I buy videogames, I own videogames, and sometimes I even play videogames. However, there are few games that I play on a constant basis. Even rarer is a game that I find myself playing a full year after its release. So I have to confess that I am as surprised as you to find that my copy of Rome: Total War finally gave out from constant use this last week.
Or maybe it didn't really "give out" so much as find itself flung into the wall following a particularly hard fought battle, which I found myself losing because I chose to spend four years studying English instead of Roman military history. So imagine my great pleasure to find that the expansion pack, Barbarian Invasion, had landed in my mailbox just in time to fill my Total war fix.
Expansion packs are tricky things to quantify in normal 'videogame review' terms. On the one hand they are often not meant to re-write the whole experience that you originally had, but merely to offer an extension of it. So for Rome: Total War this means that once again I have ponder how to describe the Total War franchise to gamers who've nearly choked to death under an avalanche of post-Starcraft real-time strategy games.
The word 'epic' looks slick in Arial font
In my review of Rome: Total War last year I asked if the word 'epic' was being tossed around a little too liberally in a season flush with high-profile releases. I mean how many games can reviewers honestly call 'epic' before the word itself becomes as stale and trite as the RTS genre has been in danger of becoming?
So I ask you: Is it justice to refer to a single player campaign mode that requests nothing less than ruling world as merely 'epic?' Is it still a real-time strategy game when it mixes the best elements of Civilization and Risk, with more units than even Starcraft could dream of on its best zerg-rush? All set to the kind of rousing score you'd expect to hear in a Hollywood movie!
Even now a year later I run into people who still can't believe that Rome: Total War is the only game out there that combines grand-view turn-based strategy with vicious real-time battles. Maybe it's because as a game it packed a proverbial 'dump truck' full of content? Leading a Roman faction of your choice from infancy to world power over a hundred years of game time was amazing a year ago, and it still is today.
Kicking the volume to 11... Only to realize it really only goes to 10
So while I was installing the game part of me was very happy for more battles and strategy to master, but the other half wondered what more Creative Assembly could realistically add to their already outstanding 'epic' strategy game. The answer is simultaneously both: not much and a whole lot.