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Barbarian Invasion ships

September 27th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

The expansion to last year’s best strategy game ships today. Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion moves the game into the fall of the empire and introduces religion as a controlling factor. The Senate is gone and rebellions can lead to civil wars, representing the instability of both the Eastern and Western Roman domains.

This is the first game about the decline of the empire to go into wide internation release, though the last year or so has seen this period represented in a number of smaller European titles. Fall of Rome is an online only multiplayer game that has been widely acclaimed, though I haven’t had the chance to try it myself. Great Invasions 350-1066 is the sequel to the disappointing Pax Romana. Expect an on-site review some time in the next couple of weeks. Against Rome was launched by JoWood in late 2003 but still hasn’t found its way to North America.

Despite the dramatic nature of the collapse of the great Mediterranean empire – at least in the West – the fall of Rome has never had the same pull on game designers that its rise has. Attila is at least as compelling an historical figure as Hannibal, and Belisarius as great a general as Caesar. The accompanying rise of Christianity as a religion and the struggles over dogma makes an intriguing subplot – one that Creative Assembly is handling by assigning religions to the Roman generals. A pagan governor in a Christian town is likely to cause offence. (You will find that one of the first steps to keeping order is to raze any temple that gets the population upset.)

Part of the pull is that conquering is always more fun than merely holding things together. Rome has to be big but weak in order to make a “Fall” scenario remotely accurate, and seeing all your generals make a grab for the throne is a great way to frustrate a player. You have to provide incentives for the player to control the barbarian hordes, even though their level of “civilization” is pretty low and there isn’t the variety of units or tactics open to you as a metropole dwelling Roman. Great Invasions tries to get around all of this by allowing you to control institutions like the Church or letting the player manage more than one power at once – clever, but not entirely successful.

My further opinions on Barbarian Invasion will be available on this site before the end of the week.


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