Video Game Review: Rome Total War

Rome Total War is perhaps one of the greatest PC games of all time.  This game combines stunning visuals (at the time) with strong gameplay and AI.

The goal of the single player Campaign is to play as one of 3 Roman Factions (three common families, Julii, Brutii and Scipii) grow in power challenge and take over the Senate in Rome, defeat the other two factions and take over the known world.  Oh yeah, you will have to do that while fighting Britons, Gauls, Germans, Spanish, Carthage, Egypt, Numidia, Selucids, Macedon, The Greek Cities, Pontus, Scythians, Armenians, Dacians and Parthians).

Historically the game isn’t going to get my approval, but it is a game.  I also commend the developers for creating each faction in a historically appropriate way.  No matter who you play with you get a good feeling of what it would be like to command those armies in real life.  Thousands of screaming Gallic Woad Warriors may seem like a good idea but they are very difficult to control and spook easily, unlike Roman armies which you can put effectively into many different formations and change with the situation for victory.

The campaign map is easy to understand and is pretty.  The music while repetitive adds atmosphere to the game.  Like many games that are similar you can micro manage your cities or let the computer do it (my personal choice).  On this map the game operates like many strategy games, you move armies, conduct deals, build things etc.

Where the game shines is in the battles.  From small skirmishes to full scale assaults against a walled city, the game is fun to play at every level.  Not only can you zoom into the action and watch your guys get trampled by charging elephants, but you also see troops catch on fire, fall off buildings and walls and every gory detail (minus the actual blood) you could evey want.

The AI is pretty good although the more you play the game the more holes you begin to find.  In an open space, the Computer will always rush you especially if it has equal or greater numbers.  Thus what troops you bring with you into the battle has a serious impact on the outcome.  The computer is also very vulnerable to flanking manuervers by calvery and none of the Barbarian forces match up well against any of the Roman factions.

Where the computer excels however is in sieges, both as the defender and attacker.  The computer can spot and exploit any weakness in your defense quickly making it a fight on the streets.  As a defender the computer is content to sit inside the walls and let you wast a great deal of time (and men) trying to get in.  Even with 2 human players this isn’t easy.  You can customize your battles to anyway you want and there are also a whole slew of historical battles, not all them historically favorable for the Romans for you to try your hand at.

The on-line play for Rome Total War is mixed at best.  I play 2 humans vs 2 computer most of the time with my friend in a private game.  We have played against human opposition, but have generally played poorly.  One hint to victory is to establish the game yourself, set the conditions etc.  Always heed the ancient advice of learning when and where to fight your battles.

With a strong visual componet and strong single player and mulitplayer game play and with many different ways to play the game, Rome Total War is about as perfect of a Video Game as you are going to get.  This game has one of the highest replay values of any game and is a must have for anyone who likes ancient history.

10 out of 10

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