Rob Zacny

Episode 435: Omnia vincit Roma

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Three Moves Ahead 435:

Three Moves Ahead 435


Omnia vincit Roma
This week we explore Rome. Not the Total War game (though it gets mentioned), but Rome itself - as a historical interest and as a touchpoint in gaming. If you've listened to the show in the past, it's no secret that several members of our panel have a strong interest in the Roman empire and the fascinating history that surrounds it. In this episode we finally let everyone loose to talk about the period without worrying about a specific game review to guide the discussion. Listen in as Rob, T.J., Rowan, and Troy "I wear socks with caligae" Goodfellow dive deep into their collective knowledge and discuss ancient Rome.

Centurion: Defender of Rome, Rome: Total War, Crusader Kings II, Annals of Rome, Defender of the Crown, lots of other Rome games

 

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Always nice to hear Troy so involved into a topic.

You talked about how people seem interested in the fall of Rome and that it assumes specific view of history, a conservative one. Like we all had a good society till *those people* (foreigners, Christians, feminists, plumbers making lead tubes, communists, capitalists, hedonists etc) broke everything. I think you underestimate how people are interested in the switch from Republic to Empire. It's that eternal myth of strong man assuming control and fixing the economy bringing prosperity. Even Rome TW is basically about that, you have a timer telling you how much Senate hates you and how much are you able to overthrow them with popular support. People love that stuff, it's edgy and looks like a less complex affair than the fall of WRE.

 

Another thing: someone mentions that other cultures may have another image of themselves but somehow Rome is still very widespread. It's very strange to me how Russians mostly ignore the legacy of Mongolian empire even though at the end they actively participated in politics of the Golden Horde. Instead of claiming to be successors of the largest land empire ever they embraced their connection to Byzantine Empire which was vestigial for a long time before that. That leads to complex cultural and ideological relations with the Western Europe which is somehow wrong heretical heir to Rome and an example to follow at the same time. Only some relatively recent historians like Lev Gumilyov tried to present Mongol influence as a deciding factor making Russia better. But he worked in Soviet times and also had a set of other strange Spengler-style ideas which would not look out of place in Civilization game so few people cared.

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I suspect that sometimes, the reason Rome is chosen for a setting, maybe have a lot of simpler motives, specially in newer movies - I would not be surprised, if people trying to ride on the success of 300 (and Gladiator), simple figured out that the easiest way to make a low budget epic movie, is simple take advantage of all Roman related wardrobe and props of other movies left around (add a couple a reenactors and their stuff if needed) and other stuff hanging around, choose a random forest or park  and quickly shoot a movie about romans fighting gauls or celts (with the advantage that you might don´t even need spend money on locations or buildings), with the advantage the filming crew can get away with entire battle scenes without a single horse* (unlikely in a medieval movie, where lack of horses would be felt strange even to audience unfamiliar, but in a roman period, the audience might not find strange, despite begin inaccurate).

 

* I will never forget that documentary about Alexander The Great, where they tried really hard to imitate the 300 aesthetics, without a single horse, it got really strange seeing the actors trying to make the slow motion moves and not a single phalanx or cavalry.

 

Now about the games mentioned:

 

Rome: Total War - I have vague memories about the mod mentioned, but since it shared the same name was the more popular one, for some reason I never played it.

 

Centurion: I have memories of this game, played a lot on the Sega Genesis, even rented several times.... it was bad, that diplomacy system was not very good, sometimes you managed to convince people to join you peacefully, other times I don´t think there was anyway which made the hole thing pointless. The battles, to be fair, where curious, in one hand it had (or appear to be) even some mechanics related for how far the voice of you general could reach, but also didn´t appear to make much difference, also I remember that I could win every battle using the same exact commands.

 

There is three more Roman related game I would like to comment:

 

Warrior of Rome II (Original title: Caesar no Yabou or "Caesar Ambition"*) - This was a very early RTS for genesis made in Japan, the plot is a bit strange, but the game begin with you (Caesar) begin send to Asia to supress a rebellion by the order of the Senate, several maps later and you figure that you have been tricked and the guy you where after, was also send to Asia to suppress you, from that point I think you after the Senate, but I never managed to get that far, the game was really hard and a bit slow. It did feature several concepts ahead of its time, such each unit having stats which where improved as you use them - as example, the more a unit walked, it speed stat would improve, even the sprite would change, like a foot unit became a cavalry unit. Other promotions I remember, where unit getting a bow (if their ranged attack got high enough) or a red cape (if their attack got higher).

 

* Despite the name, this have nothing to do with the Koei historical games.

 

Ryse: Son of Rome - If you guys think that Centurion look to much Hollywood, feast your eyes on this ! http://www.crytek.com/games/ryse/overview

 

Serious, the best summary of this game was something I saw on the Total War Center Forums - "It look like the Imperials are fighting bandits on Solitute", which should give a hint of how innacurate the game is. Oh, this was a console game, but there is a Pc version too (on Steam).

 

There is a old Playstation 2 game called Shadow of Rome, I don´t know the detail, as I just watched a stream, but you play as both a Legionary turned gladiator (which was the more action and combat part) and a small kid related to Caesar (the more stealth part) and you must solve mystery of related to Caesar death.

 

The last one is just a curiosity - but... there is a hentai VN, which was vaguely (and emphasis on the vague term, there was lots and lots of artistic freedom) based in roman period - Tears to Tiara, the game was a mix of tactics game and VN, where you defend a fantasy Britain against fantasy Rome. The game got a sequel, where you play as fantasy Carthage.

 

 

 

 

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They were talking about the Rome Total Realism 7 mini-campaigns mod. I would love to play this mod. However, I can't find it. I only found the complete RTR7 mod which only has the grand campaign map:
This one (RTRVII-Platinum).

 

Can anyone help me find the mini-campaigns mod? Thanks in advance! :)

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Really enjoyed this episode. I think one appeal of Rome in military tactical games is the myth of legible military ranks and formations. It's appealing to play first-generation warfare using third-generation tactics and fourth-generation knowledge, but in a historical setting that illudes that these things in one package is realistic due to superior organization and discipline.

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Well I for one looked up Annals of Rome though I didn't actually try to play it because the start screen looks like the attached and goes downhill from there. But the manual makes it sound awesome. I even tried to get interested in Marcus Livius Drusus (I assume Troy meant the younger?) but both the Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica entries are pretty dry. Any recommendations for a readable pocket bio of the man?

 

PS This show certainly made me want to play a decent Rome-centric strategy game. Pity it seems EU Rome wasn't such a game - maybe Imperator will be a better second chance?

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One of the best episodes I've listened to : thanks to all involved !

 

Annals of Rome is by far the best Rome-themed strategy computer game I played. I discovered it after EU:Rome and R: TW, which I didn't enjoy much, and I was impressed how the game manages to gives such a tense experience, with that  "creeping doom" feeling you get when you are starting to lack the ressources to manage all threats at the same time, while only providing the player with very few options. I actually like the crude graphics (although I would have preferred EGA graphics)  and the interface is pretty straightforward. It will probably seem too dated and simplistic for those who enjoy Paradox games, but you might be pleasantly surprised once you pass the (pretty small) learning curve.

 

 

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