This historical strategy game is a sequel to Haemimont's Celtic Kings: Rage of War. Beginning immediately after the ending of conflicts of the first game, Nemesis of the Roman Empire focuses on the struggle for ultimate world power between the Romans and the Carthaginians. The game offers two story-lined campaigns, allowing players to win the world from either throne. Following the history of Hannibal Barca, players can lead the Carthaginians through the Sagunto battle, the famous crossing of the Alps, and the Cannas battle. Commanding the Romans through their campaign, players work to expand and develop the republic throughout the Punic wars, leading their forces through the invasion of Sicily, the conquest of Hispaniola, and the razing of Carthage. In multiplayer skirmishes, players can choose to command the forces of one of four ancient nations -- the Romans, Carthaginians, Gauls, or Iberians -- each offering different inherent strengths and weakness. The Teutons return also, in both single- and multiplayer sessions, as a neutral faction prone to attacking any who cross its borders. Multiplayer games support up to eight competitors, across the Internet or a local network, and feature a scenario editor and random map generation.
Nemesis of the Roman Empire is more of a mini-sequel than it is a full-blown second installment to the critically acclaimed Celtic Kings. You get two new factions, the Carthaginians and the Iberians, more unit upgrades, and a few gameplay enhancements.
Nemesis is a blend of real-time strategy and role-playing, with a dash of wargaming tossed in for good measure. It's unique in its design that there is no base building whatsoever. The only thing you ever spend money on is the buying and upgrading of units. There are no peasants in the game at all, so you don't need to worry about how many idle workers you have sitting around. Everything is centered on your army.
That said -- you need to do more than just upgrade your units and recruit them en masse. Food (the only resource in the game aside from gold) is vital in greasing the wheels or your military machine. A starving army is a dead army, and you need to keep your units supplied or they'll slowly lose hit points. On paper, this sounds like a major hassle, but in practice it works rather well. On each map there are villages, forts, and other camps that house food supplies (as well as units) and you may send food to them via a supply mule. This puts a premium on conquering these neutral sites early in the game to keep a supply chain of sorts. If you send an army across a huge map without any food or on a path that has no friendly villages along the way to support them -- they're dead meat. It adds a lot of strategy to the game and forces you to plan attacks rather than just sending a mob of units across the continent.
Heroes lead your armies into battle and provide bonuses as their level increases. A very handy design feature is that you can assign units to a hero's banner. So you can have a hero control 50 archers, for instance. When the hero moves, all the archers follow. It's a great way to keep things organized.
The new factions bring the total to a whopping four (Carthaginians, Iberians, Gauls, and Romans). The good news is that each faction is unique and focuses on a specific style of play. For example, the Iberians are all about defense while the Gauls are more about brute force.
The game is played in real-time, and there's no way to pause and give orders, but you can slow the pace of the game to almost a crawl so there's no haphazard frantic feel you find in some real-time titles. The maps are very large, and you can issue orders from the overview map, which keeps the game manageable. Your units are represented as colored dots and it looks like a mini-wargame in this regard. It's just another example of the game's elegant design.
What makes Nemesis of the Roman Empire truly stand out, however, is the artificial intelligence. On the easy mode, it's a breeze and presents very little challenge. On the tougher levels, it's a real bear that is sure to give veteran real-time strategy gamers a tough test.
But if solo play isn't your cup of tea, the multiplayer support is first rate. It's a very solid multiplayer game because of the focus on the military. The games have a great flow to them and work without a hitch. You can set up a battle similarly to that of an Age of Empires game in that you can choose the races, maps, and all of the ground rules.
If there's any snag with Nemesis, it's with the production values. The graphics are merely decent and the animation looks a bit unfinished. When archers attack, for instance, they shoot with a rapid-fire delivery that would make any marksman green with envy. It just doesn't look right. However, the mediocre graphics do allow you to have hundreds of units on the screen at the same time with very little impact on framerates.
Nemesis of the Roman Empire is a no-brainer if you never played the original Celtic Kings. It's a great game that shouldn't be missed.
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