Expeditions: Rome Review – Roma Invicta
Expeditions: Rome20th January, 2022
If I knew anybody within Logic Artists, I'd be pretty concerned about the future of that person's father. Logic Artists seems to have a thing about the murder of a father and the subsequent vengeance of that murder. I wouldn't be surprised to find an anonymous hitman employed to kill one father, only to have the studio band together as a group of companions on an empire-spanning mission to avenge this murder. Much like Expeditions: Viking (review here), Expeditions: Rome also involves the murder of a father and the story leading on from that event.
Expeditions: Rome, while a fictional story, is also an exciting trip into history, pairing you up with historical figures like Cicero, Cleopatra, and even Gaius Julius Caesar. Only here, and very early on, Julius Caesar dies. You and the antagonist of this story, Vitellius Lurco, will be following the path of Caesar, with the ending being down to your decisions as you progress through the story.
Early on in the game, many of the decisions you make may not seem necessary. Some of them arguably aren't important, and there are a good few times where the result will be the same no matter what you choose. The death of Julius Caesar, which happens very early on, is one such result. That this happens so early, no matter your decision, could put you in a mind that nothing you do will change the game's development and outcome. You can trust me when I say this isn't the case.
For the sixty-plus hours of the story, you'll venture from Asia (modern-day Turkey) during the third Mithridatic war to Egypt during the civil war between Ptolomy and Cleopatra before finally heading to Gaul to face off against Vercingetorix. Those aware of history will know that the Egyptian war occurred after the Gallic war. However, Logic Artists openly admit and explain that events are out of order for artistic purposes.
There's a strong reason for this, which I'll explain shortly. In between the campaigns, you'll spend some time in Rome, each time dispanding Legio Victrix - your legion - at the Rubicon unless you decide not to at the end of the Gallic campaign. This decision will ultimately be determined by your actions earlier in the game, the good and evil you have done in the past, and the evidence of other people's actions. Like the republic and empire itself, Expeditions: Rome will have you prove your worth in more than just warfare, with the cutthroat world of politics being just as dangerous.
Large scale warfare is far from the primary element of the game, though, unlike previous Expeditions titles, there is a level of war and territory grabbing involved. I was surprised when I got to the stage that I didn't enjoy this, and anybody will be keenly aware how much I adore strategy and the grabbing of land. Why? I'd say it's because Expeditions: Rome seems to rely on this to pad a bit of extra time, even if it also adds a level of scale.
It's not that these legionary battles are bad. They're not, and they serve their purpose. You don't get to participate in any physical way because you are the Legatus of Legio Victrix. Your job is to pass down general commands, which take the form of cards that you can research and improve in your legionary camp. As I said, this is the part that I got tired of, and that's because it was always the same. The strategy and tactics (they are different) felt a little undercooked, and by the Gallic campaign, there were too many territories to fight over and conquer.
The issue with these territories is that the later you get, the more the game seems to enter a time-padding battle where you have to pick one of your core companions and a number of the random generals you can recruit. The worst part is that these battles are almost always engaging, exciting and challenging, so I shouldn't have an issue. So why do I?
Honestly, it's because the story is that compelling. Until I cover more on the story and characters, a little more on the battles. These are similar to other tactical RPG titles, having characters take their turn on a grid-based map, dividing a turn between movement and action. Thanks to a well-developed class system that doesn't overburden you with skills, you're almost guaranteed to use nearly every skill in the later battles.
Expeditions: Rome also adds a sense of scale and scope that few other games manage. You'll find yourself in several multi-stage and multi-theatre fights that require you to divide your people into multiple groups. These will also see you supported by allied soldiers that mainly act as fodder and slightly whittle down the enemy, and it can feel like you are genuinely taking part in the siege of a city.
I've already covered where you go in the story of Expeditions: Rome, and why. I've even said that your decisions undeniably influence the outcome of areas and the game. I haven't yet said that the characters are genuinely compelling and mostly likeable. From Bestia, a former gladiator who can remain bloodthirsty or understand more in life, to Julia Calida, a woman initially forced to hide her gender due to the Roman views on women. Caeso, the ever-loyal Roman and Syneros, your serva.
The cast of characters has unique stories that change as you interact with them, each with their side missions. Many of these, and the family drama, will occur within Rome. However, it's always worth exploring every area for these quests and for multiple rare items and rewards that can boost your abilities in combat, especially when you rank up your military camp to get the best forge.
From the cast to the camp, there's a lot to learn and develop throughout Expeditions: Rome and very little feels extraneous or underdeveloped. For that reason alone I can do nothing but recommend Expeditions: Rome. Logic Artists have certainly hit it out of the park here, with improved character development, improved combat, a vastly improved story and a generally all-around excellent game; It's one that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Review code provided by the publisher.
Expeditions: Rome is a surprisingly detailed tactical RPG that takes you through three huge theatres of the Roman republic on a personal quest for revenge or triumph. This story is what you make of it, packed full of meaningful decisions that influence many aspects of the game. Adding to this story is a robust character development system that feeds into the excellent combat, with multiple side-missions to develop both characters equipment and stories, as well as your war camp. The game feels like it could become dull, but never reached that point and is one well worth it for any RPG fan.
- Strong character development, both narratively and technically
- Outstanding story which spans decades of the Roman republic, taking you to multiple areas and having you directly influence many aspects
- Excellent combat system
- Strong design that can make the game, particularly in battles, feel far bigger than it is...
- However, some areas can have you traipsing across them too much, even if it's designed to show size and scale
- The overworld legion battles and territory-grabbing can feel underdeveloped and overused towards the end of the game
- Character creation is a little underwhelming and limited