Have you ever watched a Roman documentary about Legions, the Senate, and the general life of the powerful in Rome in ancient times and thought: “that looks like fun?”
Even if you haven’t, Expeditions: Rome is still a game worth your time if you enjoy a good story, turn-based combat, and a historical setting.
Expeditions: Rome is set in the period just before the rise of Julius Caesar and the Emperors that would follow him.
Rome is managed by the Senate and its Consuls – elected rulers who serve for a set period and wield great but not absolute power.
Your character, which you can customise to your preferences, is the child of a notable friend of one of the current Consuls of Rome.
However, at the start of the game, it is revealed that your father has been assassinated, and your sister is being held hostage by your brother-in-law – whose family you assume is responsible for the assassination.
To escape the same fate, you flee to your father’s Consul Friend, who is conducting a war with his legions.
Through a number of battles and circumstances you come to command one such legion.
What follows is a story of the meteoric rise of a previously unknown noble to the highest echelons of Roman society.
As you play, you’ll engage in three primary activities to achieve your goals, contend with those holding your sister hostage, and discover the truth behind your father’s death.
The first is turn-based combat. You can choose up to six characters when you take on combat quests.
Combat is similar to the sort you’d find in XCOM games with each ‘side’ taking a turn to move and attack with their characters.
Each character has one of three classes, each of with has three more subclasses that allow for a high degree of customisation of combat capabilities.
Therefore, while combat actually seems pretty simple at face value,combat becomes deeply satisfying when you master it and understand how to combo the various skills and abilities your characters will develop over time.
Importantly, while your companion characters each have a set classes, you get to choose the class of your player character from the beginning.
When not engaged in combat directly you’ll be traversing an overworld map, similar to what you find in the Bannerlord games, as you move from location to location.
While doing this you’ll upgrade your legion’s camp, recruit soldiers and ensure your legion is well-provided for – attending to rations, morale, and medical supplies.
This is important as you’ll need your legion to conquer new settlements and progress the main story – these are battles conducted in short, card-battler-style combats.
Each battle between your legion and the enemy army has four rounds, with your chosen generals offering passive modifiers at the start.
With each round, you will play one of three random Stratagems (cards) to augment these modifiers and gain an advantage over your opponent.
It’s worth noting that your enemies will also play cards, and in the late game, it’s very easy to start taking massive casualties in battle if you haven’t been upgrading your Stratagems.
These card-like battles are infrequent enough to remain enjoyable but not so scarce as to disrupt the game’s pacing when they do show up.
Overall, the general gameplay for Expeditions: Rome is a lovely balance of turn-based strategy, management and card-battler that makes you feel like a commander and strategist.
The story of Expeditions: Rome is just as good as its gameplay.
Your companion characters are well-written and often amusing; there are several plot twists that, while not jaw-dropping if you’ve been paying attention, are still satisfying, and the various choices you make as the game progresses are significant as they influence the events of its final act.
The game is split into four of these acts, each of which covers a specific segment of your character’s story – and there are time jumps in-between these acts.
The pacing of this story is excellent thanks to the structure of the acts, as each has its own characters, build-up and payoff while still adding to the over-arching narrative that concludes in the final act.
Accessibility and length
While I did compare the turn-based combat to XCOM, Expeditions: Rome is different in that it comes with four difficulty settings.
If you’re looking for an extreme challenge, you’ll get it, but if you’d prefer to breeze through combat and focus on the narrative, that’s an option too.
Despite all it has to offer, Expeditions: Rome is a relatively compact game – if you’re a completionist and playing on the harder difficulties, you could easily sink 40-50hrs into it, but if you’re going for the narrative, you’re likely to finish it in closer to 20-30hrs.
In either case, it’s an enjoyable experience.
A turn-based, historical game with an engaging story and characters, Expeditions: Rome is the perfect game for those who enjoy Roman history and those looking for a new strategy game.
There’s little to complain about between its setting, combat, and narrative.