Review: Aggressors: Ancient Rome30 Aug 2018 0
Review: Aggressors: Ancient Rome
Released 30 Aug 2018
It’s a rare 4X game that manages to catch my attention nowadays. While any new entry in the genre immediately generates interest, the standard procedure is to prime myself for disappointment. Despite the major influence from Sid Meier’s Civilization, nine times out of ten, 4X titles land flat on the water.
But the one time they don’t, I come off both surprised and glad. Those titles tend to be innovative and highly respectful of the lessons taught by Firaxis’ perennial franchise, and that’s what Aggressors: Ancient Rome is: a 4X game set solely during Ancient Times that takes much from Civilization yet adds several new ideas to the mix in order to properly capture the Roman period it depicts.
The game mainly takes place in an abstraction of Roman times, allowing the player to choose among 20 period-appropriate factions. Besides Rome and the standard big players -- Carthage, Egypt, and the Greek states -- Aggressors allows you to choose small tribes and peoples like the Antigonid, Ardiaei, or Pontus. Each has its own economy, population, and starting territory, offering a bit of variety but lacking the in-depth asymmetry of Total War or the characterization of Civ.
You also get a choice between the standard Mediterranean map or a randomly generated play area, adding a fair degree of replayability to the title. Unlike the Mediterranean map and their fixed starting positions, the random setup plops players all around without a pre-established city, turning the game into a more classic land-based 4X start.
Combat is mainly focused around single unit stacks that can be combined to form legions, and it livens things up by using concepts like number of attacks and defences. Some units can be upgraded to attack more than once in a turn, while units on defence suffer penalties the more they are attacked, with 100% of its contingent fighting on the first battle of a turn, 70% on the second, etc.
While Aggressors looks like Civ and plays like Civ, it is vastly more complex. Every aspect of the formula has been expanded and filled to the brims with intricacies that while not always directly interactive, always play a role in below-the-hood computations. Terrain convenience, readiness, and general morale dictate the result of battles, while loyalty, order, and even birth rate policies shape the fate of your empire. From classic diplomacy like trade and war, to more complex concepts like internal politics, Aggressors leaves very few things off the table.
The game’s complexity may put off a lot of people who aren't prepared for it, but it creates a very interesting experience for those who are interested in such an endeavour. Unlike most 4X titles and their approximate arbitrary representation of government, Aggressors seems to try its best to emulate how much work it actually goes into running a country by giving players a lot of things to keep track of.
For all that bureaucratic facsimile, Aggressors also tries to be historically accurate. While it for the most part succeeds as well as a videogame can, it does bothers me that Rome is egregiously placed as a coastal city, in a location more suited to Antium or even Ostia. Placing it by the sea has enough historical and gameplay connotations to make a consul’s head hurt.
However, the game does nail the tutorial in a way most strategy games don't. Aggressors features a basic and advanced tutorial that efficiently eases you into the game, first with a hand-holding series of tasks on basic and then a free-form list of objectives during advanced, getting you up to speed at your own pace.
Graphically, the game runs fine -- it's visuals are significantly less attractive than Civ VI (or even Civ V), but they are serviceable enough for Slitherine's core demographic. The options menu contains most standard settings, but a lack of UI scale slider made the UI super small in high resolutions and prevented me from playing in any resolution above 1080p. It is an issue that shouldn’t affect a major part of the playerbase, but anyone with a large display, 4K resolution, or who likes to play on the couch should be aware that it won’t be a comfortable experience (or even possible, for that matter).
In the end, Aggressors: Ancient Rome was a lot better than I expected it to be. It’s certainly much more fun than Slitherine’s other 4X game Warhammer 40K: Gladius, although Martynas seemed to like it more than I did. Ultimately, Aggressors hasn’t ignored all of the lessons the genre has learned over the past decade. This can be an engaging if overly complex game to play and warrants a look from anyone who likes 4X games and Ancient Rome in equal measure.