During its peak, the Roman Empire was a vast and powerful region
encompassing much of southern Europe as well as northern Africa and
parts of Asia. With its immense power came immense wealth, luxury
and respect. But these things did not come easily. Much blood was
spilled and many sacrifices were made to make the Roman Empire the
superpower it came to be. Activision’s “Rome: Total
War” is a turn-based strategy game that mixes the politics
and planning of the Roman Empire on the rise with the fierce and
brutal battles that turned the tides and created an empire from so
many fractured nations.

TV/New Media Reviews
Last night in Florida. (Courtesy of Activision)

What makes “Rome” such a unique entry into the
strategy genre is its clever and well-executed method of blending
two very different modes of play. With each city conquered, players
are allowed to build up the towns to their liking, improving civic
structures, increasing and decreasing taxes to collect more
revenue, training new recruits and so on. The level of detail is
overwhelming at first glance, but because of the intuitive
point-and-click interface and well-managed world map, the
information is organized in such a way that makes it easy to
utilize and understand. There are even options to automate certain
features, making the game more about the fierce clashes between
warring factions than about the micromanagement of each colonized
city.

The epic battles in the game are also very impressive, as
literally hundreds of troops clash in struggles across the Roman
landscape. Using a fully three-dimensional camera, players are
allowed to track certain units through their campaign or float
freely above the battle, only to swoop in and focus on the fight
between two individual characters. Much like the technology used
for the epic conflicts in the “The Lord of the Rings”
trilogy, these displays play out in very realistic ways: individual
units are able to distinguish between friend and foe and change
their fighting style accordingly. The sound only amplifies this
intense aggression when swords and shields clash in a magnificent
cacophony of noise.

Luckily, the controls within each of the battles are as easy to
manage as the controls on the world map. Most commands can be
executed with either the left or right mouse button and the camera
is easily managed using the middle scroll button. There is also an
in-game guide that offers help with managing armies and
understanding basic functions early on. More advanced users can use
the keyboard to execute quick commands and group together units for
more personalized control.

While the game overall has a solid core, the presentation could
use a bit of refining. The characters in battle — considering
that there are nearly a thousand of them on screen at a time
— move with fairly fluid animation but are composed of blocky
geometries and simple textures. Even the landscapes and the
architecture of the cities could benefit from a few additional
polygons and a more diverse palette. All in all, however, as the
game progresses, the visuals improve as well. Larger cities are
riddled with temples and buildings that visually impress.

Despite its inherent complexity, “Rome: Total War”
makes itself accessible to those gamers new to the genre and those
who find the trying undertaking of mundane task-mastering to be a
chore. And under that veil is a game rich with possibilities as
one’s empire begins to expand and grow.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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