Intrigue, murder, deception, and overt corruption: all the norm in the day of a Roman senator, right? Well, at least in some versions of History it is. No matter what your take on the infamous empire, however, Pax Romana does an excellent job of letting the strategy PC gamer delve headfirst into the highly charged and ever-changing political landscape of Rome, circa 200 B.C., allowing them to make up their own minds about the most well known Empire of all time.
The infamous battles, strategies, and machinations of the Roman Empire comes to the PC desktop in the form of the Dreamcatcher release Pax Romana. Not only does this latest computer based romp accurately depict some of the more classic scenarios found in the History books, it also gives players an up-close and personal look into one of the most influential empires every known to mankind.
Two distinct games make up Pax Romana, allowing players to take on either the political sphere or the strategic/militaristic aspects of the mighty Roman Empire. The daunting political portion of the game allows players to take on the role of senator in one of Rome's six major political factions. The 'simple' goal of this portion of the game is to expand your characters influence and power within the mighty government. Players must successfully juggle a host of situations and scenarios in order to get elected to Rome's infamous Consul for Life. Incorporated into a classic form of resource management gaming, players must contend with and win over rival political factions, successfully control various aspects of a vast economy, distribute commodities among different areas of your constituency, appease the populace, etc., etc. Depending on how well your character overcomes the various challenges thrown at him as he makes his way through the surrounding auspices of the Roman political world dictates how close you come to achieving the final goal of dominating the senate.
The strategy version of Pax Romana falls along the same general parameters as the political part of the game, substituting several of the key management elements. Instead of the socio-political objectives, players focus on militaristic/expansion goals. These include forming alliances, conquering neighboring territories, outfitting armies and units, and coordinating the other military resources. Though not as consuming as the political portion of the game, the strategic end of Pax Romana is not for the weak minded: controlling the huge number of military units over the 500 plus regions of the old world successfully is not a task for the average slouch.
Keeping the historical elements of the game alive and well are what make Pax Romana truly engrossing. Players can jump into the fray as the famed Julius Caesar, commanding his legions of centurions as they overrun their enemies, or engage in the Gallic Wars, defending the walls of Rome from the hordes of proto-celtic warriors. Other historical aspects of the game also accurately depict military and political events surrounding the Roman Empire, including the attacks on Carthage, Macedonia, and Asyria.
Having the consistent theme throughout the game is a definite plus, especially when you consider the pain and agony that comes from the horrendous learning curve of the gameplay mechanics found within Pax Romana. Though the coveted walkthrough/tutorial is included in the game's startup, it still isn't enough for the neophyte to be able to jump into the game. Even the old school management gamer such as us here at The Laser had a few problems getting the hang of the system. As convoluted and trouble ridden as the original Roman Empire was, the huge number of controls, maps, panels, and other tedious in-game devices was enough to warrant a good cursing out every so often. Even the myriad of different strategies that can be implemented during the course of a single game was enough to blow a neuron once in awhile.
With the overwhelming aspects of the gameplay, hardcore fans of classic strategy and management PC gaming should still have a good run with Pax Romana. There's a good dealing of gaming to be found here with its over the top replay-ability aspects, not to mention the incredibly rich historical accuracy detailing one of the high points of the Roman Empire. For those that do find the time to finish both of the single player game versions, new maps and scenarios can be downloaded for new challenges, and if you can get a few friends to sign up as well, Pax Romana has an Internet and LAN multiplayer version of the game that allows up to 6 players to go head-to-head. Again, a good buy for those looking for something a little deeper in their strategy gaming, but definitely not for the casual Historical gamer.