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We head for Rome to show the likes of Julius Caesar and Hannibal (not the Cannibal) how to build an Empire…
All you Gladiator fans and general megalomaniacs rejoice! Creative Assembly are back again with another addition to the history hopping strategy franchise. After taking on the Shoguns in Japan, and Knights in Medieval Europe, Total War goes further back in time to pre-date the birth of the mighty Roman Empire to face the City States and forge an Empire as grand and far-reaching as to be talked about in History lessons for centuries to come. This title has to be one of the most anticipated strategy games of the last few years; Medieval fans have been waiting for the next title ever since they managed to get some rest from playing over several hundred battles in the 14th centuryâ?¦
If youâ??ve played any of the previous titles, then youâ??ll know that this wonâ??t be the sort of game that you can just launch and expect to take on the known world. This is a game where strategy and skill, not to mention the military mind of a 3-star General, comes in very handy indeed.
Thankfully, rather than leaving you to take on the might of the Gauls, Greeks and the Senate alone, Creative Assembly have inserted a very comprehensive tutorial section into the game, which takes you through most of the key features and control systems that youâ??ll face during the course of your conquest. Players are introduced to a variety of people who talk you through everything from general unit movement, to attack strategies, and much more; and it is during the tutorial section that youâ??ll first experience the joys of Empire building.
Away from the obvious battle sequences throughout the game, most of the â??actionâ?? takes place on a map of the known world. At the beginning of the game though, you are limited to what is present-day Italy. In the game, youâ??ll see the country carved up by various City States and other factions, together with some enemy territories. The map also contains the main routes between the cities, ambassadors from other factions, and ships that can carry your men to the next coastal town to be laid-siege to, or ruined. One thing to remember though is that you still have the Senate at Rome to answer to, and whilst you do not have to listen and obey everything that Rome tells you, it is worth pointing out that taking control of the Senate is a key objective in the mid to long term life of the game. Disobeying the Senate wonâ??t mean that outright war will be declared against your faction, but it will lesser your overall standing and position of power within the institution, and your rewards will be few and far between.
As you continue to delve deeper and deeper into the game, you get to spread over the whole of Europe and North Africa and face the barbarian hordes of Carthage and the Celtic tribes of Britain. When you defeat them, the option to play as the leader of their armies is unlocked. Will the Iceni led by a present-day Boudicca defeat the might of Rome, and free Britannia?
Before facing off to an enemy settlement, players will have the choice to either lay-siege to it, or storm it and try to overwhelm the defending forces. Each settlement has a store of grain and other provisions, which means that you could find yourself waiting for several years in the game for the defenders to surrender. Some may not last long, but itâ??s always worth evaluating whether itâ??s a good idea to storm settlements if you may experience large numbers of casualties in your ranks. As well as having that option, the game map also allows you to receive new missions and objectives from the Senate.
Now, letâ??s look at the battles themselves.
These days, it would be rare to find a person who hasnâ??t seen either Braveheart or Lord of the Rings, and the large scale epic battles that take place in each. Typically, the environments that these battles take place in during those movies are rolling hills and valleys, with paler-than-usual grassland separating both sides as they prepare to slaughter each other in with arrows, spears and swords â?“ and Rome: Total War is no different.
Since we are a cultured lot here in TVG Towers, it would make sense to assume that at least one of us had been to Italy during our not-so-long lifetimes. And at the last moment, as this review is being written, it transpires that there are some amongst us who have been. Ok then, all have been, except for me, but at least I have been assured that the pale grass and rolling hills of rural Italia have been faithfully replicated.
Rome: Total War has continued to build on the success that was Medieval: Total War, and the key revolutionary feature of the new game has to be the true 3D units under your (and your enemyâ??s) command. Unlike the â??rotatingâ?? sprites of the previous game, Rome enables you to rotate around your units to change their formations and their positions. Whilst this doesnâ??t sound like the most exciting change in the world, weâ??re sure that this development will have fans of Total War (of which there are many ardent and passionate followers), drooling with sheer anticipation. The battlecries of the soldiers further reinforce a realistic sense of ancient upheaval, and inject a certain empathy and sense of duty to your loyal armies as they follow your commands down to the last letter.
To begin with, most of the battles fought take place around the sites of enemy settlements as you try to expand your land boundaries. The first task of the battle is to place your army units at the key positions so they can strike and vanquish your enemies as swiftly and as effectively as possible. Roman units can consist of everything from cavalry and catapults, to archers and spearmen. Itâ??s worth taking a good look around the soon-to-be-battlefield, and try to discover strategically strong positions, and Rome: TW certainly allows you to do just that. Players have the ability to look around the land at virtually any angle, which comes in handy when trying to storm a more fortified settlement with multiple entrances and exits. During the initial tutorial, you are given various hints and tips as to how to set up a battle correctly so you donâ??t lose too many units. Units perform differently depending on their location, so that they will reorganise their formations when their traverse a narrow bridge, or disperse as they run into a small band of enemy units.
Players also have the choice of breaking the formation apart, so that it makes it more difficult for enemy missiles to hit your men. During battles, youâ??re able to move around your various units, although making mistakes such as placing units in incorrect places around the battlefield will have disastrous results for you. For instance, not having spearmen defend your archers may mean that the enemy will try and cut the archers off from the rest of your command, which will mean that missile attacks become out of the question.You are sure to lose many units at the beginning of your conquest, but rest assured that with time and concentration, victory can be gained!
One of the most exciting elements in the game is the ability to follow units as they charge towards either death or glory. The camera follows just behind and above the formation, and the move is made all the more exciting when you press the â??Runâ? action, and they literally race towards their targets. When you launch a set of arrows at a group of enemies, the camera can also be made to follow them as they arc into the sky and head into the crowd. It truly engages the player, and achieves the feeling of playing a very heavy role in a battle without having to manically hit the â??Actionâ? button. Itâ??s a similar, yet not exact, feeling as playing Full Spectrum Warrior, when you play a third party role and not the part of a soldier. Both titles perfectly convey the feeing of commanding an army or a small team of soldiers.
Viewing and evaluating the battlefield is easily done through the use of the good old mouse, with players able to zoom and rotate quickly and it wonâ??t take long to be a proficient observer of the battles as they pan out. It will, however, take some time to fully comprehend and master the whole strategic side of the game, and weâ??re sure that players will have to restart their campaigns more than once before they get to gain control of the Senate and command an Empire.
After a battle, players can choose what future the people of the newly claimed settlement will have, the option to enslave or even exterminate is available to you, and the decision that is taken will affect the future of your command. Your land boundary is expanded to include the new settlement, and then the conquering can continue. As the game develops, players will be able to completely reinforce their armies and settlements, and even Siege Towers will become available to use in the epic battles â?“ perfect for storming Rome, perhaps?
If you havenâ??t played any of the Total War series before, then be warned â?“ this is not a game that you can just pick up and play. The tutorial will take about an hour to complete, and the whole game follows the events over a quarter of a millennium, with six months passing after every turn is made, so you can play up to 500 rounds in a single campaign â?“ huge by anyoneâ??s reckoning.
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