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Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion PC CD-ROM

Published by SEGA
Developed by The Creative Assembly
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £24.99

Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion, an introduction.

I still remember the first time I played the demo for Shogun Total War. As you all know the demo didn't feature the campaign element of the game and simply focused on moving and organising your troops as well as showing the formations and some basic attacks. Regardless of what it didn't show you though I was impressed and hooked. On its release I went and bought Shogun Total War and thoroughly enjoyed the game. Imagine my surprise then when The Mongol Invasion expansion actually improved the game and made it even more enjoyable. The Creative Assembly then created the excellent Medieval Total War and once again the expansion, Viking Invasion, made a great game even better. Last year we reviewed the excellent Rome Total War, the third game in this excellent series, and when news of an expansion for the game emerged it was fair to say that I had high hopes given the developers work on previous expansions for their games. It goes without saying that I have not been disappointed and Rome Total War: Barbarian Invasion puts the proverbial cherry on the top of the Rome Total War cake.

What's the game about?

As the name of the expansion suggests, the focus in Barbarian Invasion is on the fall of the Roman Empire. A new campaign has been included. There are 10 new playable factions including the Huns, Saxons, Goths and Franks. As you know at this time in history (circa 363AD), the Roman Empire was split in two and both the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire have been included as playable factions. There are 8 non-playable factions such as the Celts, Lombardi and Ostrogoths. Both the playable and non-playable factions have their own victory conditions and settlements that must be owned in order to secure victory.

What's good about the game?

There are a lot of improvements and changes in Barbarian Invasion that make the game much more challenging. The various factions all have their strengths and weaknesses but it's fair to say that initially they are all vulnerable in some way. You don't have the senate to consider any longer which in some ways is a blessing as they could be annoying at times in the original game. Religion is now a key factor in the game and adds a major strategic element. The religions in the game are Christianity, Zoroastrian and Paganism. Capturing a settlement whose religion is different to your own can make pacifying its citizens a challenging task. Indeed civil unrest can lead to big problems as rebellions and revolts can now take place. Generals who have a low loyalty rating can defect and side with the rebels of an unhappy settlement. You'll find that a lot of region borders have changed to reflect the political map of the time. The game contains 100+ units that have their own strengths and abilities. Abilities include swimming (yes certain units will swim across rivers) and new formations such as the schiltrom and shield wall. Certain skilled generals can now take part in night battles. Generals can also be recruited with cavalry bodyguards. The AI for the campaign and battles has been improved too and you'll notice the AI behaving more realistically than ever before. On the campaign map the AI seems to be much wiser to your moves than in Rome Total War. On the battlefield the AI definitely seems better although it's still not as challenging as it should be on the normal difficulty setting.

Perhaps one of the big differences with this expansion pack is the inclusion of hordes. Certain defeated factions do not necessarily disappear in Barbarian Invasion. The defeated faction can flee and form a horde. These hordes can cause havoc by sacking settlements (they can also settle them too). Not all factions can break off into hordes. The playable races who can are the Franks, Goths, Huns, Vandals and Sarmatians whilst the non-playable Burgundii, Lombardi, Ostrogoths, Roxolani and Slave can also form hordes.

What's not so good about the game?

The much asked for multiplayer campaign mode has still not materialised. Ever since Shogun Total War gamers have asked time and time again for it to be possible to play a multiplayer campaign yet here we are in the latter stages of 2005 and it's still not possible. Let's just hope we see this feature in the next Total War game, whatever it is. Although the AI has improved since Rome Total War some will still find the normal difficult mode a bit too easy when it comes to the battles. It's easier than it should be to outflank your enemies. On higher difficulty settings this doesn’t appear to as much of an issue though.

How does it look?

Not much has changed, with the exception of the new units of course, in terms of how the game looks which is to be expected with an expansion pack. One of the complaints I have with Rome Total War is that if you play the game at a screen resolution of 1280x1024, the user interface on the campaign map looks pretty ugly. When using the default 1024x768 all the icons and buttons look great, this is fine if you have a 17" or lower CRT monitor. Those of us who are playing on a 17" TFT monitor have a choice of playing at the native screen resolution and suffering the ugly user interface or running the game at 1024x768 and having everything else look blurry. Disappointingly this problem still exists with Barbarian Invasion.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Barbarian Invasion is exactly the same as Rome Total War in regards to how deaf gamer friendly it is. With the subtitles option enabled the only speech deaf gamers will miss out on are the comments that are made by your units as you issue orders to them. In every other respect the game is fine for deaf gamers.

Final thoughts.

Like Mongol Invasion and Viking Invasion, Barbarian Invasion is a superb expansion pack for what was already a superb game. A lot of the content in the expansion pack makes the game feel quite different from Rome Total War. Without having to oblige the Senate you're pretty much free to plan your strategy although, even without this burden, it's fair to say that Barbarian Invasion is a more challenging experience because of new features such as religion, rebellions and hordes etc. Improved AI on both the campaign map and the battlefield also means you're in for a stiffer challenge this time around. It may be more challenging but yet again The Creative Assembly have managed to create an expansion pack that makes the overall experience more satisfying than the original game which is pretty amazing.

 

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:


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Barbarian Invasion is another superb expansion from The Creative Assembly. The new campaign feels like a different experience from the one in Rome Total War and there's enough new content here for the game to practically be a sequel.