Rome: Total War

a game by Activision
Platform: PC
Rating: 8/10

I've always been a huge fan of strategy games both turn based and RTS but somehow I missed the boat on the Total War series until now. Rome: Total War is without a doubt one of the best strategy games I've played. Activision has successfully combined full RTS and turn based genres in one game while maintaining the balance between them, putting any serious strategy fan to the test.

If you're new to the series like I am, it may take some time to get accustomed to the different aspects of the game. There is a decent tutorial that can be played that walks you through both the battle (RTS) system and the map (turn based) system. The tutorial is more then adequate to get you ready for the first campaign but there is a lot to get your arms around.

Once you get started, the map system is where you'll begin. The map system is where the cities are managed, armies are created and moved, and the politics of the game take place. This really could have been a good foundation for a game in itself as there are numerous aspects that would keep fans of turn based genre games engaged for some time. Besides the expected elements, other concepts enhance the strategy possibilities. The position armies are in for instance effects how the battle is fought, as ambushes are possible and even the strategic placement of the army should be considered before engaging. In addition, armies can be combined, a city can be put under siege, you'll watch your family grow to become generals or governors and even be killed, and many other options that all create a dynamic experience. You can even let the computer run the battles and give you the outcomes, but I doubt that option is used much.

If you do engage the battles, you're in for quite a treat. In addition to the graphics being extremely impressive detail-wise and the sound effects immersing you into the battlefield, the units are something to behold as well. Watching the cavalry charge into an infantry with the sounds of the hooves pounding the ground for instance just doesn't get old as infantry are basically trampled and thrown when the horses come barreling through. However, if you try that same maneuver on pikemen, the results are slightly different. There are numerous different types of units available from archers to siege equipment and each has special attacks that can be employed. Those units can also be grouped together and set to different formations, as the battle requires. You'll find they can get winded, discouraged, and even try to break ranks if the battle starts to go south. A good general (you) can refocus his troops in addition to making numerous battlefield decisions as victory can come from many different paths.

Rome: Total War creates an experience that can be played again and again and even offers a solid multiplayer option online. It is an in-depth game however, so if you expect to sit down and start playing you may be frustrated. For those who are into strategy games or anybody who is patient enough to learn the system however, Rome: Total War will probably stay on your PC for some time.

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