We’re a little spoiled for choice these days when it comes to historical games. There’s just so many! I’m immediately inclined to think of the Assassin’s Creed series, for instance, which offers a plethora of fantastic tales from the past. Sure, they’re not exactly fully faithful to their settings, but I’m not sure dying at 30 from some disease or whatever would be all that much fun either.
In any case, Expeditions: Rome adds to a longstanding tradition of historical titles by giving the Roman Empire its fair shake. Rome, it turns out, is a surprisingly rare setting when it comes to games outside of the Total War series and such, so it’s always a treat to get to visit this time period. You know, without all the plagues and dying at 30 stuff…
After things start getting a little hot back on the family villa, you’re sent off on a campaign to try and keep you safe from your father’s killers and the rest of your scheming family. This being ancient Rome, you’re expected to join the army and prove yourself, so that’s exactly what you do. In the process, you meet up with a number of famous people from history and make your own mark on the world…but the exact way in which you’ll go about it? Well, that’s up to you.
Expeditions: Rome is something of a bizarre cross between a strategy-RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics and a conquest mode that plays out a bit like Heroes of Might and Magic. You’ll engage in both styles of gameplay as you proceed through your quest. The combination of the two is really Expeditions: Rome’s most unique quality – well, that and the highly unusual setting. Seriously, when was the last Rome game? Ryse: Son of Rome? Maybe Assassin’s Creed Odyssey counts to some extent? You’d think it’d come up more often.
Anyway, I generally found Expeditions: Rome’s strategy-RPG sections to be preferable. There’s a fair amount of character customization, allowing you to choose from several classes for your character that then split off into subclasses that add a bit more flair. Building a balanced fighting force between your protagonist and the many companions that join your team is a joy, and there’s enough loot to go around that you never feel like you’re wasting your time beating up the latest group of bandits or enemy soldiers.
Characters tend to be designed in such a way as to encourage synergy and teamwork, rather than the big-numbers heroics we’d see in something like Disgaea. Use your tanks to keep your supporters and skirmishers safe, of course, but while they’re doing that you can also have them whittle away at the enemy’s morale, eventually driving them insane! This kind of trick is what makes Expeditions: Rome’s combat work in such a satisfying manner.
As for conquest, you’ll control your legions on the world map, sending them around to claim territory, defend your lands and gather upgrade materials. It’s more simple than it might sound – your part in this is relatively minor compared to something like Heroes of Might and Magic.
This means things go quickly, which is nice in comparison to the hours you’d have to spend in similar systems in games like the Pathfinder RPGs. If you’re the kind of person who really loved kingdom management or the Crusade in those games, though, you might be a little disappointed that the conquest system here is a bit less involved. Personally, I was happy to get back to charging at my foes and screaming them into insanity.
As mentioned, you don’t see a lot of games featuring this setting, which is unusual given how it was such a colorful and exciting period of history. Expeditions: Rome really makes the most of the Empire, though, with all kinds of fascinating historical touches here and there that should sate Romeficionados. It’s unlikely all of this is perfectly historically accurate, of course, but does it matter? You get to hang out with Julius Caesar. That’s good enough for me.
RPG fans of all stripes should consider giving Expeditions: Rome a look. It’s got enough strategic depth, interesting companions, a gripping storyline and a fair amount of runtime – all the ingredients you need for a fantastic adventure. Grab some olives and dates, sit back and enjoy. You might actually live to see another day.