, the area of the main map and battle maps are closely connected. Therefore, deciding to fight in a given place, we know in advance what conditions we will command. However, this is not the end of splendor. If the fight begins near farmland, volcano, road or beach, all these elements will be included in the battlefield and each of them will not only be visible, but also present in bloody clashes and necessary to take it into account when determining the combat strategy (maybe except volcanoes, which can only be seen in the distance as a background; it's a pity that you can't fight e.g. at the pyramids, which was supposed to be possible according to pre-release announcements).

As it was in previous parts of the series, in Rome , we can entrust playing a battle to a computer that will automatically calculate and resolve the conflict. However, this is a good way only for small battles in the early stages of the game, with large clashes, of great importance, you should not trust the automatic battle. However, the existence of such a possibility allows players preferring only turn-based mode to have fun. Rome without great clashes is not the same game. Each battle begins with the presentation of our troops and the commander's speech to his soldiers. All this was done in a truly Hollywood style, in a form not inferior to scenes from movies like a great picture like Braveheart . Wonderfully spoken speeches by commanders to their soldiers, with awe-inspiring and stimulating words to fight, additionally aroused by the battle cries of our troops, combined with the rhythmic strikes of the weapons on the shields, create a wonderful battle envelope that effectively warms the player to take command in bloody clashes involving several thousand armies.

The fights in the open ground in the latest installment of the Total War series look phenomenal, which explains the pre-release information that the Rome game engine would be used to present the course of battles in historical television programs. The camera, which we freely maneuver, allows us to look at the entire incident from a bird's eye view, to look into the eyes of our warriors, like death, a moment later. After issuing orders (during the battle, of course, stopping and accelerating the passage of time are available), we can safely indulge in the pleasure of watching the fight from a pseudo-person view. Until now seen from afar, units merging into the spots of individual units, we can watch closely, admiring the artistry of fighting individual soldiers.

The chases after the escaping enemy and the attack of the accelerating cavalry or fighting elephants on infantrymen, who by the impact of the enemy not only get dented into the ground, but their bodies are often effectively thrown to considerable heights above the ground. All this, of course, happens within realism and looks very convincing. You also can not fail to mention the new quality in the presentation of military struggles for castles. Impressive fights now take place not only in front of and on the walls of the stronghold, but also on the streets of the city. Thanks to the intuitive interface, there are no problems with mastering such huge armies, which is also a hallmark of the games from the Creative Assembly stable.

... Thus, the battle itself does not coil much in Rome: Total War . Economics is an important element of the program, which has changed visibly and has been satisfactorily expanded compared to previous editions of the series. Trade has gained importance, which occurs both in land and water form. Importantly, everything is very clearly visible at a glance on the main map, without having to go into the statistics of the country. Ships between ports run along the lines connecting them, which are trade routes, and between settlements, the road is swarming with merchant cars.

When we look at the menu of a given city, we will learn two important things. The game is built on the principle of a huge number of dependencies, and the development of the settlement is very non-linear and depends on many factors. The nuances affecting the flourishing of a given city are influenced, among others, by: distance from the capital, the number of soldiers stationed in the city, buildings erected in the metropolis, and finally the character of the leader managing the castle. Commanders (members of our family) are the only people in Rome who can sit as city governors. With the entry of such a person into the thresholds of the settlement, he automatically becomes the steward of the given city. When the administrator leaves the city walls, we lose the ability to independently influence decisions regarding the construction of new buildings or training of military units in a given settlement.

The metropolis left alone will develop independently in the direction chosen by us: e.g. military or aimed at increasing the population (quite unrealistic, but in the long run quite understandable solution. Another thing is that you can turn it off in the options before starting the campaign and manage city without a governor). In practice, this puts the dilemma before the player whether to send a given commander to the front or leave in the city so that his presence influences his development. Each of our family members is described by characteristics that determine his skills useful in city management and command of troops during battles. To our family (nicely presented in the form of a family tree) we can join new members through the marriage of outstanding commanders with our daughters. In fact, we can entrust the entire economy and the management of the state to a computer adviser, dealing only with military matters.

The diplomatic aspect has taken on a new dimension in Rome . Here, apart from starting wars and entering into alliances and trade agreements, we can use such means as: a gift in the form of gold, fief, tribute, alliance, exchange maps, joint attack on a chosen nation, etc. All possibilities are divided into offers and requests, and the whole is very transparent and convenient to use. Diplomatic relations are responsible for our diplomatic relations, who as separate units travel on the strategic map (to negotiate with a given nation, just approach any of its units). A large number of options and the ability to talk on many issues creates a very powerful weapon from the political part of the game, which gives advanced players enormous diplomatic opportunities. You also have to remember about the more violent form of negotiation: assassins and spies, who in Rome play, as usual, a rather important and interesting role for the player.

The Roman faction consists of the three families mentioned above, which are overseen by the Senate, functioning in Rome like the papacy in Medieval . When playing one of the families, the Senate periodically offers us tasks to perform (e.g. capture a specific enemy city within 10 turns, block its port, etc.), whose fulfillment brings us not only rewards (in the form of army or money), but also gratitude of the Senate, without which it is difficult to achieve greater victories. In practice, it turns out to be a great solution that diversifies the gameplay even more.

However, we are not the only Romans to command. After passing the campaign with one of the three families available at the beginning, eight new playable nations are unlocked: Britain (British), Galia (Gauls), Germania (Germanians), Coalition of Greek Cities (Greek City States), Egypt (Egypthians), Carthage ( Carthaginians), the Party (Parthians) and the Seleucid Empire (Seleucid Empire). This is the start of the game one of them, shows how great work Rome is. The campaign played in each of the countries is a different experience and challenge, both due to the diverse geographical location of these nations and their possession of completely individual buildings and military units.

It is worth noting here that every aspect of the game has been mapped in accordance with the historical truth and despite a few mishaps (which the average player should not bother) the whole looks great in this matter. Military units are fairly well balanced, and any irregularities can be easily patched, through very widely available on the Internet mods, correcting some shortcomings and distortions of the creators. The game itself is very susceptible to modding, so there are no major problems with adapting it to your needs.

The music and game sounds are made perfectly; after satisfying the ears, it's time for a visual feast. The graphics in Rome are on the verge of perfection. Everything looks good enough here to delight, but at the same time normal enough not to fall into extreme worship. It sounds absurd, but the momentum with which the game was created tilts me towards glorifying it not only because of the complexity of its mechanics, but also the graphic representation of the action. Both the three-dimensional tactical map and images of battles, shown in a 3D environment, with three-dimensional units, trees and various objects (grass, buildings, etc.), as well as the richness of the world represented on the maps and well-made backgrounds, showing areas distant from the battle, does not let you not rave about the world of Rome: Total War . It's just what everyone was waiting for.

Rome is a very complex game whose details and seemingly insignificant nuances testify to its size. Each aspect of the game could be described in a separate article, which is why I am not able to quote in this review everything that I could see in Rome: Total War . At this point I will finish the technical description of the program and I will focus further on the feelings and sensations of communing with the game.

"Dream in circles. Dance in silence. Listen to the internal rhythm of life. Drowning in the slaked lime, craving. Keep fighting, don't stop dancing because you won't hear the music "- William Wharton.

I have not met a game for a long time that could draw me into a virtual game in such a way. Each subsequent turn, every decision and every fight during the game in Rome is like a sip of water for a wanderer lost in the sands of the desert. If Stefan ┼╗eromski lived today and liked computer games, he would probably write: " Rome: Total War is like an immense sea [...] The more you drink it, the more thirsty you are." The next hours spent with this program are new discoveries and curiosities that you have not noticed before. With each passing moment you come to the conclusion that this complicated machine is an incredibly playable product that you have been waiting for a long time and which is rare in today's gray-gray pantheon of paper gods of multimedia entertainment.

Who thinks Rome: Total War is not a dream come true for players around the world is a fool. Rome is the realization of prayers, like a downpour during a deadly drought, a messiah among the legions of backwardness and hypocrisy.

- Quo vadis, homo?

- To the store, after Rome: Total War . Because I say it's worth it.

Daniel "KULL" Sodkiewicz