Rome: Total War Preview

In the early morning hours, cool fog envelops a rolling green plain on the Isle of Great Britain, settling over the steel walls of two thousand Roman legionnaires. Droplets and mist slightly obscure the insignia on their scutums, yet the steeled expressions on their faces remain strongly visible. Nine hundred British soldiers emerge from the fog, charging at their heavily-armored opposition. Sword clashes against sword, man against man; suddenly, another mass emerges from the fog, the Roman cavalry. With legionnaires to their front and cavalry to their rear, the British break formation and rout. The cavalry tramples and slices their retreating enemies as their infantry counterparts push forward to hasten said retreat. Scenes such as these pop in people’s minds when they think of the Roman Empire, and such scenes can be recreated by Activision and The Creative Assembly’s latest installment in the Total War series: Rome: Total War.

A number of representatives from press organizations all around the world – including me – were invited to a press event at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to check out the game and ask a number of questions to the developers of the game. Needless to say, the trip to the pretty lights capital of the nation also included some…not so work-related activities, but all you’ll be hearing about in this article is the equally pretty Rome: Total War. (Ok ok ok, pretty might not be the best adjective, but hey, it works.)

Of course, as in all Total War games you will not just be seeing battle scenes as the one I described earlier; you’ll be managing the affairs of an entire Empire (well, technically a Republic, but I’m going to use both terms in an attempt to completely confuse you) as the member of a house of Nobility such as the Brutii or the Julii from around 270 BC to 0BC. 270 BC might seem like an arbitrary date to some, but it was chosen because that’s around the time that the Roman republic had unified Italy, was expanding and really doing some “foreign relations” with its neighbors. These foreign relations involved dinner parties and gift baskets, of course. Diplomacy in Rome is dynamic, allowing for a full range of interactions between different factions. Along with the diplomacy basics, extortion is possible, as well as forcing an enemy to become a vassal state.

Building your Empire

One of the major aspects of the game are indeed the battles, but on the other side of the spectrum is the building of cities and management of economy. Although I never actually saw the management of cities, I am told you can do quite a bit with it; from building a new temple to Bacchus to setting up a troop training center, city management can be a fairly in-depth game in itself. Building that aforementioned temple – as with any temple to a god – will grant your city certain benefits. Bacchus’ temple will raise the population’s happiness level, basically keeping them from rioting while you tax the hell out of them. If you don’t have Bacchus’ temple, you must even deal with maintaining the happiness of your populous in another way. Each faction has a different way of doing this; the Romans have their games and the Egyptians have their secret police, to name a couple.

Building certain buildings will also gear your city towards a certain job. Crops can be heavily grown, tax money can come flowing from the city, troop centers can produce large numbers of soldiers, pretty much any need of that region of the empire can be met by the specialization of your cities.

Next: Conquering your Empire