The History Channel Great Battles of Rome Review
The History Channel: Great Battles of Rome belongs on The History Channel because its graphics look about a decade old. Even if it had come out ten years ago it wouldn't have been a very exciting game because poor gameplay is timeless. The thing that is supposed to hook you into the game is that it features almost an hour of footage from The History Channel detailing the history of Rome from the viewpoint of its military engagements. However the game manages to take this fascinating subject matter and boil it down to one generic and unexciting battle after another. If The History Channel isn't more careful about what it lends its name to, its foray into gaming may soon be history.
The focus of the battles in the game is more on proper planning and strategy than it is about battlefield tactics. Between battles you'll have the opportunity to use the gold in your treasury to purchase new units. Although it is important to have a mix of unit types and to make choices between troop quality and quantity, you needn't spend too much time pondering your options as it's not all that hard to win battles in this game no matter what you bring with you to the field of battle.
Before a battle begins you'll see an overview of the battlefield and the positions of the enemy formations. You'll have the opportunity to place your units on the field of battle and give them their initial orders. This is the most important phase of the battle because you must take the terrain of the battlefield into account when placing your units. Ranged troops like skirmishers and archers do well from higher ground while cavalry need to avoid wooded areas. Also, once the battle begins you'll only have limited control over your troops and it will require expenditure of your limited command points to issue orders. However, your initial orders basically amount to decide which units should charge into battle at the onset and which should hold back until later. This supposedly simulates the difficulty commanders faced in giving their troops orders during battles during this age of history, but it's hard to shake the feeling that the real reason here is that the game's battle engine couldn't handle a more dynamic command system. The battles pretty much look and play out in the same way, so there's very little real connection here to anything of a historical nature. Generic looking and poorly animated troops square off in one quick playing battle after another, and before you know it you can't tell one from another. You'll also quickly learn that you don't really need to pay that much attention to the battles. As long as you get the basics of unit placement right at the start of the battle, you can pretty much leave things on autopilot.
After a battle your surviving troops will gain experience from the fight and you can use this experience to improve their capabilities. You'll be given choices as to what you'd like to improve, so you can invest in their command structure to give you more command points to spend in battle or improve their weapons to make them more effective in combat. Just as is the case with purchasing new troops, your choices here are not that important in the grand scheme of things. It's hard to imagine that you could make any wrong choices that would cause you to lose a battle in the future.
I'm really surprised that the developers even bothered making this game in the first place and more so that The History Channel got involved in this project. Rome: Total War is several years old at this point, but is far superior to Great Battles of Rome in every single way imaginable.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 20%. If you really want to learn more about the battles of Rome and to try your hand at recreating them, you're far, far better off simply renting a History Channel Special and picking up a copy of Rome: Total War.