sharvie's Rome: Total War (PC) review

Grab your toga, because this war has gone Roman.

Screams of soldiers' broken spirits whittle the battlefield… arrows pierce through the skies above and hitting with deadly accuracy. Cavalry ploughs through your broken lines of soldiers. This is Total War and it's never been so much fun.

Creative Assembly is back with another Total War game that focuses on the trails and tribulations of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and this game is perhaps their best effort yet.

Rome: Total War is split into two main gameplay components. A campaign map which allows you to control the movements of your armies, the management of your cities and the creation of new units. The second element of the game is 3D battles where you play out battles with hundreds of soldiers fighting one another on a detailed landscape while you manage the advancement of your units. The tactical element to the game is omnipresent as you think about your movements: you do not want to run cavalry into a line of spearman do you?

The game has all the modes you would expect: single player campaign, multiplayer battles, and a prologue campaign for beginners. This is a short campaign that introduces you to the basics of the game. The game differs with past Total War games, so it is not only focused for beginners, but for veterans of the series so the transition to the Imperial Campaign is a whole lot smoother.

You start the Imperial Campaign with the choice of three Roman factions: the Julii, Brutii and Scipii. The additional factions are unlocked for play when you defeat them in the campaign, or just by completing the campaign. Each of the Roman factions are situated in different areas of the Italian peninsula. Each faction therefore has the responsibility of dealing with different factions. The Julii must contend with the hordes of Gauls, Britons and Spaniards. The Scipii will spend most of their time sweating it out in Africa facing the Egyptians and Carthaginians while the Brutii are faced with the challenge of facing the phalanx loving Greeks and Macedonians.

Your primary goal is to expand Rome's glorious empire across the uncivilised world by force or diplomacy. The Senate and Rome itself is a AI-controlled faction that will give you periodic missions like blocking a port or seeking out trade rights. In return for completing these tasks, you will be rewarded with things like cash or units. You position with the Senate and Rome will also increase and as you become more popular with the people the campaign takes a dramatic twist.

Once popularity is gained, you have the opportunity to take Rome and become the Emperor of Rome. This is not an easy step to take, however. Your rival Roman factions are also vying for the prestige of Emperor and will fight you to get there. Managing all your cities, while overcoming relentless sieges and attacks is tough, but is the cost you must pay to become victorious.

The new campaign map has drastically changed from previous games'. The new map contains beautifully towering mountains, lush forests and detailed rivers and streams. The map's little details like trade carts journeying down roads and wild animals scattered around also makes the map impressively detailed. Another excellent feature Creative Assembly has added is the ability to engage and enemy on the campaign map, only to see the same terrain in the right places on the 3D battle map. The little details like this is what makes Rome: Total War a winner.

Another notable difference to the campaign map is the removal of the "game board pieces" that represented your armies in the previous Total War games. Your armies are represented by soldier icons which are immensely detailed.

The game has also embraced a watered down RPG-type system in relation to your Generals, Governors and family members. Your named characters will gain different traits, both positive and negative. Creative Assembly also added in a few humorous traits that'll make you smile. These traits can be gained through different situations, for example, your General may gain the Confident Commander trait by winning a certain number of battles making him a more prolific commander

The sound quality of the game is also fantastic. The musical score in the campaign is excellent, so good in fact that I soon ran out and got the game's soundtrack. The music stays true to the time period - you won't find any Aerosmith in this game. The sound effects in battle are also perfectly conducted and everything sounds as it should from the clanging of metal to your General's scream of morale boosting wisdom.

For newbies of the series, the game allows the player to assign a whole lot of the gameplay to the AI. If you don't want to manage the economy of all your cities, you can chose to have them auto-managed. Battles also have the option to be automatically resolved which can be helpful if it is a battle you don't particularly fancy playing.

The only thing that stops Rome: Total War from being perfect is a few bugs and minor peeves. Sometimes you may find soldiers in a group facing the wrong way, or clashing units merging for a second. It's nothing a patch can't fix but shouldn't be happening in the first place. While navies have taken a more dominant presence in the game, naval warfare is still automatically resolved, something that is to be changed in the next Total War game.

Despite the tiny flaws Rome: Total War is a must buy for anybody looking for a fresh look at a RTS game. Creative Assembly have created a remarkable game stuffed full of replay value and the ultimate Roman experience.

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