Expeditions: Rome is a brand new PC-exclusive turn-based RPG title where political intrigue and strategy play a large role as well. Developed by Logic Artists and published by THQ Nordic, it’s out now and we played the game through Steam.
Although it’s a fairly long-running series now, I never played Expeditions: Conquistador or Expeditions: Viking before booting up Logic Artists’ latest and most ambitious Expeditions title yet. Not only are they tackling one of history’s grandest empires here, they’re also combining many different elements that help shape that empire – all in one game.
When playing, that means that you can be pondering which move to make on the battlefield one minute while discussing legal matters on the senate floor just half an hour later. And rather than present players with a gameplay loop that mixes these elements together, Expeditions: Rome is divided up into three chapters, each of which would have been long enough to serve a standalone game as well, so kudos to THQ for not cutting this one up into three smaller releases to be drip-fed to us over time, each one focusing on a different geographical area in which to pursue your conquests.
One extra reason why I was glad I could keep going is that you never really stop learning in Expeditions: Rome. There are so many different mechanics at work in all of the individual aspects of the Roman empire that it’s impossible to grasp them all in a single chapter, and even though I look plenty of learning with me into part 2 I still felt like I was learning the ropes about how to best equip my guards and legions before battle in the final hours of the campaign.
And battles are only part of the experience as well, since this is still an RPG at heart – one that comes with all the usual loot, gear and skill trees. As RPGs go, this one definitely isn’t a casual experience as the battle portions alone are full of stats that are hard to wrap your head around, and as a trial by fire things will start to make better sense the more time goes by – but you’ll have lost plenty of good men in the process, and will lose more in the turns to come as well.
The turn-based combat is truly excellent, and wouldn’t have looked out of place as a standalone experience. With four character types that are well balanced (including shielded warriors to form your front line while others give you attacking options), this isn’t a “mini” mode but a fully fledged tactical combat game inside a massive RPG. Some of the combat even unfolds over the course of several stages, adding a dramatic flair as you lose important units in the first stage knowing you’ll be without them in the second one. The developers also made sure that scenarios are mixed up enough that it never feels like a drag, even when looking at a 40+ hour game.
Larger scale combat, with your legions, is somewhat less engaging. Perhaps it’s because the smaller scale conflicts are so well done, or it’s because the Total War series has spoiled us, but despite having plenty of things to tweak – both in terms of the commanders you send into the field, the facilities in your camp and even troop morale – the actual conflicts often feel affected by a large degree of chance rather than your decision-making, and it’s the latter that makes the tactical battles so much fun.
For a game with so many different mechanics in play, Expeditions: Rome has a surprisingly strong narrative component as well, though I’m sure it helps that a game based on the Roman empire can draw from so many familiar names and locations – for the general audience certainly more so than in the first two Expeditions games. Characters are voiced, feel well fleshed out, and many of them offer impactful choices – many of which will affect your chances of success elsewhere in the game. This is where story meets gameplay, and it doesn’t feel long before you as a player indeed feel like you’re becoming part of a grand empire. Combine that with interesting and sometimes unexpected events, and Expeditions: Rome is an engaging new game that made me want to play the first two games in the series as well.