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Home » Imperator: Rome Review – An Enticing Start to Paradox’s Brand New-ish Strategy Franchise

Imperator: Rome Review – An Enticing Start to Paradox’s Brand New-ish Strategy Franchise

Imperator: Rome
Paradox Interactive

I’ll have to admit I arrived at the grand strategy party a little late. I’d checked out some of Paradox’s rather granular titles before—games such as Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, but to me, they looked like too much of a time sink; too dense for their own good. At least that’s what I thought back then.

Later, about five years ago, a good gaming buddy (who had apparently been a long-time fan of Paradox’s games) tried to twist my arm into playing Crusader Kings II. I tried it out and became quickly overwhelmed by just about everything the game had to offer. I guess at that time, I was just into simpler, real-time strategy games such as the Total War franchise.

Lo and behold, along came Paradox’s grand strategy take on the science fiction genre back in 2016, titled Stellaris. I was hooked. Stellaris was much more accessible to Paradox newbies and with its amazing customization and immersion factors, it soon became one of the most played games in my Steam library. In fact, it’s now one of my top five played games. Of course, I had to try out Europa Universalis IV after that and it also hooked me like grade-A cracknip.

Recently, Paradox took another stab at the ancient world (their first was with 2008’s Europa Universalis: Rome) with the release of Imperator: Rome, and boy, is it a doozy. First off, there may be more informational toggles, buttons, tooltips, and other doodads going on than in any of Paradox’s other grand strategy titles.

To start with, there are eleven over-arching factors that you must learn to keep track of if you’re going to run a successful civilization: Overview, Government, Military, Technology, Religion, Economy, Diplomacy, Decisions, Trade, Characters, and Mercenaries. Each of these primary facets is represented by handsome circular buttons at the top of your UI.

To the right of those, are banner-shaped icons that alert you to any important news or events that are transpiring. As I learned early on, these newsworthy happenings must be carefully monitored and examined since information is power. For instance, if you try to invade a nearby province and some of your leaders aren’t feeling too keen about that, this area will let you know why.

Above both of these areas are your numerical levels for all of the statistic junkies out there. You’ll also want to keep a tab on these from time to time. They are: Treasury, Manpower, Military Power, Civic Power, Oratory Power, Religious Power, Stability, Aggressive Expansion, and Tyranny. If you inspect each of them (via handy tooltips) they’ll let you know whether they’re rising or falling. You always want to be rising in such things as your Treasury and Manpower and not rising in others, such as Aggressive Expansion and Tyranny.

While I’ve covered a lot of the data tables and icons that you’ll have to spend time learning, make no mistake about it, Imperator: Rome is not a spreadsheet-type game like the dreadful Master of Orion III turned out to be. Everything is laid out in a logical manner and has information that you’ll eventually have to rely on, as you expand your civilization outward into new territories (whether occupied or not).

One of the things that I really like about Imperator: Rome is that it combines much of the nation-building and conquest characteristics from Europa Universalis IV, along with the more personal touches of familial relations native to Crusader Kings II. Especially the latter; you find that there are a lot of characters and families to that you’ll have to keep an eye on. The game’s breadth is also impressive. You can take command of any country in the Ancient World; as far as the British Iles to the frozen steppes of Northeastern Asia.

Going to war with a neighbor (and later, far-off empires) can be a tricky endeavor, but it will eventually become a necessary evil at some point. It should be noted that this isn’t Stellaris, where a large part of your initial game time is spent exploring and colonizing. Right from the start, you’ll most likely be rubbing your borders up against other nation-states, and some of them might not be too friendly. Or, you may just be eyeballing the resources located under your neighbor’s sandaled feet.

Resources, as always, play a key role in where conflicts are likely to be sparked. For instance, if none of your initial native provinces have any iron within them, then you’ll be unable to train heavy infantry, which are very strong shock troops (especially in the early game).

Once you begin banging on the drums of war, you’ll want to get everyone’s approval, especially your advisors and leaders. If some folks aren’t on board with your invasion plans you can usually still do it. However, if you keep the fires of war too hot, you’ll eventually pay for it later when you’re viewed as being a little too expansionistic for your people’s collective good.

If constant killing and pillaging isn’t your thing, perhaps engaging in trade is more your thing. In that case, Imperator: Rome has you covered as well. You can start by looking up what each of your provinces is resource-rich in. If any are producing a surplus of a particular resource, you can decide to keep it for your benefit or trade it away for a regular monthly infusion to your treasury, and even a possible civilization-wide bonus. You can also set up your provinces to import certain types of resources that you’re lacking, which can be necessary if that particular seller has a bigger army than yours and you can’t simply wrest it from them.

Managing your people is a much more streamlined experience than in Crusader Kings II. You still oversee your leaders, advisors, and everyone else, but you’re not going to have to worry about your jealous younger brother trying to assassinate you in order to take over the throne. However, you still have to keep certain people happy, especially those who belong to important families, and members of the many factions that can form throughout the game.

Oh, and keep an eye on each of your generals’ charisma ratings; if they become too popular and feel unhappy with your leadership capabilities, they may just kick off a civil war along with all of the troops loyal to them.

Imperator: Rome is a truly massive grand strategy experience that should keep any enthusiast of the genre entertained for many an hour. Some gamers might feel that there is a little too much information to take in, but those who are patient and persevere through this sometimes esoteric strategy gem will find a rich gaming payoff beyond measure. Personally, I’m looking forward to all of the eventual DLC that Paradox is known to inundate its games with.

SCORE: 90%

Imperator: Rome features some pretty nice looking graphics that make its grand strategy gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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