GamingReview: Expeditions: Rome

Review: Expeditions: Rome

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Have you ever wanted to play an RPG set during the time of the Roman Empire? If your answer is yes, then you’re a lucky one. Nowadays, it’s exceptionally rare to find a game that takes place during Roman times, but even if you look back in time, there haven’t really been that many of them. Now, I must say that this was my first game of the Expedition series, and the only thing that I regret after finishing this game is that I never got the chance to play the previous entries of the franchise.

Expeditions: Rome might look like just any other RPG with turn-based combat, with the only point of differentiation being its setting, and while that is somewhat true, there’s a lot more beneath all that. In a way, the developers have managed to make an extremely compelling RPG with thoughtful tactical combat, but in a few ways, it also felt like the game was overly ambitious. 

Expeditions: Rome is undoubtedly a very grounded game in terms of mechanics, in the sense that there aren’t any fantasy elements, but it should be noted that it isn’t historically accurate. The team at Logic Artists took a bit of freedom in this aspect, and I honestly think this allowed the game to have a lot more character of its own. Sure, you will meet tons of historical figures such as Cicero, Pompey and Cleopatra, but they all play different roles here than they did in the real world. 

As a whole, the game should feel pretty familiar if you’ve played any traditional RPG before. With CRPGs making a comeback in the past few years, Expeditions: Rome feels like it deserves to be amongst the best ones. It might not exactly bring anything new or groundbreaking, but it surely feels polished and exceptionally captivating.

The game stretches itself across many years and three major Roman campaigns, with the player taking on the role of commander of the 6th Roman Legion, the Legio Victrix. As a result, your actions and choices not only impact those around you, your companions, but they also might affect the whole of Rome in the grand scheme of things. Whether you want to play as a fierce Legatus that enacts the will of Rome and fights for its best interests with an iron fist, or whether you want to take a more humanitarian approach that seeks to conciliate with everyone, the game has got you covered.

If you want to look at the game only in terms of its story and dialogue choices, it honestly feels like it accommodates whatever kind of role you’d want to play. However you decide to play, each of your companions has their own set of values and they all respond differently to your actions and decisions. It’s even entirely possible that they’ll just outright leave you if they think you’re straying too far from what they deem to be a path worth following.

In terms of gameplay, as an RPG, this should feel pretty familiar to other games with turn-based combat. Whenever you run into enemies, inside a location or while you’re out exploring the world map, the game transitions to a turn-based mode where each side plays in a specific order. There is no initiative system or any other complex system such as ones that follow or are inspired by the D&D ruleset. Nevertheless, the combat in Expeditions: Rome still manages to have some depth while still remaining fairly accessible to newcomers to the genre.

There are four different classes, each with three different skills trees that allow them to specialize in specific playstyles and unlock numerous passive perks and combat abilities. As you might expect, there’s also no shortage of weapons, consumable items such as healing bandages, poison flasks and javelins. There’s plenty of loot to be found, and if you want to get into it, you can also craft your own weapons or modify existing ones to create improved versions. 

There really isn’t a master build as far as I can tell, but having a party with at least a medic, an archer is recommended based on my experience. The level design really allows the game’s combat to shine, and that’s clearly evident by how you can clearly place shield-bearers in choke points to block enemies, while you have someone else behind them with a spear that can attack the enemy without having to get past your shield. Still, while I found that to be the tactic that I enjoyed using the most, you can totally rely on duelists as well to flank enemies and stab them in the back, potentially dealing double the damage. There are tons of different ways in which you can approach combat, whether you’re playing the game with permanent death on or just taking a stroll in story mode.

Now, while the game has a lot of great things going on for it, there’s a major aspect of the game that feels undercooked. Besides all the dialogues and turn-based combat, there’s a rather hefty strategic layer to the game. Throughout each of your campaigns in different regions of the world, you must conquer territories and manage your legion. This all happens in the world map of the region, where you can send your legion to conquer cities and gather resources. Besides that, it’s also here that you can send your own party of up to 6 members to complete quests.

This all sounds great in theory, but the reality is that this part of the game just feels like excessive padding. It was cool during the first dozen hours or so of the game, but it quickly started to feel like a chore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think it’s bad, it’s just that it feels undercooked. The main problem that I have with it is how army battles work. Basically, all you do is send your legion somewhere where there’s an enemy army, and then the battle plays out by itself across three different stages. The only player input here is choosing a strategy card for each phase of the battle, and you just watch it all happen on a screen where you can see icons that represent the different kinds of units in the field. 

It would be great if this was an optional part of the game, or something that you could entirely skip by just choosing a specific difficulty setting, but sadly that’s not the case. To upgrade your legion’s camp and unlock the ability to recruit centurions, companions, the ability to craft weapons and replenish consumables, you must farm resources by conquering territories and their specific resource nodes. It’s not really thought out in a bad way, it’s just that it felt extremely tedious to me. Perhaps the reason why I didn’t like the game’s strategy layer is simply that it doesn’t live up to the same quality that the rest of the game has. Therefore, maybe I’m just being too harsh.

To be honest, that’s really my only complaint about the game. Sure, there are a few small things, like the inventory management which could be a lot better, or a couple of occasions where I had to load a previous save because the game was acting weird, but besides that, Expeditions: Rome is an extremely good game. There were honestly things that just caught me off guard, like the fact that all the dialogue in the game is voice acted and exceptionally done as well. Everyone speaks English, sure, but the tone of each voice actor really reflects their character extremely well. Furthermore, during battle, allied roman soldiers even shout battle cries in Latin, which is a really great touch. Likewise, the soundtrack was a huge surprise, even when I got to the main menu for the first time. The work of Thomas Farnon really is breathtaking.

It took me roughly 65 hours to beat the game on Normal, and that’s more than enough for me. I actually would like to play through the game again and make different choices and hopefully reach a different ending. I absolutely love the RPG elements of Expeditions: Rome, the combat is satisfying and varied, and the characters that you meet along your journey are relatable, even if you don’t see eye to eye with them. The story touches on many interesting points that kept me engaged, whether that be family and loyalty, the gender norms of the time, or just the usual intrigue of Roman politics. 

With that being said, despite everything that I thoroughly enjoyed about it, I just don’t see myself going through all the conquering and army battles again, which is a shame. Still, the game does have plenty of noteworthy moments which I won’t spoil, but I have to at least mention the epic siege battles, where you have to divide your cohort into different groups to successfully assault a city while facing overwhelming odds. At the end of the day, Expeditions: Rome is an extremely worthwhile game. Whether you’re a fan of the series or a newcomer, I’m sure that, if you’re a fan of RPGs, you’ll absolutely love this one. It’s not perfect, but there’s so little wrong with it that I can’t just imagine letting fans of RPG skip this one. I highly recommend it!

SUMMARY

Thanks to a solid turn-based combat system and an extremely convincing set of characters and an enthralling story, Expeditions: Rome manages to be a great RPG but a not so great strategy game.

+ Relatable characters that evolve throughout the entire game
+ Excellent rendition of an alternate-history Rome
+ Satisfying and engaging turn-based combat
+ Superb soundtrack and voice acting
- A few bugs that might force you to reload a previous save
- Map conquest can quickly become a chore
- Strategy layer feels underdeveloped

(Reviewed on PC. Available for Windows on Epic Games Store, GOG, and Steam)
Davide Roriz
Davide Roriz
Just a random guy who enjoys writing about the games that he plays. Into cats, Warhammer, PC hardware, and pretty much all forms of media.

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Review: Expeditions: RomeThanks to a solid turn-based combat system and an extremely convincing set of characters and an enthralling story, Expeditions: Rome manages to be a great RPG but a not so great strategy game.<br /> <br /> + Relatable characters that evolve throughout the entire game <br /> + Excellent rendition of an alternate-history Rome <br /> + Satisfying and engaging turn-based combat <br /> + Superb soundtrack and voice acting <br /> - A few bugs that might force you to reload a previous save <br /> - Map conquest can quickly become a chore<br /> - Strategy layer feels underdeveloped<br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PC. Available for Windows on Epic Games Store, GOG, and Steam)