A dive into Roman warfare nostalgia, for all its glory and flaws, for anyone who played the original.
Total War: Rome Remastered is a unique combination of turn-based strategy and real-time strategy (RTS) created by Feral Interactive in late April 2021.
The word Remastered obviously indicates that this is an enhanced version of an original game; that is, Rome: Total War which was released way back in 2004. The original received great acclaim and was even considered one of the greatest games at that time.
I played Rome: Total War back in secondary school, probably about 12-14 years ago, and it was a big surprise when I heard a remastered version of this game was going to be released earlier this year.
I really enjoyed RTS games during my early years of gaming, and I was excited to see how quality of life changes and modern graphics could take the old Rome game to greater heights.
This game is purchasable on Steam and comes with the two expansion packs: Barbarian Invasion and Alexander. As I have never played those expansions before, my review is focused entirely on the campaign of the main game.
Rome Remastered imperial campaign starts in 270 BC, and you can play the campaign all the way till 14 AD. This game is rich in ancient history, although video games in general tend to not be historically accurate and should not be treated as history lessons.
There are 19 factions you can play in the imperial campaign. This includes three Roman families (House of Julii, Brutii and Scipii), barbarian tribes like Britannia and Germania and factions that emerged from the empire of Alexander the Great after his death like Macedon, Egypt and Seleucid Empire.
There is a large variety of army units amongst the factions, and the armies of each faction have differing strengths and weaknesses.
The win condition of the campaign is to be the ultimate ruler of Rome by taking down SPQR (yes, that means inciting civil war as a Roman family), along with controlling 50 settlements. But this is a huge time investment which can take 50-100 hours. That explains why the time frame of the campaign is that long.
Luckily, there is the option of the short campaign; which is to destroy or outlast 1-2 factions and control 15 settlements. I only play the short campaigns as I want to try out a variety of factions, and not get bored playing the same faction for too long.
As mentioned earlier, there are two main parts to the gameplay in Rome Remastered: turn-based (Campaign map) and real-time (Battle mode).
The campaign map is the most unique aspect of Rome Remastered, and the reason why it stands out amongst other strategy games.
It is here where you build armies, move units, assault settlements, manage your own settlements, spy on others and conduct diplomatic negotiations.
Everything can be done on the campaign map. In fact, you can choose to never play in battle mode as all battles like assaults on settlements can be auto-resolved.
The campaign map is turn-based as you perform all your actions in one turn. Hitting the end turn button will advance the date by 6 months, and then you can continue doing more actions.
Apart from expanding your faction, the other key focus of the campaign map is managing your economy. Hiring and maintaining troops and constructing buildings all require money. And to get more money, you need to conquer settlements, raise tax rates in each settlement and set up trade with other factions.
At the same time, you need to keep your settlements happy. If taxes are kept too high or there aren’t enough buildings that boost public happiness, the civilians might revolt and kick you out of the settlement.
There are also non-military units in the campaign map. Diplomats are the most influential unit, and are quite fun to tinker with in my opinion. They can offer trade rights, request alliances or ceasefire, extract money in exchange for a favour and even bribe others to give up their settlement.
The campaign map is realistic in the sense that if you send your army into a foreign region to scout, other factions will get suspicious of your soldiers lingering around in their area. This could incite war with a neutral faction if you aren’t careful.
And that’s where the non-military units can come in. They can scout out the movements of the other factions while innocently doing their jobs. This is especially important if someone is sending an army into your area. Spies provide exact details of the make-up of an army or the units stationed in a settlement.
There’s a lot you can do on the campaign map, and that’s the main aspect of the game that I enjoy. I like the strategy that comes with growing your faction, moving or positioning your units and forming relationships to put myself in the best position to achieve my objectives.
Battle mode is where the fighting happens. You either fight on a field, assault a settlement or defend your settlement.
When assaulting a settlement, the goal is to capture the central plaza. Otherwise, you can also win by killing everyone or causing the entire army to rout. Moral plays an important role in battles. If you kill the enemy general or exhaust their troops, there is a higher chance the enemy units will give up and rout.
Total War games are known for their large battles involving thousands of soldiers clashing with each other, which make for epic screenshots. The battle mode should, in theory, be the main selling point of Rome Remastered.
Unfortunately, this is where most of the flaws and complaints about the game come from. These issues existed back in the original Rome game and, disappointingly, are not sufficiently patched in the remaster.
Rome Remastered is notorious for two things. Firstly, for its brain-dead AI. The AI actually stands in formation and lets your ranged units pepper them with missiles. They also seem to lack strategy in battle with the exception of flanking your vulnerable units with cavalry. Thus, the enemy may do incredibly stupid things like charging their cavalry into spearmen standing in phalanx formation from the front.
The other infamous aspect is the awful pathfinding of your units. You control units, not individual soldiers, on the battlefield. One unit is an entire group of soldiers of the same type, which can comprise of more than 200 soldiers. It is understandable if it takes more time to move a large group of soldiers from point to point.
What’s unacceptable is how the soldiers move from point to point. Your unit may not move as a cohesive group as some individuals would break off and choose different, sometimes highly questionable, paths to get to the destination. Some individuals even continue to walk around after the unit has reached their destination.
This is especially evident when moving your units through the streets of a settlement. It becomes infuriating when some of your soldiers get killed because of this.
The only thing I can suggest is to consciously plan ahead on how you want to move your troops when inside the settlement. Make sure your units are already in position before issuing an attack command to avoid the messy scene of soldiers running all over the place.
Overall, I don’t have regrets purchasing Rome Remastered despite my negative opinion of the battle mode.
While I’m not an ancient history enthusiast, I do like fighting wars with olden weaponry and tactics. I would recommend this game if you like the idea of managing and growing an empire.