Expeditions: Rome Review

Expections: Rome cover

Imagine that XCOM has been turned inside out. The main idea is a marathon of tactical battles and parallel development of your military base – in the same place where it was, but all secondary elements and decorations seem to have been deliberately replaced with their complete opposites.

Instead of a near future with elements of fantasy, it is a distant past with real historical characters and events. Forget about aliens and flying saucers… This clownery doesn’t come close to the vibrant history of Ancient Rome. Instead of shootouts and running between cover, it is mostly hand-to-hand brawls, wall-to-wall, until the last drop of blood. And yes, it will constantly be shed from both sides.

Can you picture it? Great. In two words, this is the trick that Logic Artists studio pulled off when they released their tactical turn-based strategy game, Expeditions: Rome.

Did the trick work? Let’s find out.

Antique aesthetics

Blood, togas, and sand

There is something in ancient aesthetics that turns me away from video games about centurions, patricians, and other gladiators every time. White togas, statues faded before their time, eternal sun with sand – the eye raised on Mario and Sonic lacks acidic colors, neon light bulbs. You look at the legionnaires and understand that they were beautiful guys, but you want to play with soldiers dressed in even more fancy armor.

It’s a matter of taste, I know. I wouldn’t even complain. It’s just that in the prologue, the game not only puts our hero on a boring galley in a boring sea under a boring sun, but also immediately throws a banal political collision “The enemy clan burned down our ancestral villa” in our face. After that, it demands that we get acquainted with several dummies, whom I couldn’t care less about until they prove themselves at least in an introductory battle.

But it immediately becomes clear that the game will have a Plot.

The history of ancient Rome

As it is known, in over seven hundred years of Ancient Rome’s history, only one interesting event happened, and that event was the civil war, after which Gaius Julius Caesar became the main man in Roman rolls. Everything else is decay, hedonism, and decadence, about which nothing can be done except pornography.

Expeditions: Rome is a decent game, so yes, at the very beginning of the first act, we will meet a certain commander Lelik, help him retrieve his combat diary, and well, you understand.

Ahead lies the inevitable capital disco, but for now, we are just a new commander of one of the legions, tasked with planting shady Greeks on our magnificent empire up to their throats.


After the initial introduction to the drama group Expeditions: Rome, you can’t help but expect to get the most unimaginative combat system in the world within three minutes.

However, no. Bread and real spectacles are indeed part of the game.

As mentioned above, the main attraction here is turn-based tactical battles, painfully reminiscent of XCOM, but with radically different emphasis on battlefield positioning.

How are we used to it? We have a squad that includes guys with rifles, guys with machine guns, more guys with machine guns, even more guys with machine guns. Maybe a couple of shotgun enthusiasts. And one bad samurai running around the terrain with a hybrid of a sword and a chainsaw, just for variety.

Here, it’s the opposite. Our main arsenal consists of swords, staffs, spears, knives, and other close-quarters weapons. Yes, somewhere in the back, the squad supports an important but lonely archer. If you really want to, then two archers, but in that case, there is a serious risk of the vanguard crumbling.

Conflicts here are solved to face face

Because conflicts are resolved here hardcore, face to face. I would have never thought, but a battle between six units on six adjacent cells turns into not just a mindless exchange of attacks, but a whole science with non-trivial chains of actions.

It’s particularly pleasing that each first class and each (well, almost) move has its own place. It is impossible to find a universal algorithm for all tactical battles in life. Partly because the combat puzzles are very different, partly because half of the moves are not tied to the development of characters as such, but to different weapons. Sometimes you want to keep your familiar set of actions and live with it until old age, but then you find a dagger on the battlefield that is so good in terms of simple damage numbers that you can’t resist.

In general, the tactical battles turned out well. I would just completely remove the local Molotov cocktails from the game, they hit too hard all over the world and limit the space for maneuvers. Other than that, everything is great.

Victory conditions

Sneaky sawmill, hidden mine

The breaks between tactical battles are filled with travels on the global map, the familiar development of the base (that is, the stakes of our legion), simple strategic management of this very legion, and lovingly plot-driven dialogues.

Unfortunately, I don’t want to praise Expeditions: Rome for any of the aforementioned entertainments. Well, there will be something to criticize, but not too much.

The least enjoyable are the jumps on the global map. The first ten minutes, spent exploring the region in the style of Heroes of Might and Magic, evoke such, you know, pioneer interest. Then you realize that for some reason the game really wants you to hunt for pixels. I mean, to scrutinize the overall canvas and pick out inconspicuous points of interest with your eagle eye. You can’t miss only the most important landmarks on the map, but all the other objects – from mines, sawmills, and farms to random supply warehouses – are so skillfully integrated into the scenery that you can easily never notice them at all.

Global map

Sorry, but I’m used to having any somewhat important column stand out in strategies. It would be marked with an icon on the mini-map, painted brighter than simple decorations, so that I could immediately and without any additional effort understand that there is something interesting here.

No, I missed the quarry – that means I missed it.

Moreover, I’m not sure if the designers intentionally created puzzles a la Myst on the map. During the first campaign, I realized that I missed several landmarks, trying to figure out which resources I needed to upgrade the base camp.

It can’t be, I thought, that E:R still hasn’t given me iron for the very first garrison upgrade. It turned out that it did give it, I just missed two whole mines.

Expeditions: Rome screenshot

Attack on autopilot

Actually, commanding a legion doesn’t really bother me, but it doesn’t particularly please me either.

We have a group of Romans with swords under our control, moving from one checkpoint to another. We won’t see any epic battles with thousands of soldiers on the screen, of course, this is not that kind of game. Just statistics – the number of fighters, their morale, and food supplies.

Yes, there is also a separate morale of centurions, which is influenced by the player’s actions throughout the game. But the influence of the commanders’ moods on the game is even weaker than the moral dilemmas in Mass Effect 3 on its ending.

In order to progress further in the campaign, the legion needs to systematically defeat similar faceless groups from their strongholds, then capture the aforementioned sawmills, and then repeat the process. After conquering n camps and sawmills, we build new tents where we forge the best armor, heal the personnel, chat with fellow soldiers about life, all the usual stuff, everything in the well-known XCOM circle plus a bit of dialogue politics and romance.

Total War for the smallest

The process of capturing the main control points is presented with adorable scenes with the unofficial name “Total War for the little ones”. During the performance, random cubes, rectangles, and circles, representing our brave troops and disgusting enemy hordes, will squeeze and expand like an accordion, flow, retreat from each other, and pretend that something important is happening on the screen, all accompanied by samples of clinking weapons.

We will even be allowed to adjust tactics three times per collision.

There is no deep meaning in choosing tactics, nor in contemplating the animated arrows from school history textbooks. You watch the first battle from sports interest from start to finish, by the third one you start fast-forwarding to the selection of stratagems, somewhere around the sixth geometric analysis you turn on the provided autopilot and forget that there is such a thing as Expeditions: Rome at all.

In general, the game manages to dilute the main gameplay with various routine tasks, but only to a minimum, absolutely without any spark.

Inventory and skills

We have already seen this TV series

Finally, all missions, incidents, and campaigns are tied together by the same Plot with Heroes.

Unfortunately, once again. E:R plays out the most cliché plot in popular culture and introduces the most standard companions. A Roman patrician starts a forced military career before the civil war, then struggles during the war, and finally experiences its consequences. The protagonist’s companions include barbarian gladiators, a veteran legionnaire, an elderly mentor-servant with a rich past, and a renegade patrician…

Yes, there will be some opportunities for flirting. If desired, of course.

In short, there is a plot. A couple of episodes turned out to be interesting. Let’s praise Logic Artists studio for attempting to bring deep plot twists to XCOM and wish them greater success in the future.

Deep plot ups and downs

The game has very, very good basic mechanics, you can’t take that away. The tactical battles, once again, are very good. They elevate everything else – not bad, but not particularly interesting – elements of E:R to a rating of 7 out of 10. Making the tasks for the global map more meaningful and the plot brighter, and everything will be great overall.

For now, we have a not excellent, but simply good tactical strategy. But for once, it’s not about shootouts or aliens.

Expeditions: Rome
Tactics, Turn-Based
THQ Nordic
Logic Artists
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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