Rome: Total War Gold Edition
A true classic that’s accessible and still holds up well today
Rome: Total War is an award-winning strategy game developed by The Creative Assembly. It was released for Windows PCs in September of 2004 and received an overwhelming amount of critical acclaim. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest computer games of all time. It was finally released for the Macintosh in February of 2010 by Feral Interactive under their “Legends” label. The Macintosh version is actually the “Gold” version of the game and includes the “Barbarian Invasion” expansion.
Why am I now talking about such an old game? I picked it up a few weeks ago when the Mac Game Store had a sale (got it for $24!) and I can’t stop playing it! I’ve always had a vague interest in strategy games but most of the time I found such games either far too complicated or too much of a click–fest (if they were real time strategy games). There are exceptions, such as the Close Combat games (the newest of which I recently reviewed for this site), but even those, as enjoyable as they are, have a steep learning curve. So with that all said I took a big chance when I purchased Rome: Total War Gold for the Mac. But once I went through the tutorial and played a little beyond that I started to realize the magnificence of this game. It’s the classic example of easy to understand and play but difficult to master. It’s that rare “just one more turn” game that you can’t pull yourself away from and when you’re not playing your thinking about what you going to do the next time you do play!
Now being that the game has been out for so long it’s been reviewed to death so in this instance I’m not going to be as in-depth as I usually am except for the accessibility issues of course. But here’s a brief description of the game that should give you a good idea about what to expect.
The game takes place during the time period of around 273 BC – 14 AD. You can play in single player mode and play out famous battles from history (usually as the losing side) to see if you can fare any better. There’s also a multiplayer mode (which I didn’t try). But for me the best part of Rome: Total War is the campaign mode. It is here where you can take control of one of three Roman factions (the Julii, the Brutii, or Scipii). Each of these factions are more or less extended families. For my first campaign I chose to play the Julii. Their initial task is to tame the Gauls to the north but ultimately you will have to face the other Roman factions, earn approval from the people, and face the Roman Senate itself in order to become the all mighty Emperor of Rome! If you’re successful you can unlock most of the other factions, including the previously mentioned Gaul, and make them playable. You start out with a few provinces under your control and you must have 50 provinces under your control by the time you reach 14 AD to win. You can also elect to play a “short campaign” where you only have to control 15 provinces. Unless you’re a Total War veteran I highly recommend you start with the latter otherwise you may find the task at hand pretty daunting until you get accustomed to how things work. There are two “turns” per year.
Rome: Total War is like two games in one. You spend some of your time on the campaign map. This is sort of an overhead view of ancient Italy, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. If you’ve played any of the Civilization games than this portion of the game will be somewhat familiar to you. You can access all your cities from here and govern them and improve them as you see fit. You can even automate much of the activities of each city so you don’t get bogged down trying to run too many cities at once. You can construct all sorts of buildings and other structures in and around your cities such as gladiatorial arenas, highways, sewers, stone walls, stables, and archery ranges. All these improvements have various effects on what units you can train, the economy, and public morale. Outside of your cities you move your armies, diplomats, spies, naval vessels, and assassins around like chess pieces. Each unit can only move a certain distance each turn. The campaign map is beautifully illustrated and can be zoomed in and zoomed out of to a various degree.
When one of your armies runs into an enemy army Rome Total War turns into a gloriously epic 3-D real-time strategy game. The view is literally zoomed in to the location on the campaign map that your army currently resides in but in close-up, gloriously rendered 3-D! Whether you’re on a snowy hilltop, in a lush forest, defending one of your cities, or attacking an enemy city it’s all represented in a beautifully detailed way. But it doesn’t stop there! If your army has 2000 men in it you see ALL 2000 men individually rendered by unit type, armed, and in authentic uniforms! Each company of men is in their default formations but you can change that whenever you want. You also can control how quickly each formation moves, what kind of attack they’ll use, and so on. You have complete control over your troops on the battlefield. Your commanding officer will even give a rousing speech to the troops, much like Russell Crowe did in the opening scene of Gladiator, before each battle! Battle mode offers a whole bunch of camera controls so you can see things from just about any vantage point imaginable. You can even get close enough that you can see individual soldiers faces! There’s also VCR–like controls that allow you to pause and fast forward the action as you see fit. And yes you can issue orders while paused which is awesome! Let me just say the battles are truly epic and amazing to watch! Apparently up to 10,000 can be in a battle at once although I have yet to be in a battle that big. And the excellent sound effects and music further add to the immersion. You can hear the clashing of swords, the firing of arrows, the thundering sound of a cavalry charge, etc. It’s all there. And the music is extremely well done and reminds me of the music in the movie Gladiator. If you’re playing in a campaign you’re going to be in a ton of battles, some of which you may not want to take the time to fight out in battle mode because you have an overwhelming advantage. So I wanted to mention before each battle you’re presented with the option to fight the battle as a quick battle. If you choose this option the computer will resolve the battle for you and present the results screen a few seconds later. I found this to be very useful and a great timesaver because fighting those necessary battles can take enough time as it is.
Fortunately Rome: Total War just happens to be quite accessible for just about anybody. Although the game is primarily controlled by the mouse you will need access to the keyboard for camera control, modifier keys (right–clicking can be done by control–clicking for you one-button mouse users), and some useful shortcuts. You can customize the keyboard controls in Rome’s options menu. If you are a user of KeyStrokes or SwitchXS then you’ll need to put the game into windowed mode to access them. Windowed mode isn’t officially supported with the game but you can still activate it by modifying a preference file. Open in TextEdit the "Preferences Data" file found in /Library/Preferences/Feral Interactive/Rome Total War folder. Then search for the line "
Rome: Total War Gold Edition is absolutely epic and extremely addictive. It’s also quite accessible and easy to get into. So if somehow you’ve passed on this game I highly recommend you take a look if you’re even remotely interested in strategy games. There’s even an active mod community and several mods that further enhance and improve the game, including a Lord of the Rings total conversion (check Feral’s Facebook page for instructions on how to mod the Mac version)! The game is available for the Macintosh (and Windows PC) just about everywhere including the Mac App Store and it’s typically only around $30 (the PC version is cheaper). if I were to rate Rome: Total War Gold for the Mac on a scale from 1 to 10 I would give it a 10! It’s that good! I know I’ll be playing this game for a long time to come. For the Glory of Rome!
Macintosh System Requirements:
- Processor: 1.4GHz
- RAM: 512MB
- Graphics: 128MB VRAM
- Mac OS: 10.5.8
- Hard Disk: 5GB
- Input: Mouse
- Processor: 2.0GHz
- RAM: 2GB
- Graphics: 256MB VRAM
- Mac OS: 10.6.2
- Hard Disk: 5GB
- Input: Multi-button Mouse
*Supports Macs with Intel GMA graphics. (Intel Mac Minis and MacBooks)
*Rome: Total War is a Universal Application, designed for Intel and PPC processors.
Windows PC System Requirements:
Minimum Requirements: .VProcessor: 1GHz Pentium III or equivalent
- RAM: 256MB
- Video Memory: 64MB
- Hard Drive Space: 2.9GB
- Operating System: Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP
- DirectX Version: 9.0b
Recommended System Requirements
- Processor: 2GHz Pentium IV or equivalent
- RAM: 512MB
- Video Memory: 128MB
- Hard Drive Space: 3.4GB