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Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.5.8

Rome: Total War Gold Edition
April 13, 2011 | Franklin Pride

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Spearmen Faction

Mac OS X: 10.5.8 | CPU: 1.6 GHz Intel Processor | RAM: 512 MB | HD Space: 5 GB Graphics: 128 MB Graphics Card

Ever since the 2D plane soldiers of the original Total War games, it's been hard to see many ways the series could improve. It had epic real-time strategy, a complex turn-based system, and gameplay that could last for weeks of constant play. However, Rome: Total War Gold Edition from Feral Interactive has somehow managed to improve on the formula significantly. With a totally new 3D engine for the battles, over a dozen factions to play with, entirely distinct soldier sets and play styles depending on your choice, and a number of options for quick battles and multiplayer matches, it's by far the best Total War in the series.

The setting for the game is the early Roman empire, right before it sets out to conquer its neighbors. You can pick any of the three Roman families to start with initially, but you can only play the non-Roman factions that you completely conquer throughout the campaign. This tends to mean that certain factions will forever be beyond your reach if you keep playing the same faction. It's a simple fact that Julius will always end up facing barbarians, and the other two families will tend to face their most immediate threats across the sea.

However, unless you're playing on a particularly hard difficulty, you can generally slaughter your neighbors way faster than the AI families can slaughter theirs. As a result, once you get used to the various opposing factions and their weaknesses, you can generally steamroll your neighbors and then focus your attention on the faction you're gunning for. As an example, the barbarians tend to have strong cavalry later but completely wimpy ranged units. As a result, a concentrated army of Roman heavy cavalry and archers can easily wipe out barbarian armies over three times their size. On the other hand, if you're facing the Carthaginians or the Macedonians, you'll have to learn to deal with spearmen and elephants. That usually means siege weaponry to take out the heavier units and demoralize the slow-moving spearmen while your javelin cavalry rout them. Once they rout, it's a simple matter to have your heavy cavalry clean them up in relative safety.

The battles aren't all you have to worry about, though. Outside of the direct battle control, you also have to take care of running your empire on the civilization level. Buildings have to be made, rebels have to be put down (or bribed if you need troops), governors need to be positioned where they'll do the most good, and ships need to be made to protect your fragile ports from blockade. There's also a sizable amount of diplomacy and dirty play you have to take part in if you want to succeed. Take the situation where all the strongest commanders of the opposing faction have gathered to destroy you. If you have enough armies on hand, you might be able to beat them, but only if you give up a large number of units. So, why not spy on them to find their strongest commanders, send assassins to remove them from the equation, and then destroy them before more commanders can be brought in? Aside from the inevitable army battle, there's a lot you can do to bend the odds in your favor on the world map.


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