Nemesis of the Roman Empire

13More vedi, vidi, vici in RTS land.

One of 2002’s quiet surprises was Celtic Kings: Rage of War, which threw real-time strategy and role-playing into a blender and dished up a game tasty enough for many fans of both. The sequel, unfortunately, backs off from the earlier game’s innovations. Nemesis of the Roman Empire drops many role-playing elements in favor of the base building conventions that we’ve seen many times before.

The setting is the third and second centuries BCE, the time of the Punic Wars. You muster huge armies and place them under the command of heroes, build siege engines to conquer enemy outposts, and establish supply lines to haul food and gold across your empire.

You do these things by overseeing various generals as they wage war at different periods over the course of a century. In the Battle of Saguntum, you help Gallic Indortes defend a city against the Carthaginians. In Hannibal’s Campaigns, you take on Carthage in the conquest of Hispania. In Numantia’s Siege, you defend Hispania with Culcas and Dictoras and their Iberian and Gallic tribesmen. Yes, just as you did in StarCraft, you’ll be switching sides more often than a Frenchman. Only in StarCraft, it was more fun.

This fractured focus made it difficult for me to stay motivated from battle to battle. Detailed graphics, distinct unit types, and politically-incorrect ethnic accents notwithstanding, I couldn’t get into the campaigns because I didn’t feel like I had enough time to form a strong bond with any single leader before moving on to the next.

8This problem doesn’t crop up in the single-player skirmish and multiplayer modes, of course, since no story is required there. In these modes, battle tactics are at the heart of every game, and resource gathering is handled automatically so that you can become absorbed in the planning and execution of war without having to micromanage. Fortunes flow wildly: One moment I was defending city walls from trumpeting Carthaginian elephants, and the next I was building an expeditionary force.

At times, Nemesis’ tactical game almost offsets the scatterbrained feel of ping-ponging around through history. But even with its solid elements, Nemesis is considerably less adventurous than its genre-bending predecessor, making it much less engaging as a result.

System Requirements: Pentium II 400 MHz, 64 MB RAM, WinXP

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