by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
I’ve never played Hegemony but it looks like I should have and if time permits, I will have to remedy the situation before Hegemony: Rome comes out. Why, you ask? Because the real time strategy genre has grown stale to the point that every major RTS franchise is struggling to survive. With Hegemony: Rome, the developers at Toronto based Longbow Games are rethinking – and in many cases overthrowing – all the existing conventions. If they do it right, they will deliver a fresh experience that will appeal to any strategy fan, despite all these changes.
Hegemony: Rome tells the story of the rise of Rome under Julius Caesar. At the start of the game, the Roman Empire is really but a speck on the map which stretches from Britain to Germany, Italy and France. The entire area is presented on a single large map that has a distinctly board game-like feel to it, except that it is alive. You can see units moving across the map, towns changing colors as they change hands and roads appear as AI players connect their towns to their transportation network.
Zoom in, zoom out
From here, you can seamlessly zoom in to a tactical view of any part of the map and get an instant view of economic activity or battles in the area. You can read that again if you want. There are no load times and combat does not play out in pre-determined areas and thus there is nothing that takes you out of the overall map.
If that sounds like a big change from the standard RTS formula, then that’s because it really is. You can be involved in any number of battles while simultaneously working on bolstering the defenses of your towns or setting up new production facilities that will enhance your overall economy. You can let the battles rage if you are confident your armies can win without your guidance, but you can also zoom in, pause and micromanage the units that are engaged. As battles play out in real time, there is no telling how long they may last. The real kicker is that if you see that a battle is going badly, you can simply pause, scroll to a nearby town and send reinforcements from there. As twenty minute battles are not unheard of, you have ample time to reinforce and command.
Your troops will be more likely to listen to your orders if they have been well fed. Supply lines are a major gameplay mechanic in Hegemony: Rome and these are not just represented by the amount of food that your cities produce. You can build up forts close to an enemy town and supply these with food while cutting off the supply lines of the besieged town. As their supply dwindles and your stocks refresh, you gain a considerate tactical advantage. You can even shorten the supply routes by building bridges and new roads. That said, there is virtually no way to shorten supply lines when your armies are traveling through mountainous terrain, adding an extra level of uncertainty for an invading army.
Among the above, there is a slew of other cool features that really set Hegemony: Rome apart from other RTS games. Slaves can either be used in your production centers or trained into soldiers, new missions that offer all sorts of rewards pop up regularly, army formations can be customized into great detail… the list goes on and on.
Can you tell I am excited about this game yet?