Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion Preview – E3 Coverage

I cannot get over how completely awesome Rome: Total War is. I have the game’s map of the Medditeranean hanging up on my wall, would kill for a suit of Roman armor, and have gotten two tatoos of flaming pigs on my…thighs. Yeah, thighs. I’m by no means a fanboy; I’ve not played any other Creative Assembly game and have almost no contact with the developers or any RTW community. I simply adore the game for its loin-tingling splendor. So when I saw the demo booth of Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion at E3, you can imagine how much I peed my pants in glee.

Roman soldiers are neat.

Barbarian Invasion is set in the twilight hours of the Roman Empire; the glorious days of Augustus have passed and barbarian tribes encroach on every frontier of the dying superpower. Your job isn’t to preserve the flame of Rome like in the original game, it is to snuff it out as one of those 18 (8 campaign playable) tribes. And those tribes operate in a completely different manner as those of the civilized world. They can pack up their entire civilization and become a horde, a huge force of troops taken from the populations of their cities. Horde units range from weak to elite units and bolster an existing barbarian army enough that it becomes a force to be reckoned with.

The nation that has to deal with these hordes for the most part is obviously Rome, but not a unified Rome. It’s been split up in the Western (Latin) Empire and the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire, two separate powers with completely different troops and attributes. The Western Empire has many of its cities in revolt and is on the brink of collapse, barely held together by its remaining armies, a merging of Roman and Barbarian troops. The Eastern Empire, on the other hand, is slightly more stable. It holds a huge number of territories and has excellent troops, such as Equites Catafractarii and Legio Lanciarii. Both Empires, however, are by no means what Rome was centuries before.

Yeah…that’s the kind of firepower you get from a horde.

While the general goal of the civilized and barbarian world is to stay alive and destroy Rome, respectively, it isn’t quite so in the game. Each faction has its own specific victory conditions; for example, a victory condiction for the Western Empire is to hold 20 territories (including a list of specific territories) and destroy the Huns, Goths, and Saxons. Most of the barbarian tribes, conversely, have to destroy Rome in addition to their required number of held territories.

It may seem as though the huge Barbarian hordes will just be able to plow through Rome, but they do have some noted disadvantages. If their entire population is packed up and armed, they have no actual civilization to hold land or produce revenue. The only method of getting money as a horde is to sack towns and the only way to get new troops is to hire mercenaries; when you don’t have any secure land of your own on top of that, the stability of your tribe is certainly a problem.

But if you do choose to settle and get some kind of stability and security for your tribe, you’ll lose all of your horde units, drastically decreasing your offensive (and in some ways, defensive) power. When you settle, your tribe basically functions as a regular faction, although you continue to have some barbarian attributes that carry through all of it. The most obvious of which are recruited Warlords, which can act as generals and governors as the number of Barbarian family doesn’t seem to be as high as the civilized factions. The ability to create such powerful characters is offset by the fact that they’ve usually got a problem with loyalty.

Next: If I could say “Next Page” in Latin, I would.