mandag 23. mars 2009

On Rome: Total War.

Historical strategy games really does something for me.. It started with Age of Empires that somehow ended up being more fun than Starcraft, Warcraft, Command & Conquer and so on, and the Total War series continued that after AoE started to get somewhat stale. Shogun (the first one, was out in 2000 I think) I still dabble with, and Rome, which is what now, 4,5 years or so, I still haven't actually finished.. And seemingly will not finish either.

The game, being a mix of map strategy (like Civ) where you civilize, manage and develop the lands and recruit armies to conquer and an RTS game similiar to starcraft, warcraft and dawn of war and suchlike only without building and more unitfocused views than the others (not to mention morale), ends up doing both parts really well. They both have depth and entertainment value enough to be two good games on their own. Having to think about keeping the people happy, their health, population growth and expanding cities while getting the proper technology for your armies while juggling cash, is pretty easy and quick at first, but in a campaign where you end up having controlling vast amounts of provinces it turns into a pretty bogged down affair.. And the AI seems somewhat of an idiot when it comes to management too. The same holds true for the battles bit of the game; I don't really know if any game has really done battles in the wilds so good, ever. Dawn of War must be the only thing that comes close to the rush of tactics and immersion of the battles. But it ends up having the same problems as the campaign in that what the game seems to focus on - take enemy cities to control their regions, is somewhat annoying; most siege battles just isn't fun. There is camera control, units seems to go drunk and move about where you didnt ask them to move and so on. And later on in the game when all your opponents have big cities, it ends up just being a chore. One can always let the AI do the battles for you (but then you'll have to put in a pretty vast army to take even the simplest fortress) or siege them until they run out of food (the big cities last forever, so they could just keep sending other armies to whittle away your army), which ends up being somewhat of an anticlimax. It adds something about storytelling (on top of the setting being historical with bits and pieces of history on every unit and building description and so on) with your faction being made up of family members that are the kings/emperors/whatever; if they all die your faction is wiped out, on top of you being able to lose by losing all your provinces. And they get traits that affects how they manage cities, armies and so on, so you have to do some light employee management too, which makes it more fun to play the campaign too, as several of your characters will most likely end up as small legends to you that makes you remember it with fondness after. (Like having a drunken mad unhealthy useless guy leading the rabble of your armies deep into gaul only to win several heroic battles and end up having the best record of your armies for 200 years)

It still looks great, and like most strategy games to keep the age question away, has no blood and such, so while the theme isn't innocent, it does look innocent. The music is just fantastic, and so appropiate to the setting it appears, it feels like a movie. After my last attempt to finish the campaign, I find myself humming some of the tunes at certain times, during workout or when walking for a long time and stuff like that. Almost disturbing.. The camera controls are absolutely horrible at times however, which takes away some of the joy of the scope of the battles at times.

When the campaign mode gets stale, one can always play single battles, here even just fighting the comp is fun. I haven't actually played against other people yet due to gamespy being so annoying; but it sure looks fun from the vids I have seen.

All in all, it still keeps me returning time and time again; I doubt there has ever been or will ever be a game I have gotten so much fun out of the amount of cash I spent on it, but the faults of it still annoys the crap out of me, preventing it from being an insanely good one.

Rated: 8/10

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