Possibly more fun than throwing the Christians to the lions
Europa Universalis: Rome is a mix of genres, and I loath to use the term real-time strategy since that elicits images of action-style games, of which Europa Universalis: Rome certainly is not – despite the battle components. Europa Universalis: Rome does have elements of strategy, and they are presented in real time, even though you can pause the game to issue commands.
But basically this is an empire building game. It follows in the footsteps of the Europa Universalis series, but Rome is a lot more streamlined and user-friendly in terms of gameplay. The depth is still there, but it’s not always on the surface. You have to dig a little deeper through the interface for more detail. Navigating the menus this way is a bit of a chore, but it’s a trade off, and one that I’m sure hardcores will be able to overlook if they want more detail and control. The average gamer won’t know the difference if they stick to the main menus.
Choose your slice of time. Europa Universalis: Rome spans a few hundred years. Pick an epoch, and you’ll instantly be transported back to a historically accurate representation of that time period, complete with the ruling governments, provinces, religions, wars, and general balance of power among the nations and provinces of that time. It’s incredibly interesting to see the development of Rome, but what makes it even more interesting is that it doesn’t have to be in chronological order. You can begin at the end, where Christianity begins to take hold throughout Europe. Or you can jump right into the First Punic War. The replay value is tremendous, if you like the gameplay, which does lack direction.
Essentially there are no campaigns to the gameplay. There are no missions and no specific goals or objectives. If there is one ultimate objective, it’s to keep your nation together. You will be in charge of a specific nation, and while it’s not imperative that you expand and conquer the surrounding territories, it is your responsibility to make your nation thrive. How you do that is up to you. Balance is the key to success. You are going to have a lot of things on your plate, but mostly they will be important and interesting elements not a lot of fussing with micromanagement. You can keep track of things rather easily since most of the information can be accessed on the main screen. However there is a lot of elements, and the icons are very tightly packed, making it difficult to access quickly with the curser. This is about the most action you’ll have in this game.
As the leader of a particular nation such as Egypt, Rome, Carthage or others, you will be in charge of making various economic, social, and diplomatic decisions. Your population will determine your tax base. The monies can be used for infrastructure, military purposes, research and development, and the manufacturing of goods for export. Trade routes can be established once such economic arrangements are made with other nations. Religion and culture can be dictated or catered to, depending on the results you want to achieve. Striving for balance is always the way to go. If your citizens feel neglected, then morale will wane. Factions of rebels will begin to appear in an effort to tear your empire down from the inside out. A civil war is something you want to avoid. It can only be settled when one faction defeats another. There is no compromise in a civil war.
Then there is the matter of protecting your empire from outside forces. By assigning generals and various units with predetermined strengths and skills, you will hopefully command an army capable of defending your nation from attack. The threats range from small groups of barbarians to full-scale wars with other nations. As unavoidable and important as these battles are to not only the game but to history in general, it’s a shame that you don’t have any direct control over them. All your commands must be input before the battle begins. The only strategy involved in battles is on how much money to spend on your military and what to spend it on. You will have to take into account things such as location, terrain, distances, and other variables, but the more money you spend, the less you have to worry about losing. Some battles involve a lot of movement on the map as the enemy retreats, causing you to chase them. This can result in some relatively boring and drawn-out battles.
Europa Universalis: Rome gives you the chance to change history. Perhaps you can topple Rome long before its inevitable decline. Maybe you could lead your nation to victory and become the new Roman Emperor. Of course these events are not historically accurate, but the elements and events leading up to them are about as accurate as you can get. Prevailing attitudes are factored into the gameplay and have a significant impact on developments. Religious beliefs, back history, ancestry, and diplomatic relations lend a human element to the gameplay that at times can be as unpredictable as human nature itself. Leaders will possess various personality traits such as ambitions, loyalties, rivalries, and personal background. Not all leaders are motivated by the same principals, nor are they all predictable. This adds an extra dimension to the gameplay.
Online games can apparently accommodate up to 32 players. Unfortunately I found it impossible to set up an account with the developer’s “Metaserver,” which required exchanging IP addresses with other enthusiasts. There just weren’t enough instructions. I hope this is rectified in the future. The LAN works just fine, and I was able to play with two players, which is a far cry from 32, but at least we could see the potential for fun with larger numbers. If there is one main complaint about this game, it’s that there aren’t sufficient instructions for anything. Find some online nerds, and ask them to help you. That’s why I had to do.
Graphically the game is little more than a map, although it has some decent animations. Details of the cities and the army are good, but more effort should have been put into the interface. It’s just too jumbled to navigate efficiently. The battle sound effects are good, and the music is appropriate, but it does tend to wear on you after a while. There isn’t a lot of variation.
Europa Universalis: Rome is not perfect, but it’s accessible to a wide range of gamers. There’s plenty of replay value, but don’t get too excited about the online mode as it may require more effort than you’re willing to exert.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
The game is basically a map with some brief animations to keep it from being too static. 3.0 Control
The controls are simple, but there just aren’t enough of them. Accessing the menu is messy. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Decent sound effects and music, but not enough variety for the length of this game. 4.0 Play Value
Addicting gameplay. Lots to keep you busy. Tremendous replay value. Poor online system. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.