By Adele Chapline Smith | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Historical insight and engaging military contests come together to make “Expeditions: Rome” (THQ Nordic) a gripping experience.
Despite the occasional lewd comment or coarse insult, moreover, the educational value of this strategic role-playing game, together with its restrained depictions of violence, may convince the parents of older teens to deem it acceptable for them.
Set during the Third Mithridatic War (73-63 B.C.), a few decades before the fall of the Roman Republic, the story focuses on a young nobleman whose persona the player assumes.
Forced to flee the capital after the assassination of his father, one of Rome’s two consuls, he joins a legion and begins his rise in the political world, eventually being appointed a legate — the equivalent of a modern-day general. He then begins recruiting allies and building an army.
The game is divided into three acts, each of which can take up to 20 hours to complete. The plot finds the protagonist traveling across the known world of the time, with stops in Asia Minor, North Africa and Gaul. Multiple real-life figures appear, including Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pompey the Great and Cato the Younger.
Combat occurs on a hex grid and unfolds in a manner similar to that featured in 4X games such as those of Firaxis’ “Civilization” series. Rather than having a fixed set of skills, however, the legate has access to a variety of abilities and bonuses based on class or equipment.
Players engage in turn-based tactical battles using their customized Praetorian guards or in mass combat, during which they deploy legions under specially selected commanders. The tutorial fails to explain the latter option as well as it could, but the game provides plenty of fun despite such minor flaws.
Fighting involves the use of period-appropriate weaponry such as swords, spears and bows. The battles portrayed are intense, but the mayhem is never excessive, nor are the images of gore graphic. There is no sexual content.
While artistic license is taken with some historical details, others are meticulously recreated, including the correct pronunciation of classical Latin and the cultural influence Rome exerted on much of the globe. Additionally, the narrative never aims to paint the Romans as always in the right.
“Expeditions: Rome” offers an entertaining overview of an era that continues to fascinate many. It also presents gamers with imaginary challenges — political, psychological and even medical as well as military — that can help sharpen their minds.
Playable on Windows.
The game contains mostly stylized combat violence with some blood effects as well as occasional mature references and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.