A remastered game means many things to many different people. Some want the remaster to preserve as much of the original as possible, preferably by just updating the textures and leaving the rest unchanged. Others want remasters to modernize, if not improve upon, the gameplay mechanics original by filling in the cracks or adding new mechanics or features to the game. Total War: Rome Remastered takes the latter approach, and it is all the better for it.
A disclaimer before I continue: I did not play the original Rome: Total War. Which means if you’re looking for a direct comparison between the 2004 original and remastered versions, you should best look elsewhere. But if you want to know how Total War: Rome Remastered plays through the eyes of someone who hasn’t played the original before and wants it sized up to its contemporary successors, read on.
Total War: Rome Remastered contains the original Rome: Total War as well as its two expansions: Barbarian Invasion, and Alexander. While the timeline for each campaign differs, they all follow the same Total War formula of going forth and conquering your neighbours and rivals while managing the growth of your empire. Starting with a small selection of Roman factions to choose from, each rival you conquer opens them up to play on a new campaign. Or, in one of the many changes done to the remaster, you can just unlock them all from the start with the simple push of a button.
Work on the remaster is predominantly done by Feral Interactive, who have expanded upon Creative Assembly’s original work in ways that are often obvious, but sometimes intriguing. For one, there’s a new coat of paint across the board, with improved graphics and visual effects (Including 4K textures if you choose to download them) doing much to make everything look fresh. There’s a greater variety to the models within a single unit, including the addition of soldier ethnicities that change depending on where a unit is recruited from. The visual upgrades are appreciated, even if the individual animations feel awkward and stilted if you look at them too closely.
Other modernization efforts can be found everywhere you look. There’s a greater degree of camera control in the campaign map and battles. There are user interface improvements, such as an improved negotiation screen, UI tooltips, and a menu that lets you easily keep track of all your agents. A new merchant agent lets you monopolize resources and buy out rivals to enhance your diplomatic efforts. And if you dislike any of the changes, you can change the rule set for each campaign if you want to play with the old systems intact.
As a newcomer, these changes meant that I could hop in and play easily without having to wonder what I’m doing. Even though the specific systems behind everything are different, Total War: Rome Remastered feels like a modern Total War game. There’s no pain from having to work with mechanics that are well over a decade out of date — it holds up thanks to Feral Interactive’s great work.
The campaigns themselves are great, though I wish there was more depth to Alexander’s, which feels too limited in scope in comparison to the base game. The diverse array of diplomatic options at your disposal, which actually serve a useful function in contrast to some recent Total War titles, means that you can bribe a city to switch sides instead of doing the old-fashioned siege. But placing a spy in the city means that you can potentially open the gates ahead of your army should you choose the violent route. Sometimes it can feel like you have to keep track of too many things in the late game — which incidentally feels like a slog at times — but the wealth of options in managing your empire is appreciated more often than not.
The same goes for battles. Units have been rebalanced across the board, and to my unfamiliar eyes there is a great deal of diversity between different factions, their units, and tactics that does not result in one power being that much better than another. Playing as the Gauls requires a different set of tactics than the base Roman factions, as does playing as Egypt. The variety of different units and the ways in which you can use them brings a great deal of depth to battles, and the aforementioned visual changes do much to make them exciting. Sieging cities is a highlight, as massive battles break out around a city’s walls while units eventually begin fighting in narrow streets.
Total War: Rome Remastered is a top quality remaster of what remains an engaging strategy game. While I can’t directly compare from experience, the modernization of many of its gameplay aspects, the introduction of a host of new playable factions, and the strength of the existing systems allow it to stand alongside more recent editions of the franchise without any trouble. If you haven’t experienced Rome: Total War before, I recommend playing this remaster.