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Vastly inferior to EU3
on November 12, 2012
I am brand new to this style of strategy game; I stared in abject horror at the huge list of tutorials for Victoria 2 and Europa Universalis III, and it took me months just to begin to get a handle of the game's demands. But once I did, I decided to turn to this one, since it covered the ancient world I loved.
Primarily, first and foremost, most importantly, etcetera, the game suffers from seemingly random crashes that utterly ruin the game for me; some 20 years into my campaign, it will freeze at the exact same date, and no amount of prior saves will fix this problem, so any other complaints are largely superfluous to a positive gaming experience compared to this.
Next, to the superfluous details:
It would make sense for this to have less adaptive/selection features than Europa Universalis III, to reflect a more primitive form of government (be it the monarchies of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, or the Republics of Rome and Carthage), but it becomes a severe deficiency when Rome in 200 BC has no access to horses anywhere in Italy, and is totally unable to research technologies to enable higher forms of infantry/cavalry, or boost research speed in particular fields (Army, Navy, Government, Stability, etc) and just hope that the game will randomly decide to grant you access to better military units. It was stunning how I was unable to build ANYTHING at the start of my campaign because NOTHING was researched yet---even temples, of which Rome had many by 280 BC (when the game lets you start), are unavailable anywhere, and if some random event destroys your only temple in Rome, you cannot rebuild it for years and years until the "technology" is randomly granted to you.
As well, the military aspect. Given the time period of this game, a nation's military virtually encompassed the nation's attention; there were no standards of civility by which a nation would surrender with honor to another, and especially with Rome, which would annex any lands that couldn't resist or offer a good reason not to. Despite this, no extra attention or emphasis is given to the military in this game compared to EU3.
Worse, there is LESS emphasis---you cannot adjust your military/naval prestige or attention, and there's essentially NOTHING to distinguish the military capacities of different nations (ie, Rome having lightly trained, but zealous legionaries, Carthage having expensive veteran mercenaries, the Hellenistic Kingdoms having a solid, steadfast professional army).
This means it is the NORM for a Roman army of 20,000 Principes (because there are no Hastati or Triarii available) to lose FOUR OR FIVE TIMES IN A ROW to a Gallic Barbarian army of 4,000 or less. Anyone with even a token knowledge of the Roman military would know that the EXACT OPPOSITE is true throughout virtually all of Roman history; the average Roman soldier was much better trained, better equipped, and better led than the average "barbarian" of virtually any of the "barbarian" tribes; Scythian, Gallic, German, Persian, African, Asian, etcetera.
This leads directly to another complaint; barbarians. Unlike EU3 where you could risk colonization of any province regardless of its natives, here, it is IMPOSSIBLE to colonize ANY land if the barbarians are considered "too strong", and the barbarians are ALWAYS "too strong", without fail. Rather than being able to invade with an actual army, the only solution for this is to basically lure the barbarians out by recruiting a single unit of military forces, and waiting months and months for the barbarians to rise up, kill them, and sack one of your settlements.
From there, the barbarian mechanic just goes completely off the edge; barbarians rise up in random numbers, and if the initial rise isn't quickly quashed by a nearby army, more and more of them spawn out of nowhere, or rise up from completely different provinces. Combined with their anachronistic ability to easily crush a Roman army 10 times their size, and any attempts at colonization without two fully stacked armies nearby will pretty much end your game in total defeat.
As well, little consideration seems to be given in the historical bookmark dates. Despite letting you start the game at major points between 280 BC and 27 BC, the game doesn't seem to care much to consider the actual political/military factors in place during these times. For example; starting as Epirus in 280 BC will place you with your army in Epirus, and NO fleet available to you, meaning you have to wait a full year or more just to transport your army across the little gulf between Tarentum and Epirus. Similarly, starting as Rome in 218 BC will see Carthage start with a full navy bigger than yours---despite the fact that one of the terms of the First Punic War was that Carthage's navy was severely limited by Rome, which would subsequently use its navy to prevent Carthage from doing anything to hurt Rome, hence the whole reason for Hannibal's marching through Gaul and over the Alps. Here, he didn't need to do that; Carthage's navy easily quashed mine, then invaded Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica within a single year.
Apparently new to the game via the "Vae Victis" expansion is the implementation of the new and advanced Senate feature. A better case for a tyranny I have never seen in any video game set in ancient Rome. The two major Republics are Rome and Carthage, and virtually nothing is done to differentiate the two---there is only one Consul/one Shofet per year (historically there were two; this was a very big deal to exclude in this game), and you can appoint two Censors (or Elders for the Carthaginians) who appear to do absolutely nothing. Laws passed by the Carthaginian Republic inexplicably have Roman names (Lex Cornelia, etcetera).
Historically, the Roman armies were commanded by the Consuls for the year. In this game, there is absolutely no attempt to replicate this chaotic situation at all; there is no automatic-installation of the Consul to your biggest army, nor any indication that they should assume command as per their station, and given the abysmal loyalty that seems default amongst the prominent Senators, forcing an army commander to resign after a single year will guarantee that they revolt against you.
The "party" system is simplified, with there basically being only five or six major parties (Military, Populist, Religious, Mercantile, Civic, etcetera), with the only defining marks being that the Populists are the most evil, self-destructive party in the entire game. Their primary features when in power is INCREASING your risk of revolts and DECREASING your stability. How in the hell this makes any sense is entirely lost to me, and I have never seen more revolutions over a 50 year period as Rome since the Crisis of the Third Century AD in real life history. It's beyond belief that this sort of game mechanic would be considered anything short of a colossal screw-up.
As well, Senate-based pop-ups seemed solely designed to ruin your life as much as possible. There was indeed great political maneuvering amongst members of the Senate to gain power, but the effects that occur in game are exaggerated to such a degree that the relatively stable political environment of the mid-Republic looks more like the Civil Wars of Caesar and Pompey; the Senate DEMANDS you install Lucius Diddlypuss as governor of Magna Graecia, you accept, he's IMMEDIATELY A REBELLIOUS LITTLE TWIT CONSIDERING INDEPENDENCE. NO EXCEPTION. If you don't waste money bribing him or waste titles appointing him an Augur or a Pontifex, he will revolt, guaranteed.
These frustrations are disastrous in combination with each other, and make the game entirely unplayable due to the game's propensity to random crashing with no discernable solution.