Total War: Rome Remastered is a very faithful recreation of the series’ first fully 3D expedition. With some modest but notable graphical and UI updates, as astounding as it was at the time, the aging gameplay hasn’t gotten the same attention and doesn’t hold up all that well compared to its successors as a result.
0:49 The most obvious upgrades in Total War: Rome Remastered are visual. In fact creative assembly insists that the moving parts underneath are essentially unchanged. So everything from spies on the campaign map to a unit of Triarii on the fields of Italy should behave more or less just as it would if you fished out your old cd-roms. No doubt it’s an impressive facelift especially when it comes to lighting and terrain details. The units though don’t quite hold up to the level of fidelity we’re used to in Modern Total War or even 2013’s Total War Rome 2. That’s kind of the running theme with this remaster.
1:30 Total War Rome was ahead of its time in so many ways when it came out and all of those great ideas are still here. Dividing Rome itself up into three factions that are set off in three different directions to conquer before ultimately meeting each other in a bloody civil war. At the end was a fantastically effective way to keep the late game challenging and interesting with fairly simple transparent mechanics.
2:05 In most other ways it’s simply fallen too far behind the times. Strategy games in general and Total War specifically have evolved so much in the last 18 years. Going back to the original Rome can be deflating. The ai is one of the primary culprits. If you’re coming from Total War: Three Kingdoms or Warhammer II, the various ghouls, greeks and carthaginians you’ll match wits against here won’t feel like much of a match at all. It’s relatively easy to beat entire armies with your cavalry. For example the enemy tends to play very passive and can easily be lured into ‘can I like traps’ over and over again. It felt like going back in time as an adult to beat up on my middle school bully.
2:54 The included Barbarian Invasion expansion was incredible in its day. However, within the first handful of turns revisiting it I was struck by the fact that it’s basically a more primitive version of the excellent Total War Attila (and I’d rather be playing that). The fact that the map is smaller and there are fewer factions isn’t necessarily the issue. In some ways actually Total War works better with this reduced scope but it’s missing so many years of iteration and refinement of the formula that I wondered if it wouldn’t have been worth including some more substantial gameplay related quality of life changes.
3:29 The user interface is definitely much improved especially in terms of readability. That’s usually the part of older strategy games that drives me up a wall the fastest since modern games have gotten so much better at it. However, Rome Remastered still doesn’t offer up information as cleanly or as easily as its descendants. It’s cleaner but it’s still dated.
3:54 Getting more detail on how a specific building or unit works might be a pain or just impossible. And it seems like Feral Interactive has gone out of their way to keep the look and feel of a 2004 strategy game ui. I would have probably rather they shine it in, polished it up a bit more.
4:11 There are a couple places where Rome Remastered has added totally new features and they’re kind of neat. For one, there’s a new experimental unit size that allows for even larger battles in terms of the total number of troops than even modern total war games have without mods. This made the trade-off for lower resolution fighty guys seem more acceptable as I was able to orchestrate some truly titanic ancient clashes.
You could also play as any faction right from the jump whereas the original game required you to beat each one while playing as Rome to unlock them unless you want to do it the old-fashioned way. And of course the music still totally slaps.
4:55 Total War: Rome is still a standout strategy game and this remaster makes it more fun to look at and easier to play. It’s a little underwhelming to go back to for a series veteran when newer Total Wars have modernized design, ui and ai opponents so significantly but there’s plenty of nostalgia to be had. And those pre-battle speeches will give you chills just like they did in ancient times.