Expeditions: Rome is the third game in the Expeditions series published by THQ Nordic. Is Logic Artists’ last Expeditions game as a developer a good send-off or a clear sign for them to stop making video games?
The story revolves around the death of your Roman father for unknown reasons by political opponents. What seems like it may be such a typical political assassination turns into several continent-spanning conspiracies.
There are several Acts in the game, and each one takes place in a different campaign region. Act I takes place in Asia Minor (Turkey), Act II takes place in North Africa (Eygpt), and Act III takes place in Gaul (France). Each area has their own enemies and story quests to complete, and they usually involve subjugating locations on the map and defeating the armies that control them.
Each Act could be its own game or tale, but they mostly manage to link each one into the overall arcing story of your father’s death. Other subplots, like the renegade Legio XVII (also known in the game as VIXI), intertwined with the narrative. This legion didn’t exist at this moment in time in actual history. This is the same legion destroyed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
Many aspects of the game’s story didn’t happen in real life or how it is laid out in the game. This is the period of history when Cleopatra was around, and Rome was still a Republic. You will also meet Cicero, Julius Caesar, Cato and Lucullus. All of which are based on historical figures.
The story is engaging, but if you do not care about antiquity or history, this story won’t do anything to make you care about that time in the past. Even I, a person interested in that period, found the story average at best.
Expeditions: Rome is a tactical role-playing game, in the vain of the Divinity: Original Sin games as combat are turn-based tactical encounters, and in between that, you wander the map talking to people and investigating. It shares similarities to the Total War and Mount & Blade games, as you send your legionnaires to fight battles and take over areas of the world map.
A legionary battle occurs when your legion attacks an area on the world map or is defending from an attack. In these battles, you assign a Centurion who leads. The Centurion has various traits that determine whether the action will succeed.
These battles happen on a flat map, similar to something a commander might use to plan with or anyone familiar with the Time Commanders’ television show. Icons are used to represent the different units in the legion. There are four phases of a legionary battle where the outcomes are decided by the tactic cards used. More of these cards are earned by assigning someone to research in your legion camp.
The legionary battles are quick and not particularly hard or engaging. You will mostly pick random cards and skip through the phases, as they are practically impossible to lose.
The actual fun part of the gameplay is the tactical battles and story missions where you and your Praetorian Guard fight on a battlefield. These battles are turn-based and require tactical thinking, with the correct use of tactical items to gain the advantage.
The maps feature cover spots and items you can pick up. They often have oil barrels you can hit with fire to deny areas or burn opponents. The maps always have requirements for battle success, such as killing all enemies, destroying the weapon crates, or even stealing a trophy. This means a non-killing task will often stop the endless reinforcements coming. They will then all flee in terror.
Using actual Roman tactics will mean you are more likely to succeed in battle, which is a rewarding feeling. If you stay back, use your shields to form a wall and let the enemy come to you before counterattacking. Doing this will ensure you have an easier time in combat.
I particularly enjoy the archer class abilities. They basically have an overwatch ability called Interrupt. If fully upgraded and given a type of bow will be able to shoot and kill three enemies as soon as they move. Kills are satisfying and gory enough to make it never get boring to dispatch people. Calida was one of my favourites because of this.
While there aren’t many class varieties in the Roman units, each class has three trees that can be mixed and matched to form more than the four default classes. Your adversaries have more variety in theirs and often have abilities you can’t obtain yourself.
At the end of a tactical battle, you can walk around in real-time and loot the enemies and treasure chests, and crates that litter the area. Doing this will reward you with new weapons, armour, and crafting recipes. Most of the time won’t be better than anything you have equipped. The only items you want to worry about are the tactical items such as Greek Fire (molotov cocktail) and bandages.
This is because you can upgrade your items at your legion camp, so if you want, you can stick with your starting Roman gear. Or you could make everyone wear random armour or look Egyptian by equipping African equipment.
Outside of combat, the legion camp acts as your forward operating base. It can be upgraded to improve its defence capabilities and to house different facilities, such as a place to improve morale, heal, enhance equipment, and recruit new Praetorians and centurions.
The camp visually changes according to your chosen legion colours, emblems used, and upgrades obtained. This all makes you feel like you are progressing and feel more immersed.
The only problem with the camp is that it requires you to load in each time, and you will do this a lot. I often avoided returning to camp as I didn’t want to wait for the load time. While it doesn’t take too long, it happens a lot. All tactical battles and areas require loading too. It became tedious waiting to load into locations and reading the same ten hint screens. The picture might change depending on the Act, but the hints stayed the same. There needed to be more tip or history information variety.
The building is suitably brothel-like, and the walls are decorated with Roman pornography.
The visuals are impressive in some places. Characters all look good close up, and for a game that mostly takes place in a zoomed-out view is admirable. The world map also looks quite good in places. For example, you might see birds flying around, and towns and farms are represented on the map.
Tacitcal and area locations are well-modelled and realised and often have objects you can destroy and manipulate or interact with in simple ways. It is also impressive how detailed some of the walls are.
When you are in Rome in between acts, it looks like Rome and the architecture and colours are what you would imagine it would look like. In one of the quests, you go to a brothel. The building is suitably brothel-like, and the walls are decorated with Roman pornography.
In Eqypt, the temples have decorated golden reliefs and wall paintings of their gods and other important people. It all adds to the immersion, and the attention to detail is respectable, as most will likely not notice it.
Most enemies you face will look the same, based on a few different unit types. However, most of the time, you won’t notice this. They also change per Act, having their own unique thematic look.
Roman, Egyptian, Gaulic, and Creek equipment all seems historically accurate, and there is enough variety to make you able to stand out. There is also some legendary equipment that are the best items in the game. These often give unique abilities and look great too. You will want to give these pieces to yourself and your main companions.
It is commendable that all dialogue is voice-acted. While some of it isn’t great and seems out of place. For example, a smith you get early on, who occasionally makes you unique gear, sounds like someone from the north of England or Sean Bean. It sounds weird and doesn’t sound Roman at all. Especially when England hadn’t even been conquered yet, even then, it wouldn’t match.
The developers also insisted on mixing English words with Latin words. It takes you out of the experience. It should be all in Latin or all in English, not both.
Another problem with the dialogue is that all the Romans sound English. They should at least make them have an Italian or Latin accent. The Gauls all sound Scottish or Irish. It doesn’t seem accurate, as they would probably have more of a Welsh or Breton accent. The Creek and Egyptian voices aren’t probably correct, either.
One good thing is that the pronunciation of words seems accurate or completely wrong. Well, I am not sure about it. It isn’t how I thought the words were said, anyway.
There is variety in the music, and each Act has different tunes. Some of it does feel repetitive on occasion. Each mission of an Act usually involves an epic end battle. These battles can last up to an hour, so the music used often becomes annoying and seem to be not long enough.
The ambient sounds and sounds of warfare sound fine and don’t suffer from sounding too tinny or poor. They at least tried to make the game sound right.
When I started Expeditions: Rome, I chose hard difficulty, with deaths and ironman mode on. Which gives you only one save slot, and it autosaves. This was all fine until I got to the end of Act II, and the game constantly showed the save icon, and when I tried to save, it wouldn’t do anything. I then decided to call it a night and quit. However, it bugged out and teleported the camera into a mountain. No menu would pop up, and I was forced to close the game with Task Manager.
The next day when I went to carry on, I had no saved file. It was like I had never played the game. I looked in the game folders where the save should be located, and it didn’t exist. I eventually worked out that as I didn’t play the game “normally” (not in ironman mode), the game didn’t even bother to create a folder for saves. I know this as when I started the game, not in ironman and saved it, it created a folder and saved the file.
That was about twenty hours I had wasted. I was going to stop there and never play the game again. I decided to get it another go and started again on hard mode, with ironman and Praetorian deaths on. Thankfully I had no problems the second time.
On the second playthrough, I saw some different encounters that I hadn’t seen on my first playthrough, which surprised me. As the game has multiple endings, if you did decide to play the game again from the start, you might see some new content. Regardless, I doubt most people would replay the game more than once.
The choices made during the game have a narrative impact, as detailed in the end-of-game epilogue. It gives the impression you are making a difference. However, these don’t really affect the overall story.
If you are wondering, I chose the Exile ending, where you save your friends. It shows what happens to your companions later. You may lose some of your companions as you play the game. Yet, I didn’t test to see if you could lose all of them.
One piece of DLC, Death or Glory, adds several gladiator arenas. These pop up in every Act and a new class is added. You can also do the Gladiator DLC separately from the main story. I didn’t experience any of it, but it likely adds more length and variety to the adventure.
It is sad to see that Logic Artists have gone on to form a new studio (Dynasty Studios) to make NFT games, but at least their last video game is a good swansong for the developers. It will be interesting to see if THQ Nordic brings the Expeditions series back in the future.
I like antiquity history and tactical turn-based role-playing games. There is a lot to like in Expeditions: Rome. The different systems aren’t fully fleshed out as a whole, but they come together to give a true feeling of what leading a Roman legion might be like.
If the above doesn’t sound interesting, you probably won’t enjoy Expeditions: Rome. While the tactical combat is entertaining, the setting and theme play a lot to make it more engaging.
Developer: Logic Artists.
Publisher: THQ Nordic.
Release: 20th January 2022.