OxBlog

Friday, April 21, 2006

# Posted 11:11 AM by Patrick Porter  

FALL OF ROME: I have to declare an interest in this post. In case no-one's noticed, I am a total nerd. In between getting ready for my next job, writing a review article and blogging, I have been enjoying the unequalled glory of Rome Total War, a strategy PC game.

Its great for several reasons: its graphics are painfully beautiful, as silver helmeted legionaries crash into long-haired barbaric spearman as the sun shines through fields of corn, or fireballs from catapults scatter heavily equipped hoplites, etc. It incorporates real historical developments into an open-ended campaign. Such as Gaius Marius military revolution, which formally admitted propertyless men into the Roman army and thus expanded the pool of manpower and enabling the creation of 'private' armies, loyal first to their commander before the Republic. And, its a great game because it enables the player to fantasise about personal greatness.

And, its quite intricate in the way it links diplomacy, war and economics. Desperate to invade Egypt, my faction of the Brutii kept getting its navy sunk. I couldn't transport my battle-hungry legions from Crete to North Africa. So I had to build a bigger navy. Which I couldn't do as quickly as the seaborne predators of Pontus, Thrace and indeed Egypt. So I had to get the Pontic and Thracian folk to make peace. But they refused, underestimating the demonic will to power of my faction. So I had to batter the Pontic and Thracian powers into accepting a ceasefire, so I could build a navy, so I could invade Egypt. Then a freak storm sunk half my navy including a senior faction heavy. Peace in the Mediterranean lake was never guaranteed then, of course.

Meanwhile, a whole province went into chaos when my client king was assassinated by a Thracian agent. All of this is designed to culminate in a civil war at the end of the game, between the different Roman factions. As in life, several interlocking random and/or systemic developments can ruin your whole day.

I think I need to start full-time work.

For those who are more interested in the reality, there is a great discussion thread over at Erudito about an issue that is an oldy but also a real goody: why did the western Roman empire collapse?
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Comments:
I too play video games now and again, though not near as much as I used to. My son, fourteen, has taken the torch; he also is playing Rome Total War. I can’t tell you how happy it made me feel when my son started asking questions about the Persians; the tribes of Germania; Britannia; and Gaul in general; and of course Julius Caesar. Our conversation went on further to discuss Cicero, Cato, and the Republic. I’ll hold off thrusting Gibbons at him. After all, if he has to choose between issuing the order to fire hundreds of fully 3D rendered burning arrows (incredibly the flames on each individual arrow are rendered in 3D too!) or reading Gibbons, well, I may have trouble deciding which to do myself.

S. Singh
 
My ork's and sappers would totally kill your archers.
 
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