Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion Review

By Adder

We recommend reading our Rome: Total War Review, or playing Rome: Total War prior to reading this review.

The expansion to one of 2004’s best games, Rome: Total War, has invaded hours upon hours of my time, and unfortunately (for my life) I’m still fighting away the Barbarians. The highly anticipated Barbarian Invasion will be met with a good deal of happiness from many, but others will go away a little disappointed.

A… ship?

The fundamental gameplay from Rome: Total War has changed a bit, but overall Barbarian Invasion feels a lot like Rome: Total War did. While the game’s changes are certainly significant to gameplay some of them feel like they’ve been done before, and indeed some of them have have.

One of the game’s largest changes is the implementation of religion. The religions are divided into Christianity, Zoroastrianism (which according to the game you can convert people to), and Paganism. Basically the religions impact public order among settlements; depending on factors such as the population’s faith, their governors faith, and the faith of surrounding provinces they’ll be good little citizens, or hell raisers trying to make your civilization fall about at every turn. The system’s implemented quite well, and it’s fun to play with (indeed it feels a bit like a better version of Medieval: Total War’s religion system). There are a couple of things I found fault with, however. The most prominent fault is the fact that Paganism ranges from Mithraism to the Gods of the Huns; if you capture a Roman settlement that just happens to have a temple to Mithras in it, you’ll encounter no problems as both religion’s are found under the “Pagan” header. This is overall a pretty minor annoyance, but it strikes me as something that could have been done a bit better, obviously it was done for simplification purposes, but it would have been a lot more fun if the system had been divided more. Something along the lines of Arabic Paganism, Eastern Paganism, and various other forums of “Paganism” would have been nice.

Who said white guys can’t jump?

Another large change is the addition of the horde feature. Civilizations like the Huns, and Vandals start in a horde (a group of units not attached to a settlement), and are free to move about the map. Additionally most of the barbarian factions can take their final settlement, and turn it into a horde, free to move about the map. The system’s fun to play with, but it is a little unbalanced. You can take the Huns all the way from Asia to Spain, capture a city, and settle there (after you decide to settle the units created by “hoarding” disappear). The rampaging horde civilizations are also near impossible to deal with if you’re playing a civilization in its path. The sheer amounts of units give you no chance to fight back, so you’re forced to pack up and head out yourself, which, while fun, is a pain in the arse if you’re in the middle of setting up a nice little empire.

Along with religion and hordes Creative Assembly also felt it was fitting to add the ability to battle at night; it’s implemented quite well, although the game generally felt a little more sluggish when playing at night. Only generals with the night fighting skill can fight at night, so the skill can really be a life saver if you only want to fight one of the large army stacks sitting next to your settlement. The enemy also loses some morale if their general doesn’t have the night fighting attribute making the generals that do acquire the attribute fairly valuable.

Run awwwaaaay!

In addition to these changes the campaign map was slightly altered (one or two cities have been removed, and some new resources have been placed). Obviously the factions have undergone a face lift, and there are now two Roman factions, a bunch of Germanic barbarians, some nomadic hordes, and a couple of eastern factions. Oddly Creative chose to not make some factions playable that easily could have been, but they’re easily modded into playability. The factions are all pretty cool, but I felt some of the barbarian factions melded together a bit.

The only place where Barbarian Invasion truly fails, is in its polish. The little things that made Rome great are nearly all gone. The pre-campaign videos, gone, the detailed battle speeches, toned down (and occasionally you here things like a Goth commander mentioning that the Greeks will go down in history), some small untoned graphics (a Britannia flag on a chariot for example). These little things made Rome great, and I feel they detract from Barbarian Invasion’s overall value.

And they rode off into the sunset….

Overall, however Barbarian Invasion is a good addition to Rome: Total War, its new features and factions make the game enjoyable, and add quite a bit of playing time onto an already great equation. Should you buy it? If it cost any more than it did, I’d say no, but at its current price it’s totally worth it. You may say that some of the game modders will end up with a better product modifying Rome, and that’s potentially true, but they won’t be able to add religion, night battles, the horde feature, or some of the smaller things Creative’s done to improve Rome, all things that’ll give game modifiers more material to work with. Creative has expanded on an already fantastic game, and while some things aren’t as great as they could be, it’s a worthwhile addition to anybody’s game collection.

Overall: 8.2/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Tilt: 9/10