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Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Minimum requirements: 1.9 GHz or equivalent processor; 512 MB RAM; 128 MB video card with Pixelshader 2.0; DirectX 9.0; Windows 2000, XP or Vista
Release date: Available now
Review by: Jason Pitruzzello
In this list of great military leaders, pick the one name that doesn’t fit: Julius Caesar of Rome; Ptolemy I Soter of Egypt; Hannibal of Carthage; and Polysperchon Ptolemy the Great, king of Macedonia. The answer is, of course, Polysperchon, conqueror of all Greece, Thracia and Illyria, because he never existed in real life. He did, however, exist for a few hours last night on my computer, ruling Macedonia with an iron fist with me, the gray eminence, guiding his actions toward victory. But he was just one character in a long series of rulers, advisors, generals and other colorful personages that paraded down the alternate paths of history in my most recent game of Europa Universalis: Rome.
Developed by Paradox Interactive, the same Swedish programmers that brought us Crusader Kings: Deus Vult and Europa Universalis 3: Napoleon’s Ambition, EU: Rome is the latest game in their long line of grand strategy titles. As its name implies, it’s based on the same engine used for EU3 and set in the time of the Roman Republic, from the Pyrrhic War to the rise of Octavianas Caesar Augustus, first emperor of the empire. Playing any faction that existed in the period, the goals of the game are fairly open-ended. You can attempt to build your own empire to rival Rome’s historic glory, claim the vast barbarian wastelands and civilize them, or even try to wrest control of the Mediterranean from Rome, crushing the upstart Romans under your boots.
Like its predecessor, EU: Rome is played by selecting a time in history, selecting a faction to play and starting the game. In a smart move, Paradox took the most valuable feature from EU3 — the ability to select any date in history covered by the game and start playing from that specific date — and applied it to EU: Rome. What this means is that there are literally thousands of permutations to play rather than a set number of scenarios and playable factions. For example, you could start a typical game as Rome on January 1, 474 AUC (the game uses the Roman system for counting years, which counts time forward from the date of Rome’s founding). This will have you controlling Rome while it’s already at war with Eprius and Magna Graecia. Or, you could start a game on July 3, 615 AUC and take charge of the recently liberated Judea. If the setup on July 3 isn’t to your liking, try it on December 5. The choice is yours.
However, those familiar with the EU series shouldn’t think that EU: Rome is just EU3 with toga wearing advisors and gladius wielding infantry. Showing a keen insight into how both popular culture and some historians talk about the era, Paradox has included a robust character system. Characters aren’t simply names and faces you plug into advisor slots or command positions, but are themselves agents of political intrigue and have their own friends, enemies, personality quirks and even the loyalty of their troops. For example, my fictional ruler, Polysperchon, in addition to being king of Macedonia, was beloved by his troops and commanded their undying loyalty because of the battles and sieges they had been through together. On the other hand, he and his brother were bitter rivals, and, while playing, I consistently had to keep his brother out of politics so his hatred wouldn’t betray my ruler. The fact that they developed their intense hatred on their own, without any input from me, the player, is just a small sample of the kinds of character interaction that can happen. Since some of these interactions happen outside the direct view of the player, it pays to keep tabs on who’s doing what and where the winds of politics and personal relationships are blowing.
While the characters and their machinations are interesting, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it wasn’t built without the use of her strong military. Rome’s legions didn’t get famous sitting around during periods of peace; they’re famous because of the wars fought in the period. Warfare, like other titles in this series, is abstracted at the tactical level. Instead of fighting tactical battles where you control individual men on a battlefield, EU: Rome has a model of warfare that has the player give strategic orders to their faction’s armies, put someone in charge of those armies, and then they fight the battles themselves (which you can observe). To make sure your armies can win, you need to make sure you have enough of the right kinds of troops, and you need to put competent people in charge of them.
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