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Feedback and Appreciation for Expeditions: Rome


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Spoilers follow.

I had some random thoughts on Expeditions: Rome that I thought might be constructive. I don't know if the developers actually read these forums; but I hope that they do, as I really appreciated the work and love that went into this game.

 

The Good:

Overall, Expeditions: Rome was a wonderful work. I thought the story was very well-written for the most part, and the gameplay was great in the tactical sequences. Of the turn-based tactical games I've played, I think Expeditions: Rome is up there with XCOM 2, and may be better than that title for me as I've always loved historical drama and the Republican era of Rome. I thought the take on Vitellius Lurco was also interesting, particularly the way that his attitudes change depending on whether you impose martial law on Rome or if you attempt to resolve things in the Senate, following the laws and traditions of Rome. He almost seems halfway reasonable if you attack the Senate, to the point where his cry of "Look at what you've done!" was close to a point where you could realize the player character has actually turned into what she thought she was fighting against the entire story (if only Vitellius Lurco hadn't also tried to assassinate his own brother). I also really liked the companion characters (though the inclusion of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo meant that sadly, two of the story companions got kicked off of every mission); in particular I thought Julia Calida was 

The shining point of the story for me, however, was the portrayal of the patriarchal society. I played as a female character, and it was interesting in that for the first time in an RPG, it seemed like characters actually noticed she was a woman. From being told that women weren't allowed to fight in the very beginning, to the patricians outright laughing or scoffing at the idea of a woman participating in war, to being told even at the end that a woman could not be a senator after saving the Republic from tyranny, the portrayal of the deeply entrenched patriarchy in Roman society was really well-done. I think it might be unique in RPGs I've played; in the event that an RPG allows you to play as a woman, most games typically don't differentiate between male or female characters in any real way. I understand the rationale; it's difficult to write a story differently for a man than a woman, since it practically doubles the work to have characters consistently react differently, but the inclusion of all those details was surprising and incredibly engrossing to me.

 

The Critiques:

I'll split this section into a gameplay vs. a story divide.

Gameplay: I really wished there were a way to assign companions to encampment tasks and replenish water at the encampment without going through the loading screen every time. Oftentimes I just wanted to toss someone who'd stepped in a snare (AGAIN) in the infirmary and then go back out to scouting, but the amount of loading screens it takes to do that was a little frustrating. I also would've liked a log of conversations or perhaps more suggestions as to what to do in some of the quests. In Gaul, when I was getting ready for the human sacrifice, I spent probably twenty minutes trying to figure out where to purchase oil before I realized you were supposed to talk to the blacksmith (I had expected it to be the traveling merchant, or the merchants in the village, or in Ambiorix's cave).

I would've liked the possibility of interacting with non-story praetorians more. It made me quite sad that I couldn't call upon Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo when in Rome.

Story: My biggest critique here is that the transitions between the third and fourth act, and the fourth act as a whole, felt rushed. It felt strange to me that there was no real discussion of if the legions would obey your orders to cross the Rubicon; I know that at this point, Victrix has been with the legate for over a decade, but it's a big decision. It might have been interesting to include a scene in Gaul where you plan with the centurions and the praetorians (at the least, your primus pilus and prefects) about whether or not the men would follow you into Rome. And I think, in particular, it should have been a very divisive action with your praetorians - I had a praetorian whose attitude towards me never rose about disgruntled who cheerfully marched into Rome behind me, while the unwavering Aquilinus deserted the legions in disgust. 

I also thought more fleshed out details on the characters would have been helpful. For instance, Julia Calida's comment that she did not stop one man from being king to install a queen came seemingly from nowhere for me, as she'd never seemed very attached to patriarchal and patrician Rome or to the Senate. Aquilinus's regard for the sacred laws of Rome made more sense to me, but even then, he'd never struck me as a strict Catonian until the actual crossing of the Rubicon. I think the characters talking about their political views more throughout the story, and perhaps even allowing the player character's views to mold her companions' over the course of the decade or so they serve her for would have been an interesting touch.

It also would've been nice to see more characters in the Senate. The only notable characters in the Senate were really Cato and Cicero, for the optimates. It would have been nice to also have the potential to choose to side with, say, Marcus Antonius and Lepidus for the populares, with Mark Antony as another option for marriage as compared to Cato and to choose their Senatorial faction for support instead of Cato and Cicero. I think this also would've lended a nice dichotomy to the big decision of the game; Cato and Cicero are horrified by you crossing the Rubicon under arms, while Mark Antony and Lepidus would applaud you for doing it.

It also would've been interesting to have more emphasis on the idea that maybe you can't actually trust the Senate to convict Vitellius Lurco. As it was, I never really had a doubt about disbanding the legions and I never felt like I needed to cross the Rubicon to defeat him. I think the previous point might have actually helped with this; having two rival factions in the Senate and backing one of them leading to the other opposing you would've made the Senate trial much less certain. Another way this might have been addressed would be having Vitellius Lurco beat you back to Rome and using his power as Dictator to declare you an enemy of Rome and a murderer of his praetorians before you even reach the Rubicon. With that news, the idea that you need to cross under arms might feel a bit more real, since without your legions you're giving yourself up to trial in a case that seems already biased against you. Or both together, even, might have helped; the idea that you're giving yourself up to a Senate where half the Senate supports you.

The other point I thought might have used some improvement was the sexism. I thought it was wonderfully done, but it also seemed too easy at times. For instance, the entire Senate immediately approves the appointment of the player as Vitellius Lurco's second-in-command for the Gallic campaign, and no one bats an eye at a woman commanding the African campaign. It didn't feel like the player had to do any political maneuvering in order to really become as respected a military figure as she became.

 

In Summary:

Overall, I thought the game was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent in it. I wanted to thank the developers for the obvious care and love put into the game. I'm sure I'll play through the game a few more times, as I already know I missed some side quests. Are there any plans for future DLC, or will it be on to the next Expeditions game? I know I'd love to see expansions to this game and more campaigns for the legate; or perhaps campaigns that happen later, like forays into Germania, Brittania, or Parthia. (Or a new game plus mode? I'd like to get some use out of the artifacts that I got later on, like Vercingetorix's sword!)

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