Expeditions: Rome is the latest title from Logic Artists and THQ Nordic and an indirect sequel to Expeditions: Viking. The game invites players on a lengthy journey into the world of ancient Rome where you will be thrust into the middle of a conflict: conquering and pacifying distant lands, leading armies, navigating political intrigue, building alliances, forging friendships with five unique companions, and vanquishing enemies. All of that and more awaits you in this massive turn-based RPG.
How will your choices shape the future of Rome?
The story of the game begins with your character attempting to escape Rome with their life. Your character’s father has been murdered by a political opponent on the Senate, and, with the protagonist’s family in disarray and life in danger, they are forced to flee.
A military campaign to subdue Greek rebellion in a war against King Mithridates gives your character, a freshly appointed Legatus, a way to avoid repeating the father’s unfortunate fate and even make the name for yourself.
As you continue your quest of enforcing the will of Rome, you will get more information about the dealings of Roman politicians – both in the center of the Republic and on the distant shores. Very soon it will become obvious that the scope of those machinations is far above the fate of the Legatus’ family.
Investigating and dealing with this political intrigue will take you across a variety of breathtaking locations, including Greece, Rome, North Africa and Gaul as you shape the story of your character and the fate of the world around you.
But before we get there, remember: Rome was not built in a day, and your path to glory begins very humbly – with a character creator and a small tutorial that takes you through a battle with several pirates.
Expeditions: Rome allows players to create their own Legatus, complete with the selection of gender, appearance, portrait and a variety of characteristics. Unlike most games, gender plays a big role in the way your character is treated in-game. Playing a female character gets quite a few comments from your companions and NPCs alike, and plays a significant role in the main plot of the game.
Early on, you get to decide your character’s approach to conversations between Ethos (authority), Logos (logic) and Pathos (emotional manipulation). Your choice will unlock new dialogue options and entire ways to solve certain quests and situations, like appealing to a vendor’s logic to lower prices or giving an emotionally-charged speech to sway people to your side.
The game features four classes, each with three unique subclasses represented in a talent tree: Princeps (heavy melee), Veles (light melee), Saggitarius (archer) and Triarius (support). Don’t scoff at Triarius, while the class can technically be called support due to the number of buffs it brings, it can still do a lot of damage AND remain healthy after the battle is over.
Each class has access to certain types of armor and weapons. The characters’ skills, both your own, companions’ and hired praetorians’, are determined by a combination of class and weapons – think Guild Wars 2 system. Equipping a weapon gives the chosen character 2 or 3 weapon-specific abilities. Additionally, you always have access to your class’ passive and active skills. You can have two sets of weapons at the same time as well as a number of tacticals – usable items like torches, bandages, caltrops, etc. Those can quickly turn a tide of battle either way, especially on the higher levels of difficulty so make sure to pick them up when you see them and replenish them while you are in your camp.
All four classes – and thus, most types of equipment – are represented among the five companions that will join you over the course of the first chapter of the game, Conquest of Asia Minor. You can – and will have to – also bolster your private little group by hiring Praetorians at your camp – think of them as mercenaries that can tragically perish on the field of battle unlike your main bunch (that is, unless you want a Game Over).
You can still customize their skills and gear, but the portrait/gender/base class of those hirelings are locked in. You can dismiss already hired Praetorians and invite new ones if you see characters you like more over the course of the game.
Beyond that, the characters shine with their Personality and Perks. Perks have a direct link to gameplay and include such things as Constitution, Doctor, Agreeable, etc. For example, a character with a certain Perk can boost the production of a building in your base or treat light wounds on the go, saving you a return to the camp to heal your injured companions.
Meanwhile, Personality is something that would ensure you can never please all of your companions at once. Whereas one character is Hedonistic, another would be Stoic which would put them in conflict – and one way or another you will be picking sides. Other pairs of personality traits include (but are not limited to) Skeptical-Superstitious, Honest-Cunning, Humble-Arrogant, etc.
The five companions come alive with a wealth of fully-voiced dialogue and personal stories, full of conflict and aspirations. They also have their own opinions on everything and will squabble amongst themselves and with the Legatus to ensure things go a certain way.
It is up to you whether you want to fully lean into a certain personality or roleplay on the fly as things go: showing mercy in one situation, iron fist in another, using poison to clear up enemies beforehand or charging headlong into noble direct combat.
In case you wondered, yes, Expeditions: Rome does include the romance feature, giving players an opportunity for amorous adventures among the four companions (old Syneros is a trusted mentor who does not see you that way) and a number of NPCs.
Quite a lot of your time in Expeditions: Rome will be spent in, well, expeditions alongside the five companions or hirelings. That way you can get a close-up of unique locations built with the smallest details, directly interact with NPCs, solve side-quests – and participate in turn-based tactical combat sequences.
Despite a relatively small number of overall skills, the game’s battles will blow you away with the sheer wealth of options and opportunities they provide players with. The longer you play, the more abilities and gear you unlock, the deeper the system gets.
The combat usually starts with you positioning your characters in given grid sections across the battlefield, which allows you to ensure that squishy archers stay behind or have an easy way to get to a high-point location for an extra damage bonus, melee fighters are given an opportunity to engage, etc.
In-game maps, including random encounters with bandits, have a lot of verticalities, various obstacles to get in the way of your melee characters and hide enemies from ranged companions, destructible environments, items to interact with, and more. No two battles go the same way, especially if they come as a part of the main questline.
In addition to the mainstream battles with your Legatus leading the companions into combat, you will frequently have little excursions with one of the companions leading a squad of hirelings to get things done – so don’t forget to upgrade gear and replenish tacticals even for those characters that don’t see much use.
To provide the feeling of being in a large-scale conflict, Expeditions: Rome puts players in command of a Roman legion, tasked to conquer and instill the will of the Republic in distant shores.
Leading an army comes with its own set of challenges – like taking care of morale, numbers, resources, sending the Legion out on missions and protecting your outposts from enemies. After a very brief tutorial, the game stops holding players’ hands and lets you go about conquering and pacifying in your own way.
At first, exploring the system was mildly overwhelming, considering everything else the game throws at you from the very beginning, but the way Asia Minor can be compressed to the following: send the Legion to conquer an outpost, talk to one of your advisors in camp to unlock a Pacification quest, fulfill its requirements. At this point you can start actively taking over the newly opened region: send the Legion out to conquer mines, farms, hunting grounds and do repeatable Legion quests that will grant you provision, slaves, demarii, or medicine.
From time to time, your Legion will have to actively fight against an enemy army – doing so will launch you into a new type of combat. The sequence will start with the choice of a Centurion to lead this particular battle – depending on the loyalty of the character, you will be able to compare the risk of insubordination, the amount of loot received from combat as well as the Centurion’s chance to survive.
Once your choice is made, the actual battle will begin with the choice of the strategy. The deal is simple: reduce the enemy army’s numbers to a breaking point while keeping your own as high as possible.
But, of course, there are more details than that: your army has its own characteristics such as morale, aggression, defense, a risk to the commander and the centurions. All of those need to be considered when you are choosing the stratagem for the battle.
Are you willing to lose some morale to preserve more of your soldiers? Is it worth it to increase the risk to Centurions and thus the chance of them not surviving the battle to wipe out more of the enemy’s forces? These are the kinds of questions you will face in those sequences.
The developers have seemingly listened to the community feedback from Expeditions: Viking and took it to heart, implementing changes to the sequel. Expeditions: Rome is a masterpiece of a turn-based RPG, featuring an impressive web of interconnected systems and features.
It feels like the game attempts to bridge the gap between the turn-based RPG genre and a massive turn-based strategy to reflect the fantasy of being present in a large-scale conflict, like Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous. For the most part, it does so with great success, even if army battles quickly become an afterthought in your travels.
If you enjoy turn-based tactical combat and don’t mind alternative history and a layer of complexity brought by all the extra features, you are likely to have a great time in Expeditions: Rome. Check out the free demo on Steam to see the game in action for yourself!
Note: the Steam key was provided for free for the purposes of this review.
Similar to: Expeditions: Viking