2 Total War games were released prior to Rome: Total War, which set the stage for one of the best PC strategy games. Shogun, it's debut, introduced the "chess piece" movement system, cut scenes for actions, historical updates, and real-time combat; while Medieval placed those elements in a more familiar, Western location.
Rome: Total War introduced a new movement system, which determined battle locations by armies' locations on the campaign map; no more were the battle maps randomly generated according to elements in a province, such as mountains, forests, or plains. It also introduced much better graphics in both the campaign and battle maps, as well as a better interface. It also introduced religious bonuses, such as experience, population, law, and happiness received for building shrines to certain deities..
I have played Rome: Total War since 2004, and I have conquered the Romans, and Europe with most available, and some unlockable, factions. I took elephants over the Alps with Carthaginian generals; I conquered the British Isles with the Germans; and I took all the lands historically held by the Greeks. I've mastered Diplomacy in the game, though it took some adapting to v1.5's more difficult Diplomacy. And I learned how to spread the plague to enemy cities.
The Gold Edition I own is a 4 CD set, with a lengthy manual for the vanilla game, a smaller manual introducing the elements of Barabarian Invasion, and a map of the known world, showing the location of each settlement in the game. The new Gold Edition I recently purchased came with 1 DVD. Needless to say, I was disappointed with the lack of manuals and the map I use every time I play. After searching through the contents of the DVD, I found a .pdf of the manual, but no map. Though I bought my friend a brilliant game, I feel that he was cheated out of the best resources the Gold Edition had to offer.
The lack of enclosed manuals with games is a cheap stab at gamers by producers who already treat us as if we're theives, install secret software we can't uninstall (SecuROM) to ensure we're not thieves, and make shorter and less interesting games with better graphics. What good does a .pdf manual do if we can't read it while gaming? The same question applies to Online manuals and maps. We continue to pay full price for games, yet the content enclosed becomes little more than a DVD and a URL to the game manual. Because Activision is too cheap to enclose the necessary accessories to this game, which were enlosed in earlier releases, I am giving this product an average score. The game itself is a 5/5 and has yet to be bested, and I'm looking forward to Rome II: Total War.