by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
THE STORY OF ROME
People love the story of Rome; it’s a story about an underdog, a single city-state amongst many, rising to rule a huge chunk of the ancient world. It’s a story that typifies the growth of empire, from humble beginning to eventual collapse. Even now, 14 years later, you’ll still find fans who’ll harp on about the fact that they’ll never be a Total War game as good as Rome: Total War. But whatever your view, it has to be said that Rome is a popular idea. So I’m glad that CA’s newest DLC for Total War: Rome II, Rise of the Republic explores those origins, through an Italy based mini-campaign. The year is 399BC; Rome’s very existence hangs in the balance as eager and enterprising factions threaten their borders. From the Gallic Senones, to the city-states of the Etruscan league, to the Greek colonies of Syracuse and Taras; all must be brought to heel if Italia is to be united.
A GOLDEN RULE
Unlike the previous DLCs, of Empire Divided and Imperator Augustus (overhauled grand campaigns) Rise of the Republic follows my golden rule of DLC. If the main game is the bulk, then DLC is the detail. I always use Fallout: New Vegas as the perfect example of this; the main game is the huge map, but the DLC gives smaller more stylistically specific maps, which elaborate on stories rumored or mentioned in the main game (hence the detail). A single piece of DLC isn’t an appropriate place to overhaul what is effectively, the entire main game map. If you do that (as with Empire Divided) the campaign will, of course, be disappointing, filled with re-used mechanics and unit re-skins. But a mini-campaign on the other hand, is the perfect place to add more detail to a previously unseen period of the history.
This is what the Total War Saga games are effectively aiming to do, create mechanic based campaigns, focused and entrenched in specific periods of history. You can see the influence of Thrones of Britannia based mechanics in this DLC, such as Syracuse’s ability to send out expeditions, which is also a Viking Sea-King mechanic, or the Senones ability to call the Council of Druids to grant war approval. But it bodes well for future DLC, as we can see CA is really trying to push the boat out in terms of differentiating factions mechanically, rather than having boring stat-based mechanics.
So the actual mini-campaign plays very similar to Rome II, but the mechanics do add a little bit of extra flavour. Also it is interesting to see Rome fighting with hoplites and an earlier, more Greek influenced roster. It is also a nice touch, that as you conquer regions, you can recruit a base unit specific to the tribe of each region. So one of the main ways to get archers for example, is to conquer a Greek region where they can then be recruited as a levy unit. Each of the factions you fight against also feel very specific and it really makes you realize how many factions Rome had to overcome simply to conquer Italy and its surroundings.
There were Greeks, Italic tribes, Gallic tribes, the Etruscan League, the Carthaginians, the Sardinian and Corsican tribes. But this is what a mini-campaign should be; educational, its specificity allowing it to show a level of detail that the grand campaign just can’t. The AI can still be a little bit terrible sometimes; I was playing a ship/land battle where my boats literally wouldn’t land, no matter how may times I clicked, instead choosing to spin on the spot. There were also various points where the enemy didn’t take incredibly obvious advantages and they’ll still ride cavalry straight into walls of spearmen like suicidal bastards. But if you haven’t cottoned onto Rome 2’s not so great AI by now, then I’m not sure what to tell you.
But all in all, Rise of the Republic is one of the best Rome II DLC’s I’ve played. The influence of Thrones of Britannia’s faction mechanics is undeniable, and it really does add more flavour to proceedings. There is also far more faction variation in this mini-campaign than say, the Wrath of Sparta mini-campaign, which is a veritable hoplite-fest. It also doesn’t make the mistake of the grand campaign overhauls like Empire Divided and Imperator Augustus, biting off far more than any DLC can hope to chew. There are of course the problems with AI, plus the fact that this is a DLC for a game from 2013 that most Total War fans have already pumped at least hundred hour into. But if you want some Total War play, some refreshing mechanics and a bit of education about the Roman conquest of Italy, then I would certainly recommend.
Solid faction mechanics, more variation than previous mini-campaigns.
Not great AI, still DLC for a game from 2013