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Europa Universalis: Rome

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Europa Universalis: Rome. To tell the truth, the use of Latin in the title made me feel slightly intimidated alongside the fact it was a strategy game.

As a general gamer I like to play most genres, but strategy games have always left me a little confused. In my experience, strategy games tend to fall into two categories: those which are easy to pick up and play and those which require a little more effort. EU Rome is a little of both.

The game is an interesting one and defining it as a strategy title doesn't tell you much about its unique style. Instead of playing like a real time or turn based strategy game, EU Rome offers a blend of management and planning. You are given a map of Europe (in the style of classic board game Risk) which is divided into individual provinces each of which either constitutes part of a larger empire or forms dangerous Barbarian territory.

I would strongly advise sitting through the 6 game tutorials which teach you the basics, which I had to sit through a few times to fully appreciate what I was doing. After you select your starting province/empire (from a very impressive 53 different ones, including some satisfyingly obscure ones) you set about running your country. You have to keep an eye on the large number of factors influencing your empire. These primarily consist of the economy, diplomacy, religion, military factors, technology and the dynasty.

Admittedly, at first I found managing all the different interfaces a difficult task, especially when you also have to monitor your stability, manpower, gold and research levels. The fact that the map view has 5 different modes (terrain, political, religious, trade and diplomatic) also meant that my first few hours were largely spent trying to work out exactly what was going on. However, if you are a strategy game fan then I am sure that this will come a lot easier.

After I had settled down with the game for some time and had understood the basics, I started to enjoy it. The game doesn't have any set missions or goals; instead you choose your own objectives as well as the time frame your game lasts. This means that the game can be very challenging, attempting to conquer huge areas with a small tribe which can really be inspiring. Yet, I was oddly satisfied with just picking a sizeable empire and just running it well, improving trade and relationships slowly but surely.

This freedom to do as you please is an interesting choice, which can give rise to both relaxing stress free gaming sessions and tense military conquests. The sheer range of options available in this game is also impressive, with delicate political wrangling working well alongside larger violent conquests. The AI is impressive and challenging, which at times leads to some frustrating enemy alliances that you can't seem to break through without some seriously devious tactics.

The fact that the game progresses in real time which can be both slowed down and sped up, as well as being paused, is a brilliant feature. This means you can carefully plan for situations then watch them come to fruition several years on in game time, which is satisfying. I did find myself playing the game at the normal pace, in order to carefully control all my campaigns at once which did slow the game down to a glacial pace at times.

The random events which occur are also a good feature which I enjoyed. The expected barbarian uprisings and revolts are represented and can sometimes seem to happen randomly. Yet, there are more subtle events too, which I really thought added to the game. Reasonably frequently small messages pop up asking you how to deal with political issues at home; do you support a potential rival governor or allow a bitter dispute to occur, potentially leading to a usurpation? Illness, death, suspicion and rivalry are just some examples of this fascinating small feature, which added a sense of credibility to the realism.

However, I did have a few issues with the game which sometimes hindered my enjoyment. The military side of the game, which tends to form a large part, is a little strange. Your units are represented by large soldiers who fight opposing large soldiers in a little animation. If you click upon this then you can get a slightly more detailed analysis of the battle and then a message pops up saying who won. It is an oddly disconnected experience and just feels a little odd. You never feel as though you have any real influence over the battle and often in advance I would ensure I had far, far greater numbers in order to secure victories.

Unit selection is also rather limited with only a small choice to choose from. It also seems that all empires potentially have access to all of them depending upon their trade routes. There doesn't seem to be the individuality to the units, and there is little difference playing Rome or Carthage, which is a shame considering the historical period the game is set in.

The technical elements of this game are fine, with the AI impressing and the sound and graphics doing the job well, though they are both relatively simple. Some of the music can get a little repetitive after a prolonged gaming session, though this is a very minor criticism.

Europa Universalis: Rome is a solid game and has the kind of subtleties that regular strategy gamers will be looking for, yet the £25 price tag may put some off. If this game were released at a slightly lower price then I feel that more people would be encouraged to give it a go and play it. The multiplayer online option is a good addition with both competitive and co-operative play enabled, which will certainly extend the lifespan. The ability to play against several human players is what this kind of game is really designed for, though I imagine that games would take up several hours.

There already seems to be word that mods are being developed for the game to improve the realism (which is already pretty strong), which suggests that the game may well build up a community of players.

If you are a keen strategy player and are looking to try something new and different and can find this for a reasonable price, or when it becomes slightly cheaper, then EU Rome is an interesting game with some good ideas. However, if you are relatively new to the genre then this game can be a little intimidating with the array of interfaces and options to think about. This is a specialist game designed with a certain audience in mind and I am sure that strategy fans will enjoy the challenge.

8.00/10 8

Europa Universalis: Rome (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Europa Universalis: Rome. To tell the truth, the use of Latin in the title made me feel slightly intimidated alongside the fact it was a strategy game.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Christopher Wakefield

Christopher Wakefield


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