Game Name – Rome: Total War
ESRB Rating – T for Teen
Genre – City Builder
Educational Values – Strategic Thinking, Critical Thinking, History, Geography, Resource Utilization
Platforms – Mac OSX, MS Windows
Where to buy – Amazon, or Steam This is an older game and tougher to find. But worth it.
Would we buy it? – Yes. Though I would likely purchase the sequel.
About the Game
The Total War series has been well known for the in depth level of research they put into each of their games. Rome: Total War was one of the first of their games, and it sets the bar high for the others. The majority of the game is played in a turn-based strategic map. You conquer and build up cities across the Roman Empire, taking on missions from the Senate and gathering armies, navies and funds. Your eventual goal is to be made Imperator, which is simple enough; until you start to grow in fame enough that the Roman Senate declares you an enemy of Rome and declares war on you!
As with any strategy game, Rome: Total War forces the gamer to choose between short term and long term goals. You have to train and maintain your armies while also building up your cities and making your people happy. So taking those legions that you spent so much time and money on to fight your enemies in the North could leave your Western flank exposed. But leaving the northern opponents alone to build up could make them stronger than ever.
The turn-based campaign map
The bulk of the gameplay is at the strategic level; a large scale map of Italy and the surrounding provinces with major trade routes and roads shown. Armies and navies are represented by icons that can move a certain distance per player “turn”. The gamer sets the build ‘queue’ for a city and lets it construct various buildings to make it more defensible, or more attractive, or able to host more citizens. The cities build each of the buildings on their own, with the game providing oversight as to what needs to be built next.
In addition to the high level strategy involved in controlling provinces in and around Italy, the game allows you to play on the ground in a real time battle. This is where the research conducted by the developer really shines. The weapons, armor, tactics, and even battle formations of the units are spot-on accurate for the armies fighting during that time period. The game will let you, accurately, fight as the Romans against much larger hordes of Celts, Carthaginian, Germanic or Egyptian armies and win. Each enemy requires different tactics and preparation, forcing the gamer to adapt to be successful.
The Real-Time tactical map
What the Game Teaches Us
The Total War series is renowned for their attention to detail. Rome was one of the first of the series and it set a high standard. The maps of Europe and Asia are spot on to the period. The names of the great houses of Rome, the politics, and even the weapons and the armor that the individual soldiers wear are accurate. The in game encyclopedia allows a gamer to conduct research on ancient Rome even as they try to conquer Italy. Or the history of the region can be picked up almost through osmosis as an individual plots and plans and schemes and fights. The game also has the gamer choose between long term defense of a region or city, and the constant need to conquer additional lands to grow their empire.
One can also play the multiplayer modes and try to conquer Rome with a friend. That is, if they do not turn on you and become the Imperator themselves. Throwing in the X Factor of a human being adds complexity and uncertainty to any game, and especially to a Total War game as there is no real “Co-operative mode” where everyone works toward the same goal.
General Feelings on the Game
Any gamer who enjoys a strategy game will appreciate this game. Any gamer with the barest interest in Roman history will love this game. It is fun and engaging and teaches every gamer, from the most casual to the more hardcore, about Roman history and life. Whether they play through the Campaign once or twice, or they dig into the encyclopedia for every facet of Roman life, a gamer will end up with a more well rounded grasp of history and geography. And that is an exciting thing to say about a video game.