Okay, right out of the gate, I will confess that I know pretty much nothing about the Total War franchise and / or their spin-offs, except that there are a lot, and boy, are there A LOT of games under this name. Just look at that launcher, is that even all of them?
Anyway, that aside, this review is for Total War: Rome Remastered, released 29 April 2021 as the, well, remastered version of the original 2004 release. It comes packaged with the Barbarian and Alexander DLCs, for the benefit of newer players. For completion’s sake, here’s the overview of the remastered version on its Steam store page:
ROME REMASTERED brings the classic Rome visuals up to date, with 4K optimization**, ultra-widescreen and native UHD resolution** support. This visual upgrade extends across a multitude of features, including re-modelled buildings and objects, and environmental effects like dust clouds and heat haze. The refreshed campaign maps also boast new high-resolution models, and units have been remodelled and retextured to look their very best on the battlefield.
ROME REMASTERED includes a host of modern features and improvements to existing mechanics. The in-game camera has been enhanced, including map rotation and wider zoom level in Campaign mode. Heat maps and new icon overlays have been added for gameplay mechanics such as diplomacy and security. In Battle, the new tactical map, unit displays and range markers give you greater command over Rome’s battlefields.
Enhanced Game Mechanics
Players can now expand their armies and experience 16 additional factions that were previously locked, giving a grand total of 38 playable factions. In a first for Total War, you can now take your favourite faction to battle against friends in cross-platform multiplayer between Windows, macOS and Linux. A whole new agent type has also been added to the fray; Merchants can be sent all over the world to create trade links, access resources and buy out rivals to increase your income and assert your faction’s economic power.
They even released a trailer to compare the changes between the original and the remastered edition:
Prior to this, Total War: Rome is also available on mobile devices. This might become somewhat relevant.
Before you jump into the game proper, there are some options you can fiddle with; where you can access the RomeShell console, your installed mods and which game you want to play (base game, Barbarian Invasion, Alexander). The resolution and display mode can also be tinkered with, and something I especially appreciate, the ability to choose which monitor the game will display on. I do know how to switch windows – that’s Windows key + Shift + Left / Right Arrow, for those who aren’t aware – but that tip doesn’t work for a number of games, so thanks a bunch for having it in.
Options wise, there isn’t that much you can tune. You can:
- Limit frame rate
- Resize the UI
- Rebind keys (or choose from modern or classic keysets)
- Choose between the remastered or classic camera
The 4K option is available through the free, downloadable Enhanced Graphics Pack. My modest home PC can’t run that, but the option is there for the rest of you.
As you might expect, it don’t look like the PS1 era anymore. I feel like the voice acting, especially for the in-game assistant, feels just a little off, which could just be me. Other characters, like your generals, are voiced, which might not be something newer players are likely to hear. Well, the voice acting isn’t the most important part for a game like this anyway, so I won’t be trying to nitpick here.
So, about the game being out for mobile? Here’s how the Google Play store page has it:
And this is how it looks like in the Remastered version:
I’ve read comments about how it looks closer to the mobile version than the original UI, and I can see where they’re coming from. One of my gripes about the game is that there’s a lot of information that gets hidden in menus that require many clicks to get to. There are in-game “wikis” you can read up on, but in a strategy game, I feel that the information should be more readily accessible.
Alerts will be in the top left of your screen, sorted accordingly in tabs with numbers indicating how many unread you have. Thanks to the wiki entries, you can get easily overwhelmed by walls of text, and I feel that the menus are a tad on the cluttered side. What a dilemma, in needing to display enough information easily and at once, while not clogging any particular screen. It’s a fine line to balance, and I’m not a UI designer who can point out the changes they can make.
There are animations for units, and the ones on the overworld can be sped up. To me, they’re on the slower side even with speeding up, though your mileage will vary.
So, yes, hello, welcome to a Total War game. Some of your tasks include:
- Managing your territories
- Sending out diplomats to negotiate terms with neighbouring powers, or spy on them
- Forming an army around a general to conquer lands
- Pleasing the Senate as you pull the strings to make Rome great again
The Senate missions are timed, in that you will need to fulfill them within a given number of turns. These are not mandatory missions, though if you do the tasks, the old fogeys will be happy with you and can organize stuff like festivals or games in honour of you. As someone whose only experience in 4X strategy games is a little franchise called Civilization, Total War has far too many moving parts for me to properly enjoy, as I dislike the finer points of management.
In towns, you’ll be able to queue up the facilities necessary, from defenses to temples to training grounds to economic areas or simply basic amenities like roads. Should you use your army to conquer settlements, you’ll want to keep them obedient or happy because they can – and will, if you let them – revolt. A standing army is also important besides your defenses so that your enemies won’t take your territories from under you. Money doesn’t grow on trees, so the people will need to be taxed as well, and they won’t be happy if it’s a higher rate than they like. It’s a learning curve for me, yahoo. There’s a certain level of automation, which is nice, but isn’t how the game should be played. It’s best for you to study so that you can actually enjoy how to manage and strategize your resources.
A Spy can scout out a territory you’d like to claim before you send in your armies to help you plan your siege options, as well as learn about their defenses and what their army is made of. Typically you’d be taking some turns to build your siege weaponry, but your Spy can let you in should they be in the town, for that bit of efficiency. If you’d rather not want to take up arms yet, send in a Diplomat instead to negotiate the various terms as you wish.
For the warmongers, you can control your army directly, setting up their formations prior to battle. You can choose to “wait” before beginning a battle, which will be relevant when you’re looking for a specific weather condition. Naturally, the units you bring along will have their various strengths and weaknesses, and your general will give rallying cries every now and again, like an inspiring speech before you charge in which is a nice touch. The problem with controlling your army is that the AI in this game is dumb as rocks, which apparently has not been changed from the original game. If you enjoy seeing your units swarm Terracotta warriors – as in the actual stone statues – then sure. I prefer to skip the battles not just from the dumb AI, but because it needs at least two loading screens to complete the battle. No thanks.
As a remastered version, it won’t be bringing anything new to veteran players, though you can now recommend it to newer players interested in the franchise if you want to. If you enjoyed the original, then feel free to pick it up. If this game hasn’t been recommended to you, you’re likely better off playing something newer.
Total War: Rome Remastered
Welcome back. Can't say it's aged especially well, though.
- Graphics update!
- AI dumb as rocks
- Information feels both too hidden away and cluttered
As old as a typical rebellious teen.