Goodbye (non-existant) social life. The Legions of Rome have arrived to occupy my every waking hour with spilling the simulated blood of my enemies.
Being a huge fan of The Creative Assembly’s Medieval: Total War, it was with a mixture of high optimism and mild skeptism that I installed the latest addition to the Total War stable. The first thing that struck me was the size and scope of the enclosed Campaign Map. Stretching from the deserts of Arabia to Brittannia, it takes in mountains, deserts, forests, rivers and Mediterranean islands.
I was pleased to see this detail carried over to the game. The Strategic map lives up to it’s strategic name. Gone is the region by region move allowance of Medieval. Now, units have an allowance based upon certain factors (including the famous Roman Roads) which is highlighted when you select a unit, Army or agent. The map is littered with choke points, bridges, mountain passes, all places from where you can defend your fledgling Empire from marauding hordes of Barbarians and your rivals. Placing armies in Forests allows you to ambush passing enemies and you can use your armies to block and harass the enemy on the campaign map.
Features from the map are carried over into the battles. If you meet your enemy at a river crossing, you will fight over that river during the battle. This brings and entirely new element to the game which was missing from Medieval. You can choose the landscape to fight over (but be careful because your enemy can too!).
The battle system has been drastically improved and you really feel the benefit of having mixed units. Skirmishers in front of Heavy Infantry, protecting Archers and Cavalry to sweep around and swamp the enemy are essential units. Cavalry has much more of an impact than in the previous title and archers are worth so much more than before. Many units have special moves they can perform. For example Archers can fire buring arrows for increased effectiveness against moral. Cavalry can form into a wedge formation to hit weakpoints in the enemy lines with stunning brutality. Roman Legionaries can take advantage of the testudo or ‘turtle formation’, overlapping their shields to protect against missiles. There really is so much to keep the battles interesting. When playing Medieval, I would often simulate the battle results as each became a simple case of hack and slash through the enemy formations. Not so in Rome: Total War.
There is so much to this game and I have only just begun playing it. I thoroughly recommend everyone to pick up a copy. This is the new generation of Strategy games realised. Buy it, but it, now!