Crassus’ Lost Legion
From the deserts of Africa to the dark and foreboding forests of Germany, games like Rome: Total War and the critical whipping boy for QTE’s, Ryse, have allowed Roman Legions their fair share of representation in the gaming world. However, one of the most fascinating stories in Roman history is often overlooked, not just by the gaming world, but historians in general.
During his campaigns in the East, the Roman general and compatriot to Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus lost a massive battle (and his son, and his head) to the Parthian horse archers. 10,000 legionnaires were captured, but during later negotiations for their release were discovered to be missing. Many years later, rumours began to swirl about a group of “western barbarians” who used a “fishscale format” fighting for the Han Chinese dynasty. The Roman historian Plinius mentions this, but the theory became popular in modern times thanks to historian H.H. Dubs. Recent archaeological evidence seems to support this theory, which makes for a pretty badass tale of ancient warriors in foreign lands. A game following this “Lost Legion” as they battle across the abyss that separated the ancient West from the ancient East has massive potential, and could showcase the incredible social differences, both culturally and militarily, across the entire ancient world, as well as offering some deep strategic gameplay as your legionaries master techniques and technology from multiple ancient societies and integrate them into your legion.
The First World War is notorious for several things. Static trench warfare that went on for months, massive and often pointless casualties, and muddy, lunar landscapes of shell holes filled with poisonous water, garbage, and corpses. Nothing represents this more than the Battle of Verdun. Verdun became symbolic of the Great War and ran from February to December of 1916, costing the French and Germans a combined casualty total of over a million men. Month after month of combat that went nowhere caused unimaginable suffering for the troops in the trenches, and at the end of the day gained nothing. Some areas were captured and lost multiple times, like the notorious Hill 304. Making an FPS or tactical shooter interesting from a gameplay perspective can be difficult, (although it has been done) because of a lack of diverse weaponry, vehicles, and movement in general, what this theatre offers is a fantastic setting for a survival horror game. With thousands of corpses scattered half-buried in the mud, and a bleak, oppressive and gory aesthetic, a game following one soldier just trying to survive would make for a tense and terrifying time. Mix in zombies, vampires or some other supernatural menace and you’ve got the perfect setting. There’s a ton of first accounts to draw from, and the power of modern hardware would really bring the horror and stink of Verdun to your living room.
The Mongol Hordes
Everyone knows the name Genghis Khan, but he doesn’t seem to get his due in the West. We love our Alexanders, our Caesars, and our Napoleons, but none of these men came close to the amount of territory conquered by the Mongolian hordes during their peak in the 13
centuries. Even if we ignore Genghis himself, one only has to look at his general and go-to right hand man, Subutai, who by himself with only 20,000 men nearly conquered Russia, Poland, Hungary and was close to breaking into Eastern Europe before being called back home to assist with other campaigns. Just listing a few of his achievements already puts him on the list of greatest generals of all time, when you read through everything else he accomplished all our Western “Greats” pale in comparison.
A tactical RTS following Subutai across the steppes and into Europe would be a blast, and the mastering of strategy and technique on both sides of the conflict would offer a diverse array of gameplay options. From the Mongol horse archers speed and range to the Russian gentry’s gigantic armoured knights, players would be able to approach these amazing battles from a variety of angles. Taking and managing new territories, people and technology while simultaneously waging war across half the world could give tons of depth to the game.
The battle for the Holy Land has been done before, both in movies and in games. This isn’t necessarily the most original setting for a game, but hear me out. Ridley Scott’s polarizing film Kingdom of Heaven, while critically divisive, does an excellent job of showcasing the potential for an amazing siege game. Catapults, trebuchets, grenades were all present, on top of classic medieval battle technology like pikes, bows, cavalry and the like. Taking into account that the city of Jerusalem was captured, and lost, multiple times by both sides over hundreds of years would lend a nice sense of progression to the game, as players learn to use evolving technology while managing religious and political strife. A game that offers players the chance to use all of these options in a prolonged siege battle, from the opening salvo to the looting and destruction of the city itself, seems like a no brainer and would allow for some seriously entertaining multiplayer action.