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Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion

"The enemy is great in number, which means more for the killing! Send him to hell on a tide of blood!"

"Barbarian Hordes" is out for Rome:Total War. It makes for quite a more chaotic game than R:TW the original - there are no more missions from the Senate, but there are plenty of hordes, let me tell you. There are a ton of barbarian tribes (I was torn as to whether I should be the Goths or the Vandals, figuring both had a certain cachet. Ultimately, I chose the goths...mostly since there colors are black and orange, which I think must be intentional) and two Roman factions, the Eastern and Western Empire. The Roman legions are far less diverse than they were in R:TW, but the barbarian tribes each have unique units.

There are some big differences now - the huns will invade, which is bad news. Becuase now, when a barbarian tribe loses its last province, it become a horde. The entire population takes up arms, and becomes a huge and marauding ...well... horde! The horde consists of a handful of whatever the best troop types could have been produced in the last province (usually heavy cav) and then gobs and gobs and gobs of half-decent spearmen, and then also some large and unruly mobs of peasants and escaped-slave-spearmen. One tribe's horde will generally vastly out number whatever foe they happen on first, creating a chain reaction as one horde displaces the previous occupants, which then become a horde - wash, rinse, repeat.

Last night I fought against a Sarmation horde, defending my capital, Campo Lazyges. I had about 226 guys, consisting of one heavy cav, one light cav, one spearmen, and one peasant mob. I was fighting about 1200 Sarmatians, almost all cavalry - both heavy and cavalry archers. Outnumbered six to one, I started the battle, took a good defensive position inside my city and figued I'd just lose and start a new game, maybe as Romans this time. I watched "lost" and only half paid attention to the battle... only to turn around and in shock, see absurd piles of bodies heaped up in a huge mound around my leader and his surviving fifty or so men. I killed every last one of those Sarmatians. I actually laughed out loud at the carnage - I zoomed all the way in and saw a killing field the likes of which I'd never seen before in any Total War game. It was crazy, and utterly gratifying.

The best part about R:TW was the general's speeches to his men, which were regal and sparse in a very Roman way. "Mark your target, and kill him as he comes!" The barbarian speeches are even better - chock-a-block with blood soaked imagery and vivid pronouncements of horrible doom, and voiced by a guy with the kind of growling voice that you just KNOW comes from someone with hideous facial scarring. It's fantastic, makes me want to go gut some Romans and use his intestines for garters!

Other than the addition of hordes, and also the possibility of a night attack - the game is largely unchanged, but polished. Religion plays more of a role too - there are Christians, Pagans, and Zoroastrians, and the religion of your leader will affect the morale of his troops if it is different than the prevailing norm in the provinces. There are new units, and new buildings - but battles and turn orders play out much as they used to. The graphics are still superb, and I love that I can zoom all the way in on a battle to watch individual soldiers fight, or all the way out to get a bird's eye view. It says something that the game's introduction is entirely done in the game engine.

I recommend. It's out now, $30.00

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