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Recommending Aggressors: Ancient Rome

Discussion in 'Other Civ-Related Games' started by Nolan Klein, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. Nolan Klein

    Nolan Klein Chieftain

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2018
    Messages:
    2
    tl;dr:

    "Aggressors: Ancient Rome" (A/AR)

    https://store.steampowered.com/app/783210/Aggressors_Ancient_Rome/

    is a very good game with a distinct "old timey" Civilization series feel (think Civ II). The game play sacrifices "complexity" (not many systems to master) for a very strong AI and strategic depth.

    Longer version:

    I bought A/AR about a month ago. I'm not affiliated with the developers in any way, and I didn't beta test the product or anything like that. I've really been enjoying A/AR so far and want more people to purchase the game, especially those with modding skills since the game is so freaking customizable and mod friendly.

    The game's primary developer says he was influenced a great deal by Civilization, especially the older games in the series. As someone who has been playing 4X and Strategy games since Civ II, I can definitely see the areas of overlap. So, without further ado, here is my review of the pros and cons of A/AR:

    CONS

    - The graphics are servicible, but not great. I would put the graphics at about a Civ IV level.

    - There are some sound tracts that aren't bad, but some are clunckers. Likewise, I'm not a huge fan of the ambient sound effects or the sound direction, generally. The music and sound systems are very customizable and can be turned off entirely, but we certainly don't have any "Baba Yetu" like future Grammy nominations here with A/AR.

    - The UI is much improved from release, but still feels a bit ineligent in places.

    - The game is not very "complex," in that there are a fairly limited number of systems to master. The main difference between factions is that only certain factions can natively access specific military unit categories. There are only five different types of military unit categories, though (Roman, Greek, Persian, Carthaginian, or Barbarian). The number of types of buildings you can construct and technologies you can research is also comparatively small. If A/AR's game play wasn't so strategically "deep" (more on this in the PROS section), then I could see the relative lack of units, technologies, buildings, game play systems, etc. leading to a loss of replayability, especially for the random map generator.

    - No multiplayer support at the moment.

    PROS

    - The AI is very strong (for a 4X game). Much stronger than Civ VI's AI or even Civ V's AI with the "Vox Populi" mod installed. A/AR's AI is capable of amphibious assaults, coordinated army movements, and focusing attention on locking down strategic locations. The AI is also pretty good at city and mine / quarry placement to maximize resource intake. The AI can probably use more work on city and unit development. It tends to be better at throwing numbers at a problem than at developing elite units or productive / efficient cities.

    - Combat is modeled very well and seems pretty realistic to me. Players need to take into consideration terrain, supply lines, and various types of intangibles such as unit morale, soldier experience, and civilization happiness levels.

    - The game is very well balanced, especially at the higher difficulty levels. Decisions about resource usage are interdependent. Without thoughtful consideration of what units to train or buildings to construct, you will seriously set back your overall development. For example, training military units will deplete the population of your surrounding cities. Cities are used to produce knowledge (research) and culture (influence). Overbuild your military and you will quickly fall behind in technology development and will be susceptible to culture flipping by enemy civilizations. Similarly, maintenance costs for roads, supply wagons, military units, and buildings / improvements are high enough that they must be considered (unlike, for example, Civilization VI, where maintenance costs are low enough to be an afterthought in most situations). Overbuilding research, cultural, or military infrastructure will quickly result in deficits for the various resources. These deficits will in turn lead to rebellions in cities and military unit desertions. You can very easily find yourself in a Jared Diamond "Collapse" death spiral type situation, if you aren't judicious about how you balance infrastructure and military improvement with resource gathering.

    - Micromanagement is kept to a minimum. Personally, this appeals to me, but others may feel more control desirable. Due to the aforementioned maintenance cost issue and population trade-off for military production, most games seem to end up with sub-fifty military unit totals at the end game. This is a manageable number for me. Also, cities only serve to produce units, knowledge, and "influence" (culture). Production of everything but military and civilian units occurs automatically, and scales exponentially with the population of a city. Cities also allow you to harvest resources within a certain range, depending on the size of the city. Harvesting of resources, like production, occurs automatically once territory is claimed by moving military units onto tiles. Most buildings and improvements simply increase production or harvesting intake by a certain percentage. This minimizes micromanagement. It can be a bit simplistic, but there is actually quite a lot to consider due to the excellent balance of the game forcing meaningful trade-offs.

    - Trade and diplomacy functionality is extremely deep and is designed / modeled very well. There are over a dozen types of trade and diplomatic agreements you can reach, including military supply-line support agreements, map / intelligence sharing, and federations where the AI maintains domestic control of its infrastructure, but grants the human player control over foreign policy decisions. I also love the fact that you can make open ended proposals where the AI will come back to you the next turn with a counter offer. More often than not, the offer / counter offer set up leads to surprisingly meaningful and satisfying negotiations. The AI can definitely use some improvement in managing this functionality, but upon release the AI is already miles ahead of most any other game's AI's handling of trade / diplomacy offers.

    - Finally, probably the most important PRO is how freaking customizable the game is. Aggressors: Ancient Rome is easily the most customizable game I have ever played or seen in over twenty years. There is an in-game editor that will allow you to easily change almost any aspect of game play without resorting to editing XML files or running scripts (although this is possible too for those more technically inclined). A/AR's map builder also let's you create a map of anything you can take a picture of. It is really cool. The website below has some examples of maps created just by uploading a picture.

    http://www.slitherine.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=519&t=88109

    Built in modding support is far superior to any other game I can think of on the market today. The game is screaming for talented modders to join the community. The sky is literally the limit. Please, if you have modding talent, get this game. Besides modding and the in-game editor, the game is also incredibly customizable at the start of each play through. You can turn on or off random events, you can set which game play mechanics you want enabled / disabled, you can set difficulty levels for individual opponents, etc. It's so refreshing to find a developer that obviously trusts the player community. The developer, by the way, is pretty much a one-man team. His name is Pavel Ku. He is also probably one of the most active and engaged developers with the player community I have ever seen.

    Sorry for the long review, but I really like this game and want to see it succeed. The game has some issues, as all games do, but overall, I think the PROs far out weight the CONs. If anyone else has any experience playing the game or disagrees with my opinion, please let me know in the comments section.
     
  2. gwgardner

    gwgardner Chieftain

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2005
    Messages:
    7
    +1 on pretty much your entire review, although I like the simpler graphical style.

    As indicated, the developer is VERY responsive in the forums, at Steam and Slitherine.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018

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