Review: Strategy Rome in Flames02 Oct 2014 0
Rexopax Software might not win any awards for flashiness with this awkwardly-titled turn-based barbarian simulator, but like a similarly subtle Legion of the Damned, Strategy Rome In Flames has it where it counts. Marching straight past the easy option of making it a game of Roman conquest, players can choose to lead either the Visigoths or the Anglo-saxons in their own discrete campaigns. Sacking villas, routing and slaying the retracting fringes of an expiring giant, Strategy Rome in Flames has a proud and unashamed cologne of beer and pretzels, never placing undue complication over quick, snappy combat.
Spread across six selectable difficulty modes, each campaign runs a number of internal scenarios. Scenarios are throttled by a turn limit, with a specific main objective – usually in the form of taking a particular regional stronghold – as well as keeping the coffers brimming via sackings along the way. Troops consist of an assortment of scouts, cavalry, spearmen, archers and infantry. Support units like wagon trains make up the medicinal backbone of your marauding rabble as they leapfrog across each massive scenario map.
Units themselves gain experience and, would Wōden or Teiwaz see fit to keep these rambunctuous upstarts alive, they can carry over between scenarios. The usual defense and offense bonus are applied to veteran combat capabilities, with an avenue to craft what Flavius once denoted as 'a stonking mob'. Combat across either Britain or the Adriatic coastline into Italy is replete with terrain modifiers as well as a twist of unit combat fatigue and hex-based directional push-backs. Strategy Rome In Flames is not Gary Grigsby in a toga, but within an easy-to-grasp set of mechanics, the maps accommodate tactics beyond merely rushing the core objective. Raiding further from the critical path nets greater quantities of coin, which in turn helps keep the wagon trains able to poultice the wounded and return them to combat capacity.
As an interesting aside, the healing option comes in two specific choices. You can either pay a greater sum of cash to return the unit to full health, or enjoy a much cheaper bill subsidised by loss of experience. If you don't mind your horde taking the experience hit, the boys won't have to pencil in an extra pillage for coin. Not that any self-respecting Goth could beat such an activity at Rome's end.
Strategy Rome In Flames is a charming, earnest proposition. It sports a comfortable visual fit for the grognard, with limited moving parts and little fluff to get in the way of sending Romulus Augustus' lads packing. It's Odoacer's Panzer General or Theoderic's Wesnoth; to-the-point hex-based fun that ameliorates strategic laboriousness through simplicity, limited unit caps and timed objectives. Rexopax did well to place the player at the head of the horde, rather than leading Roman legions. The governance of a smaller marauding group works far better than heaving Roman armies about, especially due to the scenario turn limitation keeping your Saxons or Goths mobile and hungry.
Like a regiment of foederati, Strategy Rome In Flames is cheap and rather good. What it might lack in trimming, it makes up for in pace and a sprightly AI. I came, I saw, I liked.
Strategy Rome in Flames was played on an iPad 3rd-gen for this review.