Friends! Romans! Lend me your ears! We’re no stranger to Paradox grand-strategy games here, and while we tend to focus more on Hearts of Iron 4, there’s a healthy respect for all of the developer’s stable of sweeping strategy experiences.
Even from a war gamer perspective, I’ve been quietly looking forward to the release of new ancients-era grand-strategy Imperator: Rome, especially with its warfare mechanics. Imperator launched today if you’ve been waiting to pick it up, and there’s plenty of reviews around including my own over at sister website, Strategy Gamer.
Long story short: It’s complicated. These days, grand-strategy games are an investment, and one could argue that they’re not necessarily meant to be wholly fulfilling right off the bat. Feature-complete, sure, but it’s very foundational, and there’s just as much you’ll find disappointing as you’ll find exciting.
Still, the ‘war gaming’ part of the game sports some of the stronger features, so let’s have a look under the hood one last time
The military mechanics are still by and large as described in my preview article at the end of last year. Your armies can be composed of nine different unit types from heavy infantry and horse units, to Camels, Chariots or War Elephants. Unit composition matters now because each army can be assigned an overall tactic.
This is a slight change from before because it used to be you set one for attack, and one for defence now you just have a single combined tactics. Tactics now also give less decisive positive/negative results against other tactics, but there’s also an effectiveness rating based on the unit composition. The ‘Envelopment’ tactic, for example, is one that gets maximum efficiency from having only Light Horse units, although you can have some others in there as well. That efficiency drops if you start including units that don’t favour that tactic. Armies that are too diverse find they can’t do any tactic that effectively, so it pays to specialise.
Certain units also have special traits as well, and you can assign specific unit types to the front rank, second rank and then the flanks. Light Infantry, for example, reduce the morale loss your army takes. This allows you to both give and receive damage but be able to last in the fight longer overall.
As your empire grows, you’ll make decisions or acquire resources that will give you natural buffs to certain kinds of military units. This is all contained in a handy reference table located as a sub-tab of the ‘Military Traditions’ interface. If you’re wondering what unit type to specialise in and where to focus, this can give you an at-a-glance look at what units do, and where you have stat boosts.
As far as actually waging war is concerned, there’s’ a lot to take in. Terrain and Forts are just as big a deal as they are in EU4 post-Common Sense. Manpower and Supply Limits are still really important factors, although the AI still isn’t afraid of piling in the stacks if it feels it needs to. Wars won’t be decisive, and sieges will be long but careful planning and a small degree of reconnaissance can do wonders.
Despite my own misgiving about Imperator, its hard to deny it’s going to become something special in time. Even now, Grogs should find some interesting moments and stories in their journey towards conquering the ancient world. There’s a starling lack of personality in places, but hey, nothing that a bit o’ conquering won’t solve. If you do end up picking it up today, enjoy! If not, there’s no harm waiting it out a while.