Rome Total War Barbarian Invasion Review

home > PC > Reviews
Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : 8.0
Overall : 8.7
Review by Andy Levine
Taking place hundreds of years after Rome: Total War, the expansion pack to one of the greatest strategy games of all times entitled Barbarian Invasion has finally been released. After the split of the Roman Empire into eastern and western segments, migrating barbarian tribes attempt to attack Rome while it’s still rebuilding. While there are a few tweaks to the gameplay, the majority of this expansion focuses on the many new playable barbarian factions and the new units for each class, which makes for a great addition to this acclaimed series.

The most notable addition is clearly the inclusion of the barbarian tribes, and there is plenty of versatility here. Instead of starting off with a great deal of land, the barbarian factions start off as hordes with little or no land on a search for their own homeland. If your final settlement is under constant attack, it might be a good idea to convert your entire population into a horde and find a new place to live. Hordes don’t have to pay any upkeep but they can only recruit mercenaries, so making your people nomads should be your last resort. Each tribe has its own strengths and weaknesses, such as the Huns who are skilled with their horseback archers while the Saxons have elite infantry units. There still is the possibility of selecting powerhouses like the Western Romans right from the start to avoid the initial turmoil, but if you don’t play your cards right you could very easily wind up homeless. Hordes generally have enough militaristic force to live off the plunder from their opposition, but if too many factions are hording and not enough are producing goods a widespread economic breakdown can ensue.

The overlying principles of the campaign are the same at heart; you need to conquer and build up cities while making sure to protect your entire empire. The addition of religion into Barbarian Invasion will unite your people under a singular belief, creating an overall peaceful environment without neighborly tension. Implementing certain religions can even further your technical level, allowing for new structures to be constructed. Unfortunately, with religion you’re bound to have problems with non-believers, and it’s common for two quarrelling groups to create a large scale civil war within your own walls! Because several hundred years have passed, new technological upgrades including sanitation systems can be setup. People familiar with Rome Total War will still feel right at home, but these few added features add depth to the management portion of the game.

Aside from the hundreds of new units that come with this expansion, several new enhancements have also been included to make the wartime experience much more captivating. If a general is skilled enough, he will be able to perform surprise attacks at night. Furthermore, if the opposing general only has enough experience for daytime battles, his troops will have a lower morale and he will be unable to call for reinforcements. This strategy will make it significantly easier for large armies to conquer feeble cities without having to worry about hidden secrets.

Other additions include the ability for troops to swim across large bodies of water, which can be vital for a flank to be successful. However, swimming will leave your troops utterly defenseless, making it easier for archers to bombard them with a barrage of arrows and neutralize the attack. If you’re feeling daring enough though, catching your enemies off guard with a water attack can give you the upper hand in battle. Other battle tactics are also introduced, including the shield wall that setups a contiguous line of shields that will stop rushing cavalry from dealing damage.

Aside from the main campaign, two historic battles showcasing epic scenarios can be played just for fun. The final battle between the Romans and the Huns is difficult regardless of what side you choose, proving to be a challenge even for the more skilled players. The other scenario relies more on tactics instead of brute force when a general must be rescued after being captured by the Saxons. It would’ve been nice for there to be a lot more scenarios because the included ones are a lot of fun, but as it stands there’s more than enough to keep you busy as it is.

The single player campaign undoubtedly offers hundreds of hours of replayability, which is a good thing considering that the multiplayer segment hasn’t improved at all. Skirmishes are still the only available battle type, and although there are plenty of new factions to choose from the online component could still use more diversity.

Like the original, Barbarian Invasion has an astonishing presentation value that is unrivaled by most games in this genre. Seeing troops lined up from all across the horizon is impressive, and as soon as the two sides collide a large scale blood bath is sure to follow. The night battles create a more dramatic atmosphere and lighting up the skies with fire arrows is a downright cool looking sight. The battle sounds hit the mark like they did before with the initial roars of battle being followed by the groans of the fallen. The soundtrack is fitting of the time period and helps emphasize the seriousness of the battle. There weren’t any major changes in terms of the production, and quite frankly Rome Total War didn’t need any.

In conclusion, Barbarian Invasion is a great expansion to one of the top strategy games of all time. The ten new factions along with hundreds of new available units will help give this title new life, and even though the changes in gameplay won’t make any new fans out of the series, Barbarian Invasion delivers almost everything that fans could’ve asked for.