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Expeditions: Rome is the latest entry in the Expeditions series of historical RPGs that started with Expeditions: Conquistador back in 2013 and was then followed by Expeditions: Viking in 2017. It also looks to be the last Expeditions game developed by Logic Artists, the series creators, as the team has now been disbanded, with the rights to the IP going to THQ Nordic, who may decide to do something with it in the future.
For now, though, we can take Rome out for a spin and decide whether or not it can be considered a worthy conclusion to the original trilogy.
When in Rome
If you're not familiar with the Expeditions series, it's fairly unique in that it combines historical settings with stories of adventure tailored to fit into an RPG where you lead a squad of conquistadors, a Viking raiding party, and now a Roman army, through some hostile and usually unexplored land.
In general, I loved Conquistador and liked Viking. Coincidentally, this mirrors my general feelings towards those two settings. But when it comes to Rome the country, I'm really not the biggest fan of it, and as a result, right from the start, I knew that a game set in and around those parts would have to live or die based on its own merits without any influence from anything even remotely resembling rose-tinted glasses.
And let me tell you, while initially, the game's insistence on interspersing its dialogues with Latin words was really grating, after a while, it kind of grew on me. In the end, I found Rome's story quite intriguing, its characters fun to be around, and its setting not that bad, actually. And now that I've beaten the game, I consider it to be my favorite Expeditions title to date.
Plus, even though you'll be playing as a Roman general, your journey of conquest and exploration will take you to all sorts of cool places. You'll fight rebellious pirates with Caesar, the man not the salad, conquer Egypt for Cleopatra, and be perpetually confused by the crazy Gauls and their even crazier druids. And between these three military campaigns, you'll be able to visit Rome as a citizen or maybe even a conqueror.
Taking place around the 1st century BC, the game starts with a couple of scheming brothers making a play for the Roman senate. To achieve their goals, they need to get rid of your father who can ruin their whole operation. This sets in action a chain of events where you get sent away to spend some time with an old family friend currently leading a military campaign against some Greek pirates, who aren't really pirates and more like rebels with a huge army, but that's politics for you.
When things predictably go wrong, through a combination of luck and nepotism, you're put in charge of a legion of your own, with the idea that a decorated general would have considerably more pull back home.
The plot only thickens from there. In fact, during the home stretch, it becomes so thick, you'll be hard-pressed to figure out what's going on, why certain characters act the way they do, and why, with the main villain constantly within your grasp, you can't just end him and tell everyone the Gauls did it, and instead have to invade Rome to finally get your revenge. But hey, at least once everything is said and done, you get an option to marry Cleopatra and retire as the king of Egypt in anticipation of being reincarnated as a cat. And how many games let you do something like that.
Now, seeing how my knowledge of Roman society mostly comes from Life of Brian and those old Asterix cartoons, I can't tell you just how historically accurate the game is. I mean the setting itself, not the cat reincarnation part. You do meet a bunch of historical figures. And some of the events are clearly inspired by things that actually happened. Still, I don't think the developers were very meticulous with their research here, seeing how on several occasions you refer to a decisive victory as decimating your foes, and even I know that this is a beginner-level mistake when it comes to the way Romans did things.
Do as the Romans Do
In practical terms, once the intro is over, you'll be left with a party of story companions and a legion of soldiers under your command. You'll be placed on an expansive overworld map separated into a number of regions where you initially own nothing, but will eventually own everything.
Wherever your legion goes, it's going to erect a camp that will act as your main base of operations. It will be your duty to upgrade this camp by using the resources your legion claims after conquering regions, and in return, you'll get access to various facilities you'll use to upgrade your gear, research new stratagems for your legion, heal your wounded soldiers, and hire new officers.