Rome: Total War

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Rome: Total War
Developer(s) The Creative Assembly
Feral Interactive (Mac OS X)
Publisher(s) Activision (original)
Sega (current)
Feral Interactive (Mac OS X)
Director(s) Michael M. Simpson
Designer(s) Robert T. Smith
Mike Brunton
Michael de Plater
Jamie Ferguson
Chris Gambold
Composer(s) Jeff van Dyck
Series Total War
Platforms Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Release date(s) 12 April 2004[1]
Genre(s) Real-time tactics, turn-based strategy
Mode(s) Single player, multiplayer

Rome: Total War is a PC strategy game developed by The Creative Assembly and released on 12 April 2004 by Activision.[1] The Mac OS X version of the game was released on 5 February 2010 by Feral Interactive.[2] The game is the third title in The Creative Assembly's Total War series.

The game's main campaign is set during the rule of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire (270 BC – AD 14),[3] with the player assuming control of one of three Roman families; other factions are playable once they have been unlocked. Gameplay consists of real-time tactical battles framed within a turn-based strategic campaign, taking place across Europe, North Africa and the Near East. On the large strategic scale, players spend each turn managing diplomacy, developing infrastructure, moving armies, and managing the population's growth and public order through taxes and gladiatorial games, among other tasks. On the smaller scale, real-time battles against enemy armies take place within or between cities, with the player commanding forces that can contain thousands of individual soldiers.

Rome: Total War was released to critical acclaim, and has been well received by gamers, going on to generate a persistent and loyal modding fanbase.[4][5][6]


The player takes a role equivalent to the head of one of the three great Roman houses at the time; the Julii, Brutii, and Scipii. Over the course of the game new factions are unlocked, either one at a time as they are defeated, or all at once on completion of the campaign. Each of these factions have a different set of attributes, initial objectives, and a few initial provinces under control. Control of a province is given to the faction whose army is occupying the province's city. The ultimate goal is to become emperor by conquering 50 provinces, gaining support from the people, before capturing Rome itself, but a "Short game" can be played, in which you must control 15 provinces and outlast certain faction(s). Cities have a variety of buildings, which may be built or upgraded, such as: temples, aqueducts—and amphitheatres, which increase the people's general happiness and well-being. Markets and academies respectively increase the city's financial contribution and likelihood of producing effective family members (see below). Walls make the city more resistant to assault by enemy armies—and barracks, archery ranges, and stables unlock new military units, which may train in the city. The player expands the empire by training armies in friendly cities and using them to assault and occupy enemy cities (native mercenary units may also be hired by a family member outside a city). Controlling more cities brings benefits in its increased geographical dominance and increased income from the new population's taxes. However, more cities and larger populations become increasingly difficult to control, owing to local populaces being resistant to foreign rule, and the increased distance reinforcements have to travel. If a city's inhabitants are overtaxed, underdeveloped or unprotected, they rebel and become in effect their own faction - the player's control of the city is lost, garrisoned units are forced out of the city, and a hostile rebel army is formed in its place.

Battles in Rome: Total War can feature thousands of individual soldiers, organised into 'units'. The formation of some units can be changed; here, the phalanx formation sacrifices mobility in favour of increased defensive strength

When the player's army meets an enemy army, a 3D real-time tactical battle is started, which represents the other half of gameplay in Rome: Total War. The strategic and tactical modes integrate in such a way that the landscape for the battles is the same as seen on that particular spot on the strategic map where the armies meet; for example, if the strategic map is hilly, and covered in snow, the battle map attempts to reflect that. The game features a variety of units for use in battle (most of which are unique to each faction), which may be broadly categorised into infantry, cavalry, archers, and artillery units. Each unit has optimal styles of use, opposing units against which it is vulnerable or effective, formation settings, defensive and offensive hit points, and arguably the critical component - morale. If a unit's morale drops too low, it becomes uncontrollable, and its soldiers try to flee the battlefield.[7] The base level of morale of a unit may be influenced by factors such as the command experience of the army's general (and that of the enemy general), level of combat experience, and the nature of the unit itself. On the battlefield, this is further affected by such factors as the soldiers' level of fatigue, intimidation by the enemy army, whether it holds a tactically advantageous position relative to nearby enemies, the terrain type, proximity to the army's general, or the number of casualties already taken. Players may attempt to flank an enemy's units, focus their attacks on the enemy general, conserve energy by walking rather than running their units, or switch their archers to using the slower but more intimidating flaming arrows - all as techniques to gain the morale advantage over the enemy.

Each unit has a certain distance it can travel on the campaign map in one turn, with cavalry able to travel the farthest, and cumbersome artillery pieces having the most limited movement distance. Movement is increased depending on the type of terrain being traversed, the type of roads present, and, at times, the attributes of the commanding general.


Each faction starts with a set of family members composed of that faction's leader, his spouse, their children, including a faction heir, any of their spouses and any grandchildren. Only the male members of the family are controllable, once they reach the age of maturity, 16 years old. They govern settlements when stationed in a city and when fielded upon the world map, command armies. Male family members are added to the family by births between married family members, as well as adoption and marriage. Family members eventually die, either naturally through old age or by death in battle, assassination or due to natural disasters. In the absence of generals commanding field armies, captains are the commanders by default. Admirals fulfill a similar function for fleets. Neither are family members, but appear in the list of forces when displayed. However, if a captain is victorious in a battle in which the odds are against him, the player may have the option of adopting the captain.

Julii family member with several traits and his retinue. Family members can command troops in tactical battles and help maintain order in cities, with effectiveness depending on their level of experience. Character traits can prove to cause both beneficial advantages as well as weaknesses to the character.

Family members can acquire traits depending on their actions in battle or when governing a city. These can have both positive and negative effects on their command, management, and influence, which in turn affect their battlefield performance and how happy a province's populace lives under their governance. Some of these traits are hereditary, and can be inherited by the children of a family member. Family members can also acquire ancillaries by the same actions. These are members of a general's retinue, but can only number up to eight. These ancillary characters can be traded between two family members if they are in the same army or city.


Like family members, agents can acquire traits and specific ancillaries, which can be traded, but only with other agents of the same type. They can independently cross into other territories (allied, neutral or hostile) without diplomatic consequences. There are three types of agents that can be used by factions: spies, diplomats, and assassins. Spies can be used to gather intelligence on field armies, infiltrate foreign cities to identify enemy installations, and serve in a counter-espionage role in the players own cities. When besieging an enemy city, the player may plant a spy in the city and use him to open the city's gates. Diplomats can negotiate with other factions, offering deals such as alliances and trade rights. They may also attempt to bribe enemy armies and agents. Assassins are used to assassinate enemy family members, or other agents. They can also sabotage buildings in enemy settlements. These missions carry a risk of death towards the agent, as is the case with spies.


The game's campaign begins with three playable factions, all Roman: Julii, Brutii, and Scipii. Upon completion of a campaign, eight additional factions are unlocked. The unlockable factions are: The Greek Cities, Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, Carthage, Gaul, Germania, Britannia, and Parthia. The nonplayable factions (in the campaign) are: Macedon, Pontus, Armenia, Numidia, Scythia, Dacia, Thrace, Spain, the Senate of Rome (which rarely expands beyond Rome itself), and the rebel faction.

Historical battles

Separately from the game's campaigns, several historical battles are available for the player to re-enact. The player usually takes command of the army that is outnumbered or which, in history, lost (or both). The battles are as follows, with the army under the player's control in italics.

More battles were added with the Barbarian Invasion and Alexander expansion packs. The battles added with Barbarian Invasion, of which there were only two were:

In Alexander, the historical battles took the form of a linear narrative detailing Alexander the Great's life and conquests. The player was restricted to playing as the Macedonians in each battle, and had to be victorious in a battle to unlock the next in the sequence. The battles were:


Barbarian Invasion

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Barbarian Invasion allows the player to take control of the barbarian nations of Europe and the Middle East during the migration period. It also adds a more complex portrayal of religion, with changes in the state religion affecting unrest and the popularity of the ruling family. The campaign takes place from 363 AD to 476 AD.


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The Alexander expansion puts the player in the role of Alexander the Great and replays his conquests and battles. The campaign takes place from 336 BC to 323 BC.


A demo of the game was released on 23 August 2004 and is freely available for download. It features a playable version of the Battle of River Trebia, with the player taking the role of the brilliant general Hannibal.[8]

Prior to its release, a preliminary but completely workable version of the game engine was used in two series of TV programs: Decisive Battles by the History Channel where it was used to recreate famous historical battles,[9] and Time Commanders by BBC Two, where teams of novice non-gamers commanded ancient armies to replay key battles of antiquity. The game engine was fine-tuned specifically for these television shows by military historians for maximum historical accuracy. In addition, both series had the same music track as the battles in Rome: Total War.

The original music soundtrack for the game was composed by Jeff van Dyck, who received a BAFTA (British Academy) Interactive Awards nomination for his work. His wife Angela van Dyck features in some of the vocals including Forever, which plays during the game's credits; Angela also wrote the lyrics for the song "Divinitus", written in quasi-Latin.

Due to the shutdown of GameSpy's multiplayer services in May 2014, the game was migrated to Steamworks as of patch 1.51.


Rome: Total War allows for the manipulation of some game resources, including its text files and textures, which has led to the creation of many modifications. This includes unit editing, the ability to control previously unplayable factions, and total conversion mods such as Rome: Total Realism and Europa Barbarorum. There are major modifications covering eras of human history from the 9th century BC to early 19th century, and put in fantasy settings like Middle-earth and the Warhammer universe.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 91.64%[10]
Metacritic 92[11]
Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 9/10[12]
GameSpot 9.1/10[13]
GameSpy 4.5/5 stars[14]
IGN 9.4/10[15]

Rome: Total War has been critically acclaimed by many reviewers who regard it as one of the best strategy games of all time, winning numerous awards and high scores from gaming websites and magazines alike. The review aggregator Game Rankings shows an average of 91.7% from 65 major critic reviews, with 48 reviews at 90% or higher.[10]


On 2 July 2012, The Creative Assembly announced the development of Total War: Rome II as the next edition of the Total War series.[17] Rome II became its successor on 3 September 2013 when it was released, featuring gameplay during the time of the Roman Republic and Empire, a larger campaign map, as well as a number of game mechanics both new and carried over from previous Total War entries.


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External links