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Rome: Total War

a brief review of the game and its sequel, "Barbarian Invasion"

by Jeff Herbert

I have never been a computer wargamer but have on occasion played the odd computer game, which I have enjoyed these can almost be numbered on the fingers of one hand.

These games are in order of their computing appearance: Zork, Uukrul, Castles II, Space Hulk, Dawn Patrol, Diablo II and Rome Total War.  Zork, which I never finished, was a puzzle based text game, which made you use your imagination.  I was particularly good at this because I didnít even have a computer but used an experimental thing we had in work.  Uukrul took me almost a year to complete, without cheating. Uukrul was a puzzle based dungeon game and although simple by todayís standards is still fun to play and can be downloaded from the web.

I then moved on to Castles II, which lasted me a couple of months but was a strategic and tactical game.  It also allowed you to game with little figures.  Space Hulk was quite nerve racking and certainly challenging to play.  Dawn Patrol was a clever little game of WW I combat and I use to unwind before dinner by shooting down a few of the Hun.  Both the latter two games I played on and off on my old 386 until I gave it away and upgraded. With Diablo II I actually made it down to the bottom level and after slaying his minions confronted Diablo.  I kept it up until I got fed up with Diablo doing me in, I tried again with the female archer but got fed up and quit.  I then had a long break . . .

Rome Total War is my type of game, strategic map movement and tactical battles.  I played first as Julii, which is difficult, then Brutii and Scippii which are easier.  The Carthaginians took a couple of false starts to master and the Seleucids were tough at first but proved a good army with their cataphracts. The Germans were the hardest to play.  Firstly if you intend to play, donít cheat as this will spoil it, the game is money based and with it you can build up your cities and infrastructure, your armies and bribe your enemies.  There is a cheat available to boost your money, do not do it because it will destroy the balance of the game.  The hard nations to play are those that grow slowly, they never have enough money.  The best way to get money is to loot cities, even your own.  It doesnít matter where you start, if you can get into Greece , you have it made.  You may have to do some defending but the rich cities, which grow well, are worth it.  I was almost wiped out as the Germans but I packed my bags and got to Greece with a small army and about 40,000 in debt.  Equally any of the Romans are best to try this although Sicily is also good and doesnít get reinvaded.  Diplomats are good at the start, go around selling map information to who ever you can, after a while the opposition run out of money and you can dispense with them.  

Assassins are also good but train them up before setting them against a faction leader or a faction heir.  The game is a good one and more accurate if you play a Roman Faction.  The three main Roman Factions also get missions from the Senate that add to the colour and pressure.  Faults with the game, some of the other nations can get un-historically achievable results, some have some silly troop types and the Egyptians are out of sync and far too archaic in troop type.  Nasty so and soís to fight though as they just keep going.  The trick to beating them is to seize Egypt , which is always lightly garrisoned.  Bribing whole armies to stand down is also a bit silly.  Overall though a fun game, and I was almost packing it in when along came the add-on, Barbarian invasion.  This uses the same map with some changes.  I first played as the Roman Empire of the West and watched as my Empire fell apart.  My second attempt was much better and I was in the final stages of re-conquering the whole Med coastal area when the computer told me I had failed.  It was AD 476, which is the year you must meet your objectives by.  A felt a bit cheated as I could have won if I had known the date was an issue.  Western Rome is hard and highly recommended.  I then started playing the vandals which, start without homelands.  The Vandals have proved pretty simple, my tactic get into Rome and Italy then expand out.  This game is perhaps a little tighter than the last.  I have not found any major glitches.  Bribing is not as easy, which is good, but barbarians can destroy cities and really go for you.  Again, a good game with many hours of play. 

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