They say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In actuality, Rome was built by the systemic conquering of new lands to expand the empire. The growth and expansion of the Roman empire has been a well-documented obsession of scholars for centuries, and now with Great Conqueror: Rome, that obsession comes to the comfort and portability of the Nintendo Switch. Releasing to the Nintendo eShop this week, we spent some time with the title, so read this review to know what to expect.
STORY – RISE AND FALL
Great Conqueror: Rome takes place during the rise of the Roman Empire, placing you in the role of facilitating the entirety of the Roman army as you move through Africa, Europe, and Asia, claiming lands as your own. Make no mistake, you won’t be controlling a vast army of thousands of soldiers, but in fact taking the guise of famous Roman figures such as Caesar, Octavian, and Spartacus. The Campaign Mode follows you through many famous Roman wars, starting with The Punic Wars (264-146 BC) and moving through the events that turned the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.
Historical facts are peppered through the dialogue and level summaries, providing a crash course in the history of the republic and how it came to be. The presence of many different historical figures is sure to delight those that enjoy learning about these events and battles, and being able to actually be a part of them is sure to be particularly thrilling. That being said, this is not a historical presentation on the level of, say, Assassin’s Creed, and should not be used as a replacement for traditional textbooks.
GAMEPLAY – A NERO MISS
Great Conqueror: Rome is played on a hexagonal grid in the shape of whichever part of the Roman Republic you are currently fighting for. Some levels will depict the general area around Utica, for example. The available player units can be moved across the map and attack enemy units or cities, provided they have substantial enough power. Units include Roman infantry, cavalry, and archers, as well as the eventual inclusion of warships to attack from the sea.
There are some logistical issues to be found with the gameplay. While moving and attacking should be a breeze, the hexagonal grids mixed with the camera perspective lead to many, many erroneous selections. The selection-box for each grid piece is in actuality smaller than it appears, and when you try to move a unit to another spot, oftentimes they get moved elsewhere. The cursor is also troubling. The control stick moves the sword-shaped icon quickly around the screen, and the D-Pad will move it slowly for accuracy, but both of these options fall short. When used in conjunction, this control scheme is more of a laborious process, and almost seems as if the intended navigation method was the touch screen all along.
The town mechanic is an interesting one. Instead of one tile of town that provides shelter and support to player units, the cities can be expanded to include various districts, such as an economic center to boost currency or a port to create ship units. Players can upgrade their towns to increase the capabilities of units, and also take ownership of enemy cities through combat. The key to a good empire is formidable fortitudes, and Great Conqueror: Rome knows that this was a key to the rise of the Roman Republic.
Aside from the lengthy Campaign mode, alternative modes Conquest and Expedition offer less story-driven examples of history. Conquest allows players the entirety of the Mediterranean land and allows for trade and deal-making with neighboring kingdoms. It can also be played in Auto Mode, allowing you to sit back and watch the expansion of the Roman Republic unfold. Expedition mode offers more singular objectives and scenarios, another way to methodically move throughout the kingdoms.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – LIKE A PAPER PLAY
Great Conqueror: Rome is a pretty nice-looking game. The art style almost mimics a children’s book, with all models appearing in 2D with a hint of storybook quality. Think paper dolls as opposed to ragdolls. The battle animations are particularly great, as they appear like a little “slice of life” shot of combat. The in-game presentation of the map and different kingdom boundaries is easy to identify and make sense of, and nothing is strikingly garish or difficult to understand. Character portraits to their job in presenting historical figures as strong men of war.
The game music is reminiscent of a war epic such as Troy, underscoring the events of the battles. The fighting sound effects sound nice and crisp, and there aren’t any annoying repetitive sounds that distract from your objective. There’s nothing worse than an incessant audio cue, and thankfully there aren’t any to be found here.
Great Conqueror: Rome was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A review key was provided by Circle Entertainment.