Reviews - Updated on April 10, 2022

A little less than a year ago, during the PDXCON 2018 conference, Paradox Development Studio lead game designer Johan Andersson triumphed. No, this is not about another success of the Swedish developers, boasting another million copies sold, but about a triumph in the true sense of the word, which means the entry of victorious troops into Rome after the war won. During a small theatrical performance, Johan, dressed in a laurel crown and a Roman toga, announced Imperator: Rome.

Such outrageousness, which is not particularly inherent in the cold Scandinavians, is quite understandable: “Rome” was perhaps the most anticipated continuation of one of those global strategies that glorified Paradox throughout the world – they waited for it (and still wait) except for Victoria III .

Should Carthage be destroyed?

One of the most interesting historical periods was chosen for the “Emperor” – from the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great to the founding of the Roman Empire. The map, in turn, covers a huge territory – from North Africa to the British Isles, including Europe, the Middle East and a solid piece of Asia. Such time limits are not at all accidental. If you look at the political map of the Mediterranean a little earlier or a little later than the chosen period, then almost all of it will be painted in one single color – the color of the Macedonian Empire or Great Rome, respectively. It’s just boring to play in such conditions – everything has already been won for the “majors”, and the “minors” have no chance to change the situation.

Imperator allows you to plunge into the era of the Roman Republic, at a time when this young state was not the sole ruler of almost the entire civilized world, but only one of the many countries claiming dominance in the region. The conquest of Italy, the Punic Wars, the meteoric rise and fall of Asian and Indian empires, even tribal struggles across what is now Europe, are all much better suited to the various “what if” scenarios Paradox is famous for.

Take control of Carthage and try to repeat the success of Hannibal, avoiding his mistakes, and still conquer the world – your right. To achieve that in your version of world history the expression “Pyrrhic victory” had a completely different meaning, and the Kingdom of Epirus ruled over the Mediterranean – try. In the end, nothing prevents you from taking control of one of the many tribal clans and trying to fundamentally change the course of history.

Although we are not allowed to set the start date of the game ourselves, which always remains the same – 304 BC (or 450 from the founding of Rome), instead, a huge selection of hundreds of large and small countries is offered. However, the goal in any case is unchanged – to win world domination, or at least get closer to it.

Imperator: Rome game review

Have you assessed the scale? But this is only half of the map of the world.

Painter Simulator

Imperator is Paradox’s classic “card coloring book” that puts conquest and expansion at the forefront. What is the basis for successful military operations? That’s right, economics. What is the economy based on in antiquity? Of course, on the manpower of each individual state and the ability to properly dispose of this force.

People living in cities can belong to different religious, cultural and class groups – this uses the mechanics of population units, or POP (for population), familiar from past Paradox strategies. There are many religions and cultures, and there are four types of classes: citizens influence scientific research, free residents are the main source of recruits, tribes bring a small income from taxes and can also be drafted into the army, and finally, not the last place is occupied by slaves, on the number of which they depend tax revenues.

It would seem that it is not difficult to build our empire – we will enslave our neighbors in order to get a population increase, due to which there will be forces for further expansion. But not everything is so simple: war needs a reason, and the discrepancy between the cultural and religious preferences of the conquered and the indigenous people greatly affects the level of happiness of the population. Discontent is growing, the efficiency of the economy is falling, and there are not far from riots. We have to spend resources and time to assimilate and convert the conquered lands to our faith. In addition, you can transfer the population from one group to another and move groups of people between their provinces, achieving the highest productivity. But the implementation of this mechanic still leaves much to be desired, as well as the implementation of the interface as a whole – in a large empire, the microcontrol of settlements takes a lot of attention.

It is easy to get carried away and bite off more than you can swallow, especially if you choose a country convenient for rapid development. It becomes a much more serious task to maintain new borders. Many things interfere with this: war fatigue, loss of manpower, a very important indicator of aggressive expansion, which negatively affects relations with other countries, and even intrigues within the state, which we will talk about later.

Having decided on a reckless aggressive gallop, it is easy to be left without money and recruits, having a country torn apart by uprisings under control. Conclusion: “painting” is easy enough, but care must be taken. What else can you do in the game?

Imperator: Rome game review

With the help of negotiations, you can join the country to your empire and peacefully.

On the role of personality in history

Antiquity is the era of generals and builders, artists and rulers, heroes and traitors. Many years later, millions of those same citizens, slaves, soldiers and workers remained only the background against which such outstanding personalities as Gaius Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt lived and died.

The “paradoxes” already have a project on a similar topic – Crusader Kings. It is not surprising that in the new product, the Swedes could not do without the system of personal qualities and characters that many loved, but with one important caveat: the player here does not associate himself with a specific representative of the ruling dynasty – we manage the whole country, as in Europa Universalis.

Each state is home to several noble families, including aristocrats. Any of these characters has the opportunity to become a governor, military leader, or even the ruler of an entire country. It is clear that it will be in the interests of the player to assign the most suitable people to the necessary positions, but even here caution should be exercised.

Let’s say we have a noble husband who has high military skill. It is logical to make a general out of him and send him to war so that he can use his skills for the good of his homeland. But the more and more successfully such a commander fights, the more sympathy for him arises among his subordinates. In the end, it may turn out that part of the troops under his control will be loyal not to their own country, but to their leader. If that one also has a low level of loyalty to the current ruler, then expect trouble.

Imperator: Rome game review

Troops can be put under AI control by choosing a certain behavior strategy. Useful in the later stages of the game.

It is impossible to disband such armies, it is also impossible to control a wayward character – he will continue to fight, but on his own. No matter what – one famous Roman proconsul from the time of the Gallic wars. However, the manifestation of willfulness is quite easy to stop by spending a few points of Oratorical Influence (this is one of the important resources needed for negotiating and interacting with characters). In addition, the coming rebellion is carefully warned a year before it starts.

The parameters of the characters are not limited to indicators of loyalty and relationships to each other – we have unique personalities, just like in Crusader Kings. Everyone has their own set of traits, acquired and innate characteristics, belongs to a certain faith and culture, and also has indicators of popularity, fame and even corruption (think carefully before appointing someone as governor of a province). Characters can be friends and enemies, marry and have children – all this without the participation of the player, and with his help.

Despite the seeming variety of characters and the possibilities of interaction with them, it cannot yet be said that in Rome it was possible to successfully cross EU and CK. Even the system of events does not help, every now and then requiring decision-making. The life that the aristocracy leads, for the most part, passes by the player and only occasionally affects the gameplay.

Everything is bought, everything is sold

The same can be said about domestic politics, perhaps precisely because it is viewed here through the prism of the nobility. Each country can have one of three forms of government – a republic, a monarchy, or a tribal system. The republic has a senate, whose faction leaders have their own ambitions and aspirations, legitimacy and inheritance rights are important in a monarchy, and the power of the tribal leader rests on the loyalty of the heads of subordinate clans.Imperator: Rome game review

When creating trade routes, the main thing is to understand the clumsy interface.

If the forms of government do define the key differences between states, then the system of characters is woven into the features of the life of the country in a very strange way. Assigning people to specific positions is just a routine process of selecting candidates with the highest score in this line of work. Individuals are not particularly noticeable here either, so far only sharp drops in loyalty among those who have been left without a coveted place in the government are causing trouble. How to deal with such rebels, I have already said – bribery will always help.

Not the most convenient (and in some places completely broken) interface and noticeable problems with optimization will most likely be fixed in the near future, but, frankly, while Imperator can hardly be called a full-fledged release, the main mechanics are too simplified, especially those related to internal politics. This is noticeable in the example of the Senate in the republics – the most important concept for ancient Rome. Yes, there are several factions, each with its own leader and features, but they have almost no effect on the player’s actions. We want to declare war, but the Senate is against it? Let’s just spend the same oratorical influence points to increase the number of seats for the desired faction, or even force the senators to vote for the “correct” option. Unfortunately, such head-on decisions are far from uncommon – in this way, the legitimacy of the heir in monarchical countries can be increased.

Another example: in the description of the position of the people’s tribune, it is said that he restrains the decisions of the senate and interferes in the work of the courts, protecting ordinary citizens, but these are just words – in fact, he increases the contentment of free residents, that’s all. And if he had the right of veto, like the real tribunes of the Roman Republic? Then we would certainly have to think about who and how to give this position or who to remove from it.

What can we say, in the Roman Republic there is only one consul instead of two. However, a couple of days before the release of the game, the same Johan Andersson posted a screenshot on Twitter, in which historical justice was restored – two consuls can be seen at once in the government window. “I finally figured out how to make this interesting gameplay! Stay tuned for the first big update!” Well, thanks, at least not in the first big DLC.

For such strategies, this level of elaboration of the picture seems redundant, but there are still those who consider the graphics outdated.

***

In fact, it is impossible to describe all the diversity of Imperator: Rome in one article. Behind the scenes were the trade system, the possibility of colonization and migration of tribes, technological development and scientific research, diplomacy and barbarian raids, and much more. But this variety lacks depth – as soon as you figure out exactly how all these mechanisms work (which was relatively simple even for me, not at all an expert in this genre), interest in the game begins to fade. Not everything is so bad: remember that the release versions of Paradox strategies are only the basis, which gradually acquires content, becoming better with each addition. Rome is unlikely to be an exception.

Johan, of course, flattered himself pretty much by making his triumphal procession at PDXCON 2018 – the laurel wreath was clearly given to him in advance, and he has yet to earn it.

Pros: a unique historical “sandbox” with a lot of ways to turn the course of the era in one direction or another; system of characters and their characteristics; Good for beginners in the genre.

Cons: localization errors; bad optimization; inconvenient interface; The gameplay requires serious content saturation.

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