I came, I saw, I made a great big mess


Tom Hatfield plays Para­dox’s new­est grand strat­egy, and nearly starts a civil war in the process.

When I sat down in front of Para­dox’s new grand strat­egy game I had one big ques­tion: what is Imperator: Rome ex­actly? Is it Cru­sader Kings in to­gas? Is it a Ro­man Europa Univer­salis? Is it, as the fans will no doubt ask, Vicky 3? The an­swer is none and all of these things.

“You have the pop­u­la­tion me­chan­ics that are sim­i­lar to games like Stel­laris or Vic­to­ria, the war­fare and diplo­macy which is sim­i­lar to EuropaUniver­salis and the char­ac­ters that are closer to Cru­sader Kings,” ex­plains Jo­han An­der­s­son, the cre­ative di­rec­tor on Imperator and a Para­dox vet­eran of over 20 years. He knows what he’s talk­ing about, be­cause he’s worked on ev­ery sin­gle one of those games. In fact when I ask him which Para­dox games he’s worked on, the list goes on for sev­eral min­utes. “I didn’t do su­per much on Stel­laris, but every­thing else,” An­der­s­son says. Imperator is the cul­mi­na­tion of all this ex­pe­ri­ence.

The first thing I no­tice upon sit­ting down is that the UI is dom­i­nated by a deeply Hel­lenic white mar­ble and a gen­er­ally bright and vi­brant colour pal­ette. “It’s a very hope­ful aes­thetic” ex­plains lead artist Joacim Carl­berg. “Which con­trasts to our pre­vi­ous games, at least Cru­saderKings, which does take place in the Dark Ages after all.” There’s also a ter­rific zoom op­tion that au­to­mat­i­cally fades out from a de­tailed ter­rain map to a flat po­lit­i­cal one as you zoom out.

Things are gen­er­ally more ac­ces­si­ble than pre­vi­ous Para­dox games as well, with fewer op­tions buried mul­ti­ple menus deep. One of the nicest touches is the diplo­macy screen where, in­stead of pick­ing coun­tries from a list, you sim­ply open the diplo­macy tab and then click on the coun­try on the main map. It’s still not easy to un­der­stand, the sheer amount of in­for­ma­tion the game is throw­ing out makes that dif­fi­cult, but it is bet­ter.

The sec­ond thing that strikes me is the Se­nate. Yes, we’re in the era of Repub­li­can Rome, not Im­pe­rial Rome – in fact the game starts in the early days of the Repub­lic and ends be­fore the his­toric tran­si­tion to Em­pire. “The Repub­li­can era is ac­tu­ally also when Rome is in its pri­mary ex­pan­sion phase,” ex­plains Hen­rik Lohman­der, game de­signer. “When it comes to en­com­pass the whole Mediter­ranean and the Repub­lic deals with the grow­ing pains that come from that, and that’s how they even­tu­ally end up be­ing the Em­pire. Bet­ter to end there per­haps than do the Em­pire badly.” Play­ers will still be able to tran­si­tion to Em­pire early, if they so wish.

But I’m get­ting ahead of my­self. Right now Rome is a repub­lic, and that means the Se­nate votes on every­thing I do. The pool of sen­a­tors is drawn from sev­eral fac­tions, in­clud­ing mil­i­tary, mer­chants and re­li­gious types, all of which have dif­fer­ent likes and dis­likes (the mer­chants for ex­am­ple, don’t want to go to war with any­one you are trad­ing with). The num­bers of sen­a­tors from each fac­tion change as they gain pop­u­lar­ity, and if a fac­tion is happy they pro­vide a stat bonus to the Repub­lic.

In ad­di­tion to this more ab­stract sys­tem there are also named char­ac­ters, each be­longs to a fac­tion, and they do jobs like gov­er­nors, ad­vi­sors and gen­er­als. They also have traits and per­son­al­i­ties (Bru­tus is crafty, of course) and some lovely mem­o­rable por­traits. Here is where things start go­ing wrong for me, be­cause I pick the best gen­eral I can find and stick him in charge of my only army. His name is Mar­ius Quin­tus, and he’s a pop­ulist.

Si vis pacem, para bel­lum

Like any good Ro­man, I im­me­di­ately de­clare war on my near­est neigh­bour, the Sam­nites. War is sim­pler in an­cient times. There isn’t re­ally such a thing as a ‘De Jure

Things are gen­er­ally more ac­ces­si­ble than pre­vi­ous Para­dox games

“That one, that coun­try over there. I want it.”

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