Rome: Total War review

  • Unmatched battle size and scope
  • Wide range of factions and units
  • Excellent balance of gameplay
  • Sometimes silly enemy AI
  • Plenty of glitches
  • Big battles will tax your hardware

Bear witness to the spectacle of 10,000 troops defending their homeland to the death, tearing into invaders' ranks. Giant catapults launch flaming buckets of death into panicked troops and war elephants stampede into columns of routing infantry, angrily tossing them aside and brutally crushing the unlucky underfoot. This is your fight to win or lose. This is Rome: Total War.

Rome: Total War masterfully blends two complete games: a turn-based strategy game steeped in history and a real-time strategy centerpiece that is more tactical battlefield simulator than game. The turn-based half enables you to manage everything in the strategic theater (like the board game  Risk on steroids), but the battlefield is where the action happens.

Dedicated wargamers will delight in the attention to detail; Rome doesn’t disappoint in fanatical attention to historical accuracy. You'll command a vast array of troop types: spear-armed skirmishers, ranks of longbowmen, hardened legionaries, heavy cavalry and scythed chariots, just to name a few. These painstakingly accurate units achieve a tactical depth that is unprecedented in RTS gaming. Each unit has distinct advantages and disadvantages that reflect closely on their actual abilities on the ancient battlefield. However, a shrewd general knows weather, terrain and morale have more affect on victory than just troop numbers and strength. But fear not: excellent tutorials and easy to understand controls will help you master the art of ancient warfare, and lead you on your way to becoming the Imperator of the Roman Empire.

Everything that happens on the campaign strategy map has ramifications on the battle map and vice versa.  For example, if you ambush Hannibal crossing the Alps, your legions will be forced to fight in snowy, mountainous terrain, and likely suffer for it. Likewise, if you lay siege to a city, burning the buildings during battle, you'll need to rebuild those charred remains afterwards.

The subtle genius of Rome is the excellent balance between grand strategy and front line tactics. Don’t care for diplomacy, taxation or construction? Simply let the competent AI handle that for you in select cities; or have it run your entire empire automatically. On the other hand, if you find yourself getting bogged down in the combat zone, you can auto-resolve conflicts there, too, but at greater risk of losing by not being directly involved.

This flexibility lets you focus your attention on what you find the most fun in the game, and makes Rome very accessible for gamers who are new to the genre. For people who loved Gladiator, fans of top-shelf strategy games and history aficionados of any stripe - all roads lead to Rome.

More Info

Release date: Sep 22 2004 - PC (US)
Oct 01 2004 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Creative Assembly
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Violence


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