Expeditions: Rome is a turn-based RPG by Logic Artists, in which you rise to command a Roman legion in order to get revenge for your father’s murder.
The hex grid turn-based combat plays out more or less like a melee-focused version of XCOM. Each of your characters has a set of abilities determined by their weapon and class. You have a movement limit within which you can use your sole action point, or you can spend your action point to sprint further instead. Consumable items and smart use of abilities that don’t use up an action point can turn the tide of battle. Additionally, downing an enemy classified as untrained will refund your action point. If any character exits a hex adjacent to a melee-wielding enemy, they will be attacked. This rewards positioning your units to thwart enemy movement and carefully avoiding enemy ranges.
This leads to interesting dynamics in fights, where the number and placement of untrained soldiers can make a fight a joyful chain of destruction or a tense, hard-fought battle. On top of this, the encounter design is masterful. The placements of enemies and the shape of the terrain are often shockingly distinct and demand different strategies. With the exciting multi-part sieges and varied situations, the turn-based combat easily rivals some of the best I’ve played.
Outside of individual battles, your legion is tasked with conquering various places by sending your legion into simulated battles on the overworld map. These battles ask you to pick a tactic for your troops to use, then show you the results via numbers over a top-down view of the battle. It isn’t particularly exciting, but it has a strategic purpose and doesn’t drag the game down thanks to auto-resolve speeding it up. There’s also a resource control system that lets you upgrade your legion’s camp and therefore your turn-based combat abilities. This proves crucial for battle but is light in gameplay terms.
The story of Expeditions: Rome is mostly linear but immerses you in the historical culture of Roman warfare in a fun way. You’re allowed to choose your class and gender, and if you play as a woman, you’ll experience well voice-acted sexism but also be allowed to be a total asshole in response. In general, you get to choose your approach to situations, like being aggressive or diplomatic, but outcomes are only affected in small ways by your choices. Still, it’s fun to walk into a place, insult everyone, and start a fight for the glory of Rome.
You’re occasionally given the option to flirt with your closest companions, but I didn’t find any explicit romances in my 31 hours with the game. Although there’s an approval system, it feels like your relationships with your companions are set in stone outside of a couple of notable events in the game, but at least they’re all interesting and fleshed out.
In review, the biggest downside of Expeditions: Rome is its lack of polish. Some of the menus are clunky or hard to find, the anti-aliasing blurs everything unless you turn it down, it’s easy to misclick in combat and there’s no undo button, the tutorials don’t adequately teach you certain systems, and the sheer volume of places to capture on the map means you’ll be doing the same thing over and over when it would have been more interesting to do it less.
That said, if you can push past the slight barrier to entry, this is one of the more player-friendly historical strategy games out there. The 3D graphics are only decent outside of some occasionally impressive environmental art, though the music gets you into the historical Roman mood enough to support the story and gameplay.
Expeditions: Rome isn’t a game for people who hate turn-based combat or don’t want to experience the Roman attitude of everyone being a bit horrible. But if you have any interest in sharp, moderately paced turn-based combat or a solidly written historical story, Expeditions: Rome is worth a try.
Expeditions: Rome is available January 22 on Steam for $44.99 but is currently 20% off.
Watch our full Review in 3 Minutes for Expeditions: Rome.