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Against Rome PC CD-ROM

Published by JoWooD Productions
Developed by Independent-Arts-Software
Distributed by Bigben Interactive

Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99

We all like a challenge and it certainly isn't much fun when we buy a game and waltz through to the end without even breaking sweat or getting stuck for a while. The satisfaction of overcoming a challenge is one of those aspects that make gaming worthwhile. Nobody likes too much of a challenge though. It's really disheartening when a game seems to destroy you no matter how much effort you put into it. Against Rome is a RTS with a learning curve that makes Mt. Everest look like a gentle slope. It's a solid enough game with plenty of options but blimey it's as hard as granite and easily one of the most difficult RTS games of all time.

Against Rome is set around 200-450 AD and sees you controlling one of three barbarian tribes that oppose the mighty empire of Rome. It's not a cut and dried, historically accurate, game though and you'll have magic spells at your disposal but if you think that is going to make your life easier then think again. The game offers a 25 mission, non-linear, campaign as well as 4 tutorial scenarios, 5 single-player endless scenarios, 5 multiplayer build-up scenarios, 5 multiplayer death match scenarios and 5 historical battles. As you can gather then it's not short of content and the multiplayer games are preferable to playing against the AI, which can be a bit ferocious at times.

Most RTS games have tutorials that gently break you in and introduce the game play concepts. Against Rome has this too but whilst other RTS games have a gentle beginning to the first couple of campaign missions, Against Rome attempts to hit you for six and only seasoned RTS gamers will even bother trying to fight the challenge that's on offer. Ignoring the difficulty for a moment, and in case you're wandering there are no difficulty levels so you can't make the game easier, it actually seems to be a decent RTS game but there is a reliance of resource collecting and this isn't a game where you can simply concentrate on military matters. In all there are six resources to collect and they are food, wood, stone, gold, equipment and horses. It's worth bearing in mind that a constant supply of food is needed and your units will consume food and if stocks dry up you'll lose units.

As with all resource collecting RTS games you'll need to setup an infrastructure to support your military. The main building of this infrastructure is the settlement which effectively is the main base for your tribe (like the town centre in Age of Empires). The usual sorts of building can be built that will enable you to collect the different resources and your units will begin work collecting the appropriate resources once the building has been built. The buildings include a carpenter's workshop, mine, armoury, goldsmith's workshop, stable, butcher's shop and farm. Production can be halted if it's necessary to do so. Various buildings can be upgraded to increase their efficiency which again is just like any other RTS out there. Your use of the units is a little different in Against Rome though as they can be used as workers or equipped as warriors when the need arises.

The three barbarian tribes on offer are the Teutons, the Celts and the Huns. Compared to a lot of games this is only a small amount of races/tribes to choose from but they suffice. Each tribe has 10 different units and 15 different building types which again is OK and nothing out of the ordinary. All the tribes have a figure head character called the ruler or chieftain who has certain bonus attributes. Each tribe also has 4 special characteristics that you allow you to formulate unique strategies for each of them. All tribes have their mix of close and long range military units and some can even use magic spells. All things considered the tribes on offer aren't bad at all and it's just a shame there weren't more of them.

Graphically Against Rome is a mixed bag and doesn't compare to recent titles such as Rise of Nations or Age of Mythology. Playing at a resolution of 1024x768 (which the manual claims is the optimum resolution), the units are far too small and during battles it can all get a little cluttered and it can be difficult to make out your units. There are some nice touches though and you'll see the trees sway in the breeze and you do get dynamic weather effects. Compared to other current RTS games though it does look dated, although some of the buildings do look good, and the fixed camera does nothing to change this impression. Still a 3D card is not required to play the game so if you're a strategy nut that hasn't upgraded his/her PC in a very long time then you might be OK.

Against Rome can be problematic for deaf gamers. The tutorial is subtitled, although some comments of lesser importance are missing. The cutscenes in the game are not subtitled which is disappointing. Any comments that your units make during a game, particularly when you give them orders, or when you receive a warning that you are under attack, are not subtitled either. Whilst the unit confirmation comments are not essential it's a shame that verbal warning of you being under attack is not shown visually as this could prove costly if you're not aware that your units are being attacked. The game is difficult enough as it is without these omissions making it any more difficult. In the open ended games you are verbally told when another tribe wants to build in the area but this message does not appear in text, which again is unfortunate.

All things considered then this isn't one of the better RTS games to have been released in the last few years. It lacks polish, it doesn't look like a RTS game that's been released in 2004 and it lacks the varying difficulty levels that could have made it more accessible. Only dedicated RTS enthusiasts really need apply and when other, much better titles are out there it's tempting to completely ignore the game altogether. If you want a Roman flavoured RTS then get hold of Praetorians or wait patiently for Rome: Total War later in the year. Against Rome will just prove too big a headache for many gamers out there and there are far better alternatives.

Overall Game Rating: 5.0/10
Against Rome is not especially a bad game but most will feel that it's simply not worth the effort. Only dedicated RTS fans, who have to conquer every RTS out there, will be interested and even they will get frustrated by the difficulty.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Some elements of the game are not subtitled and this could be problematic for deaf gamers.