Resurrection: Rome: Total War
Veni vidi vici…
Resurrection: Rome: Total War
Resurrection is Resolution’s weekly retrospective feature. This week: he came, he saw, he conquered, and Lewis Anderson loved every minute of ROME: TOTAL WAR.
EVER STOP to think why you play videogames? To have a bit of fun? Just to waste some time? A spot of escapism perhaps? Probably a combination of the three. If writing reams of essays through school taught us anything it’s that there are no simple answers to the big questions.
The chance to experience what life might be like as a gangster/soldier/tow truck driver any time we fancy is pretty damn good and makes people say profound and insightful things like: “Once upon a time it was only the very rich or very privileged that could go on great adventures, but now thanks to videogames anyone can have the adventure of a lifetime.”
Quite a cheesy line to use in retrospect. It stinks! But maybe you’ll forgive me since it was said by a proper clever professor from the University of East Anglia in some proper serious television (there would be a link here to the episode of the BBC’s Culture Show that this was featured in, but sadly no such link can be found. The internet has let us down). So it must be true. It’s genuinely crazy to think how it’s possible to become emotionally invested in virtual people, how you can actually care for the characters you meet on one of these “adventures of a lifetime” and change how you play because of it.
Playing, or being played?
Some games do this with a tumultuous plot that grips you tighter with every twist and turn. And then there are some games that don’t. Rome: Total War sits high up there as one of the games that does this best. Apart from the vague ultimate goal of the total control of Rome and the occasional historical interlude, you’re free to expand across the world as you see fit.
Competing with two other Roman families for territory and approval of the senate instils a simple loyalty within you, a loyalty that grows with every new addition to your family. And the same with every subtraction – whether lost through natural causes or in the heat of battle, the death of a character you’ve seen grow over the years actually feels significant.
Whether it’s the grandfather who led that successful foray into France before retiring to a cushy managerial position, or the grandson who on his first crusade into Greece succumbs to the plague, losing a family member feels important. As though a chapter is finishing in a story that was never written, the way you play and what characters you send to fight where can be dictated by how you feel about the characters themselves.
This is the magic of the sandbox. In the absence of a heavily crafted game world, each family member with their history, traits and retinue carries with them a unique past that you’ve actually been part of and a history that can be as elaborate as you want…
Diary of a despot
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! And anything else you can spare, for the Egyptians will soon spill into our lands. And they won’t come bearing gifts. Unless you interpret gifts to mean a variety of sharp blades. In which case they most definitely will.
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