need to know
What is it? Historical RPG with strategic elements set in alternative historical Rome
expect to pay £30/$36
release date come out now
developer logic artist
Publisher THQ Nordic
audit date Ryzen 7 5800H, Nvidia GeForce 3070 (mobile), 16GB RAM
multiplayer game? No
association Steam page
It took me dozens of hours – at least a dozen more than I would have liked – but finally I made it. I’ve built a digital legacy worthy of Rome’s glory (and twatty imperial power) for Robertus Atellius Somethingus. I rallied elite legions that conquered Asia Minor, North Africa and Gaul, I besieged cities, overthrew corrupt senators, stabbed enemies with my savage Praetorian Guards, and struck a particularly lustful and arrogant gram with my arrogance lopatra.
This is a solid resume for anyone applying for the position of consul in ancient Rome.
Expeditions: Rome is a historical RPG that simplifies elements of games such as Total War and its campaign map and Divinity: Original Sin, with its tactical turn-based combat and CRPG-style world traversal across the blockbuster classic world of adventure.
The divine resemblance is no coincidence. Developer Logic Artists’ previous historical RPGs Viking and Conquistador impressed Larian Studios so much that they were commissioned to co-develop Divinity: Fallen Heroes before the project was shelved (probably due to development on Baldur’s Gate 3) . In short, this developer is not a commoner when it comes to this kind of game.
Expedition: Rome eliminates the more cumbersome RPG features. When you level up, you only have to level up one skill for that character instead of messing around with stats or supporting skills, and you don’t need to spend hours selling junk items to different merchants because you can break them down directly into crafting components instead. It’s a fair decision because at 70+ hours, the game is long enough without all the micromanagement.
You’ll be joined by several companions on your quest – including a former gladiator, a philosopher-warrior with a scandalous past, and a Girl Scout who made a particularly convincing “Put Your Pocket” Cap, that sounds a little rude” as a young man gave up his previous behavior within a few hours. There’s enough banter between them to build some fondness for your crew, and the possibility of them dying or getting injured means you’ll need to recruit a reserve praetorian in your camp, so you can play like Football Manager 50 BC or Procurator Pediludium 704 Ab to replace them (Latin scholars, please leave your corrections in the comments).
But their associated side quests, like most side quests in the game, are hard to squeeze into the main story, like jam barely sticking to the edge of a stuffed sandwich. Your companions also don’t seem to be particularly affected by your actions. Despite the constant feedback that your pacifying/arrogant/stoic/sexist characters approve or disapprove of key decisions you make, I have not experienced the impact or consequences of those decisions throughout the game.
To be fair, when you’re running an entire Roman legion, there’s little time to get along with your fellows. As a member of a respected Roman family, threatened by a powerful senator bent on exterminating you, you are transported to a Roman army trying to retake Asia Minor (in fact, you were sent to war as “For Your Own Safety” shows the intensity in high Roman politics). Before long, you’ve proven yourself in battle and ascended to the position of commander-in-chief, commanding thousands of Roman legions while working with your elite squad on secret missions like assassinations, sabotaging enemy supply lines, and trying to uncover your opponent’s The corrupt Roman family has advice for you.
A large part of the game is spent on a world map from which you can send your Praetorian Guard and your army on missions on land. Legions can attack and defend cities, and procure resources such as lumber yards, mines, and farms to upgrade their camps. You can recruit new praetorians and army commanders through barracks, craft weapons and armor in a furnace, and even build a bathhouse, garrisoning a praetor with the “social” trait will steadily boost your legion’s morale (not sure if standing Nearly naked in the bathhouse with comrades was a real permanent position in the Roman legions, but an invaluable role in my opinion).
In addition to the main missions you perform with the Janissaries, each action requires you to take over a specific part of the map with your Legion to advance the story. The Legion battle system has some interesting quirks like choosing a battle commander and using strategy cards to decide your army’s moves, but once I understood it was just a numbers game (I didn’t lose a battle), I ended up working it out automatically, Instead of watching my blue square bump into the enemy’s red square. The tragic fate of a possibly striking layer.
Most of your time is spent with your Janissaries, with whom you can explore cities, chat with NPCs, and engage in solid but often overly long turn-based combat. In a nice CRPG touch, as you traverse the world map, you’ll encounter random text-based events that are always specific to whichever land you’re in (Asia Minor in Act 1, Act 2 of North Africa, the Gauls in Act 2 3). You’ll try questionable food served by Berber women in a carpeted hut, decide what to do with a serendipitous body, and decide how to get wine while camping overnight. The events are brilliantly written, many of which overlap between superstition and reality, befitting a time when magic was still a widely used explanation of mundane phenomena.
In turn-based combat, you use cover in the environment, secure high ground for your archers, and try to channel and flank your foes into submission. There are no active stats here, so you can take a partial turn with one character, switch to another character, and then go back to the previous character. You can even perform one character’s turn while another character is still moving around the map, which gives the progression a nice fluidity.
Throw some caltrops to force enemies to find their way through the death realm watched by your archers, or throw poison and incendiary bombs at the Egyptian Pharaoh and his elite guards, then surround them with your troops, and then It’s infinitely satisfying to slam them, attacked by chance when they try to escape.
But can God lengthen this battle? You’re almost always outnumbered, I suppose to give the Gallic warriors a greater sense of scale and intensity with the city sieges and ambushes at the end of these chapters. However, the sheer number of units means you spend too much time watching enemies, friendly units, or even civilians taking their turn (especially frustrating when friendly AI does pointless actions, such as running over fire to kill a lost enemy of mobility).
Luckily I found – after about 50 hours – that I could turn faster, but even then some sieges could take half a day to complete. Turn-based combat is nice, but suffers at this scale, and at the end of each turn, you’ll spend about 70 seconds watching 15, 20 units twist and turn around a hexagonal battlefield. It makes you very aware of the synthetic nature of combat and pulls you out of the action.
This could be offset if the game offered more RPG freedom – for example, the ability to sneak or sweet talk in various situations. While your character can have personality traits that escape some combat scenarios, the game does want you to fight, but in the later stages, inconsequential 30-minute battles triggered by random events on the main world map feel like a waste of time.
Speaking of wasting time, I always found myself having to make certain characters available for missions, but since one of the characters was in my camp infirmary after getting injured in a random event, I couldn’t. Given the lack of side quests, I’ll often take a day or two of playtime while they heal, take them from the infirmary, and get back to what I’m doing. Between this and the battle, it feels like the game could have been 12 hours shorter and better.
Where Expedition: Rome really shines is its attention to historical detail. Most environments aren’t particularly interactive, but a flexible overhead camera lets you zoom in to see the patterned walls and floor tiles of a Roman villa, the vibrant rugs adorning a Berber war tent, or discern the drawings and hieroglyphs in an Egyptian tomb A rogue Roman legion is in hiding. Meanwhile, the weapons and armor have Latin names, which I can only assume are historically faithful designs (they look cute anyway).
It’s a game that familiarizes you with the names, customs, weapons, and even food of the inhabitants of the ancient world, while offering a comprehensive war and political story that, while letting you shape history, also feels historically grounded.
This historical angle, and the journey it takes you through three different regions of the ancient world, makes this a worthwhile adventure, especially if you’re interested in that era. However, like you are a good Roman messenger, you need to be stoic in the face of some friction along the way.