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Total War: ROME REMASTERED on Steam

Rating: 8/10

Synopsis

ROME REMASTERED includes the Alexander and Barbarian Invasion DLCs, as well as a copy of the original ROME: Total War Collection* if you don’t already own it.  

Improved Visuals
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.

Modern Features
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.

Half-Price Offer
To celebrate the return of Rome, we have an offer for those loyal fans that already own the original game on Steam. If you already own ROME: Total War, you can purchase ROME REMASTERED for half-price until May 31st, 16:00 PDT.

*Please note, ROME: Total War Collection is only playable on Windows and will not be available to play until the release of ROME REMASTERED.

**4K enhancements unlocked by downloading Enhanced Graphics Pack

Review

Introduction

Rome Total War Remastered is a high definition upgrade of the classic Rome Total War title that launched in 2004. Regarded as a classic by many fans, Rome Total War established Total War as a franchise. Its battle engine was so good that it was used in historical documentaries and the hit BBC TV show: Time Commanders. Rome Total War launched in 2004 revolutionized RTS gaming for its time with massive battles and gorgeous 3d graphics. Rome Total War still has to this day, an excellent immersive soundtrack that fits right into the battle or the campaign that you might be playing at. Rome Total War also had an extensive modding community that increased the longevity of its cycle, with classic mods such as Europa Barbaroum, Roma Serrectum, Classical Age Total War, Rise of the Republic, and a Lord of the Rings Total War. And yes, Rome Total War has some very unusual mods that are being made for it: An Avatar the Last Airbender Mod, a Star Wars mod for example. 

This is a remaster, i.e. not a remake. A remaster will want to attract new players to the total war franchise, but at the same time, it will want to have fans coming back for their nostalgia. One of the things this game does is by not changing much in terms of battle mechanics. The game is pretty much the same game that you would have picked up in 2004. Now in 2021, Creative Assembly announced Rome Remastered and I was excited to examine the screenshots. Finally, the potential for modding would be increased. The city models and the unit re-textures looked beautiful, and the campaign map looked stunning. For me, personally I do not hold much against the remaster at all. It has managed to keep the audio crisp and clear. It has redone some faction intros, and it has unlocked new factions which weren’t previously playable in the old game, however you could unlock them using the text files. Creative Assembly have done a great job of remastering the classic title because it will open the floodgates to new players, and if I were to be asked what total war game to start with: I would recommend Rome Remastered. 

While it is a little disappointing that the classic title is no longer available on steam, I do think it should be there to offer an experience for players new and old. Would you choose to play RTW Remastered? Or would you choose to play the classic RTW? There should be an option for that in my opinion. However, you can always pick up Rome Total War from your local game shop (In the UK it would be CEX) as they still sell old copies of Rome Total War, and you’ll be able to install it. Of course, this is only a workaround. 

Prominent YouTubers such as Melkor (who made a channel based on the classic RTW for many years) and Admiral Price (who makes videos discussing the history and topics of current and old Total Wars) championed the cause of remastering Rome. I think this has to be mentioned because if it wasn’t for them making videos and talking about the subject, we would never have gotten the remaster, but also credit must be given to Creative Assembly and Feral Interactive for embarking on this cause. There isn’t much that I have to complain about. Nor is there much that I would criticize. I am content with the remaster, and cannot wait to see what is in store for the future of this remaster.

The Campaign

Rome Total War Remastered currently comes with the Barbarian Invasion Expansion which focuses on the Rise of Christianity and the Fall of Rome, and the Alexander Expansion which focuses on a fully focused Alexander the Great Campaign. In addition, you can unlock all factions from the Feral Launcher when you start the game. You can download mods from the Steam Workshop. One of the advantages this title has over the old version which was available on steam but it lacked a steam workshop. The old RTW on Steam for me at least was buggy enough to install with mods. So Rome Remastered has this advantage for me at least. 

Moving onwards, the main crux of Rome Total War campaign’s focuses on the 3 Roman Factions: The Juili that are based on Julius Caesar and are geared towards expanding the north of Europe and defeating the Gallic, Germanic and Britons. You have the Scipii that are inspired of course by Scipio Africanus, the leader who sacked Rome and defeated Hannibal Barca at the battle of Zama. Their main aim is to conquer Carthage, Iberia and Sicily. Then you have the Brutii, which have the most historical approach: Conquering Greece and coming into conflict with the mighty Seleucid and Pontic Empires, and Macedon who are Alexander’s children. Those provinces are the richest in the game, and you can expand into Egypt. You have specific faction intro cinematics for each faction done in beautiful 2d art. The first two retain their voice actors, but the Scipii intro has been changed. I don’t mind the change, but there should be an option to have the classic voice over as well. This game is however geared towards playing Rome rather than the other factions. But you can always change that around because in Rome Total War, you are rewriting history. That’s the bonus point! 

With the current changes in the campaign, updates to buildings and good 4k textures, the battles in the campaign are brought alive. Rome Remastered has a system where it configures the facial structures meaning you could have thousands of individual faces at once. You could recruit a legion from Carthage and they would be different when you deploy them in Gaul. That is a really good eye to detail. Remember that Rome Total War had cloned units, so cloned faces. Now the battles have units with individual faces, and updated modelling textures including new shield designs. The colour scheme fits just right, and it really brings the game alive. You have standard bearers, the roar and dim of battle, the sounds, the archers firing. It really does hit that nostalgic feel.

The only difference is that right now, this game has new factions which were locked in the old game. So you want to play as the Armenians? Check. Want to play Scythia? Awesome. Want to play as the Thracians having this unique blend of barbarian tribes and Hellenistic troops? Double-check. Rome Total War excels with the number of factions it has on offer.  My favorite factions as of now: Armenia, Parthia, and Numidia. They are fun cavalry-based factions, but by the Gods, they are difficult to start with.

 My simple solution is to simply do this: High taxation in all provinces from turn 1. Recruit 3-5 peasants in each town. Gather all your troops and merge them into an army and then conquer. Build Temples, Roads, Sanitation, anything that will increase your income. And loot provinces where you go. 

That’s really how to play them. But you can also search on YouTube as well. This game is not that different, it’s remastered. It’s got 4k textures, graphics, epic campaigns, and night mode. Night mode is awesome for battles and campaign gameplay. You can zoom into battles and you can move the campaign map around doing a rotation for that matter. So far, I am liking the graphical upgrade here. The steam workshop is already up and Feral Interactive is being really supportive with the modding support. I think that is a step up and I cannot wait for the modding potential of this game. Basically, if you’re going to get this game, have fun with the awesome mega-campaign.

This game now has unique faction intros with 2d art for some of the new factions, i.e. Spain, Thrace and Numidia. I do feel that the scripts for some of these faction intros could have focused more on the faction’s specific enemies in more detail. There is also new voice acting which you will recognise in interacting with agents. Many factions feel and look different from each other. Diplomacy has got a fantastic overhaul, which makes it more balanced in my opinion. This is just the tip of the iceberg. You have an organised system for sending agents to assassinate diplomats and merchants. Merchants are brought over from Medieval 2 so you can monopolise resources or bribe a merchant. Buildings have been overhauled and they look so good. You can also pretty much zoom into the capital with a city view depending on any weather type and dear lord, it can get pretty. A lot has been changed in this remaster.

Currently, in my Numidia Campaign, I did as I described above. I have taken over Carthage, expanded into North Africa, and am currently fighting a war with the Egyptians in Siwa. Meanwhile in my Armenian Campaign, (you can use Romeshell guys, hint: It’ll be very good for rebalancing some economics) I’ve expanded to Asia Minor, destroyed the Seleucids, and now I’m at war with Bronze Age Egypt. Ah. Fun Times. With regards to the UI, I am halfway in and halfway out. I like the changes and I like the simplification of the UI with regards to troops type, organizing lists of your armies, family members, and agents. So far, I am impressed with this game. I really am liking that they remastered this game and I for one am glad of it.

Moving onwards, this Remaster wouldn’t be amiss without looking at the two Expansions for this game. Rome Total War Barbarian Invasion and Rome Total War Alexander. The campaigns for both games also have improved visuals with regards to their unit rosters, and they have city mode included, along with night mode added in. I see this as an improvement. 

Rome Total War Alexander

The Alexander Campaign starts off with the crudely drawn map of Alexander’s conquests. I was disappointed to see that the map had not been redrawn nor rewritten in a way that would make it more exciting. I was never a fan of the original map for RTW Alexander. India wasn’t also made a playable faction as much as I would have wanted it to be. However, there are mods now in the Steam Workshop that unlock India. The Alexander Campaign has also brilliantly remastered its cinematics, and the battles feel like you’re fighting up against the might of the Persian Empire. I wish the map was bigger, and the AI should give more of a challenge. Alexander’s campaign I think should not be so much of a cakewalk, but then Alexander was more intelligent than we give him credit for! The historical battles are great, but the music is sometimes too loud and that drowns out the narrator’s speech when he is narrating.

Rome Total War Barbarian Invasion

The Barbarian Invasion expansion was an expansion that I was mixed with. On the one hand, it shows how hard it is to play as the Western Roman Empire and fend off civil riots, secession and a growing feeling that the Roman World is ending. In this game, religion plays a key factor in your conquest and stability of your empire. If you play as the Eastern Roman Empire, you already have Egypt as your breadbasket of wealth and grain. But beware, for the Sassanids are ready to strike and they will come with full force. You have to manage your taxation very carefully, build churches instead of temples, you will need to have monks in your army to increase religious fervour, and you will face the Germanic Hordes, the Goths and the Huns as they seek to move into your lands. Overall, it is a very accurate depiction of just how many struggles the Roman Empire was facing at this time. It’s really well done.

This review will be structured in terms off

  1. The Campaign
  2. The Battle AI
  3. The User Interface
  4. Modding Potential

The Battle AI

However, the game has issues with AI and pathfinding, which is still a glaring issue for players, but not so much for me. I can handle bad pathfinding and AI, but I thoroughly respect those players that will want to have at least seen some improvement. The reason it is such an old issue is that this is the 2004 AI we’re talking about here. Now I’m not much of an expert on the AI myself, but the AI could be in terms of what Feral found out was, that the AI was spaghetti coded and so improving the AI would mean a complete rewrite of the AI. While Feral stated at the time that they were not going to do that, I argue they should have. But then, there are pros and cons to that. Do you improve an AI which is essentially from 2004 and then try and change it up? Would that cause imbalances? Would that essentially hamper any unexpected issues that would crop up? That’s based on what Feral Interactive did here. They probably left the AI in its current state to gauge what the reaction would be, and to pretty much have it come out of the box as it was back then. I think Feral has taken the feedback from many YouTubers and fans that they need to improve the unit balances, and that they need to fix the pathfinding as much as they can, and as much as the technology will permit them to.

Because of large and extreme unit sizes, besieging a massive city becomes unwieldy for the AI to attack. Many times I’ve taken my phalanxes into these busy corner streets only to find them moving all over the place or getting stuck in walls. I had my Armenian legionaries attack a Seleucid city, only to move all my troops into the city plaza but finding them to be completely stuck and unable to move. That is something I’m not satisfied with, and I would want to see the basic pathfinding to be. But this is the 2004 engine we’re talking about here, even if Feral Interactive could improve 95% of the issues with the AI, there will always be a new issue popping up here and there. So I do see the argument certainly for rewriting the entire AI system of Rome Total War, but I don’t think it’s something that they will do because then that would mean rebalancing the campaign, the units, and such. I am not defending them per se, I am merely pointing out what they would be doing from their point of view. 

That said, the AI is competent on some levels. It can defeat you, and it can challenge you. The campaign AI is a mixture of really good, and then it’ll be not so good. It is a mixed bag for me. Total War AI or any AI for that matter is hard to do. Plus, let’s not forget that Q and A have to test AI often (As I will imagine Total War games will be going through this quite often during their final stages before launch) and testing AI can be a hit or miss either way. No game will have perfect AI on launch, and perhaps some games could prove that. Like the Age of Empires II Remaster which fixed most of the issues the old game had, and rewrote it’s AI in a way that could work and give a challenge to the player. I think Total War has done that, but they could have gone for an overhaul. Not changing the basic AI code, but basically tweaking bits and here and there, and to their credit, Feral Interactive has done this. But more tweaking is needed.

The User Interface

The User Interface of Rome Remastered is a hit and miss for me. I have been reading over the player’s reactions towards the new UI and it is suitably mixed. I for one, love the new UI look. On the one hand, it has been made easier to scroll through your list of agents and assassins and send them to do diplomatic missions. On the other hand, the UI’s event messages have been moved to one panel which contains all your messages, from adoptions to natural events. This is a good move, but it needs a brighter color scheme. In fact, I think the UI took a lot of inspiration from Imperator Rome which is not a bad thing in and of itself. I like this, and I like the unit icons.

Some might not for that matter and prefer the older UI. I do think there should be an option for classical UI from the old game that should be made available in this game. The other problems that the UI has currently:

  1. The User Interface is not clear sometimes where to find your armies or your fleets
  2. The User Interface is still too small even when scaled too 110%
  3. Most of the User Interface can be changed via the settings and options menu, which hasn’t been specified enough about the game.
  4. The User Interface needs to have more brighter colours in my opinion, and accessing the family tree and city view needs some more tooltips or something of that regard. 
The Family Tree in Rome Remastered

However, the UI is still easy enough to figure out in my opinion and isn’t as complex as some would say it is. It is the same Rome Total War experience, but it is buried under a good User Interface that does these good things: Firstly it simplifies the experience of the player by not burdening him with messages, events and moving armies. Secondly, it makes the player want to hit the buttons with the good choice of 2d/3d art that is given, and thirdly, it is immersive. However, it tends to bury messages at one point you might miss them at the end of a turn. In the original Rome Total War, when you ended your turn, you got a list of events and messages. In the Remastered version, you get those messages buried in one panel which causes me, the player, to then ignore the messages. I also tend to ignore any adoptions or marriage events which are crucial to my campaign. This I feel needs to be sorted out in some way or something else. I trust Feral and CA to do a good job with improving aspects of the UI. The UI is mixed for me, but I have had no problems understanding what the UI does and wants to do. I would want the UI to have some improvement so players won’t instantly judge the UI not to their liking. I am not an expert on User Interfaces within games, but one last point I will mention is that when I go into the Steam Tab, it is way too small. Far too small. I would also point out that the Wiki is too small to read and I would want to see enlargement of this aspect of the UI in this game. 

Modding Potential

The Good Stuff:

  1. Steam workshop support has been released so there a ton of mods to download and install
  2. Classic overhauls such as Rome Total Realism and RTR Imperium Serructum are already on the workshop and are WIP
  3. There is more modding support coming out in the future
  4. Tons of exciting projects within the works
  5. And there’s an India in Alexander Campaign Mod, which is extra awesome 🙂

Overall, Rome Remastered is worth its value, though I would have had the price at £15. The amount of content and value you get is astounding. Three expansions, improved visuals, great battles, and so much more. I give this game a solid 8/10. Fantastic game.

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Madaaworld12

Ancient History fan and fantasy book reviewer/Gaming Youtuber! DM on twitter for review requests/blog tours. Youtube | alalhambrabookreviews.home.blog/

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