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Rome: Total War Review
developer: Creative Assembly
P1000, 256MB RAM, 300MB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 22, 04 (released)
|» All About Rome: Total War on ActionTrip|
I am a sucker for motivational pre-battle speeches. For instance, I wanted to charge the people sitting in the row in front of me the first time I saw Mel Gibson (sorry, William Wallace) give a speech to his men before the fight with the nasty English pigdogs. I think of huge battles that revolve around melee combat as these ultra-violent renditions of football games: get liquored up, or use whatever substances get you high, shout a lot and then charge whoever the fuck is facing you across the field like a screaming maniac. I guess surviving one such battle would have been an exhilarating experience. A man would stand there and feel such joy for still having his life; he would have a completely new appreciation for his existence.
Alas, unless you like to dress up and role-play "Romans and Barbarians" with your friends, the closest thing you'll ever get to experiencing one such magnificent conflict is by playing Rome: Total War.
I thought I knew what to expect from this game, but Creative Assembly managed to throw me off guard in more ways than one. Allow me to explain.
As you may know from all the previews, Rome: Total War is the latest installment in the Total War series from UK developers Creative Assembly. These blokes are responsible for single-handedly carving out a new gaming genre - an eclectic mix of turn-based strategy, management and of course, massive real-time battles.
Now, for those of you who are familiar with the earlier Total War games, you should know right off the bat that Rome: Total War gets just as damn addictive as the previous iterations. CA is well aware of the recipe for success, so it would be hard to imagine that a fan of previous games won't be fully immersed in this one as well. Being one such fan, surely enough, I was fully immersed in the turbulent times around 300BC, when the forging and the expansion of the great Roman Empire took place on the shores of the Mediterranean.
What I didn't expect, however, was that I'd be more impressed with certain features, rather than others, as I was certain that Creative Assembly would've expanded on the management segment of the game a lot more than they had really. I could go into detail about the subtle new additions to the turn-based game, but that would just take too much time. The bottom line is that while the genesis of your Roman family of choosing (I decided to lead the Scipio family for the glory of Rome) is now more elaborately designed - so that you have to pay attention to their skills as well as their influence (or lack of thereof) in the Senate - the turn-based portion plays very much like before. In other words, you will have to ensure that you have a stable economy by building stuff so that you can garrison more troops. However, as garrisoned troops use up resources, you will eventually have to expand your empire in order to make more money. War is the answer in other words, and in all honesty, that's not very far from the truth. One relatively important addition to the game (in terms of the turn-based game play) are the Senate missions. You will gain influence and rewards if you complete them successfully; or you will be punished and put under scrutiny by the Roman bureaucrats if you don't. Ultimately, your goal in this game will be to become a Roman emperor and to conquer of course the entire known world. The turn-based map incidentally covers all the territories that Rome had under its control at the height of its power.
And while the turn-based portion plays very similarly, the real-time battles are a whole different ballgame. To put it simply, the clashes are at least a couple of times more spectacular than they were before - from the pre-battle motivational speech and the amazing 3D positional audio effects, to the fantastic visual effects of great fireballs hurling true the sky and coming down spectacularly on the enemy troops. The mighty Praetorian cavalry will look truly awe-inspiring as it kicks up a cloud of dust behind it, rushing towards the trembling Egyptian light infantry. The battles in Rome: Total War presents a great technical achievement and an excellent example of how 3D technology (and especially the audio effects) can be put to great use in video games. The whole thing is so epic and cinematic that you'll simply lose focus of your goals while you watch two great armies clash inside a mighty city like Carthage. The Roman troops will be storming the gates while the Carthaginians pour hot oil over them and the strategically placed archers shower the Legionaries with one wave of flaming arrows after another.
As for how all this runs, I played the game on two AMD 64 systems; one had an NVIDIA 6800 GT and the other a Radeon 9800XT card. Both systems ran the game fine up until the most massive battles that happened inside the city walls. NVIDIA 6800 GT had some troubles in 1280 and with low FSAA turned on; naturally, the same can be said about the other system. Overall, however, I'd say that you could still run this game on mid-range rigs just as long as you set the advanced visual options accordingly.
In terms of the game's difficulty, I played the turn-based mode on medium difficulty and the battles on hard difficulty. Even though it seemed like I was coasting towards my ultimate goal at the beginning of the game, it turned out things would get a little hairy as you try to win the ultimate prize - the title of Roman Imperator.
8.9 Very Good
City sieges, awesome sounds and visuals, great soundtrack - just so much more spectacular looking (and sounding) than the previous games;
Path finding and other AI glitches, rather awkward looking turn-based map, turn-based game has room left for improvement.