ROME: Total War iPhone Edition – Lockdown Time Killer Game No.5

Fifth in a series of recommendations of the very best time filling games to help ease you through the long hours of a national lockdown. The hit strategy game comes to the iPhone, can a mobile device handle such an in-depth game?

  • Feral Interactive 
  • feralinteractive.com
  • £9.99, $9.99, €10.99 
  • Compatibility: iOS 11

The Total War series of games is among the most respected strategy franchises ever and when first released on the PC, ROME: Total War was regarded as one of the best. That was in 2004, so could it make the transition to today’s mobile devices? The 2016 release of the iPad version proved it could and now it’s available on iPhone, with a host of new and improved features that also upgrade the iPad game. It’s a universal app, so if you already own it on your iPad you can install it on your iPhone at no extra cost.

The new universal app offers the entire iPad experience on both iOS platforms, with a revamped interface to best suit smaller iPhone screen. It uses the latest Apple Metal API, which improves performance, allows for enhanced graphics and reduces the strain on the battery (though it’s still fairly heavy). ROME: Total War might be over a decade old on the PC but it certainly doesn’t look dated on iOS devices.

For those who’ve never played a Total War game before, the gameplay is a mix of grand strategy, where you move your armies around on a map, and realtime action with you directing your units in the heat of battle. You play the new leader of a young and upcoming noble (or ‘patrician’) family. Having been given a military command by the Senate, you must help build a strong and lasting empire in Italy. To do so involves more than just fighting. You must also pay close attention to local politics, keep a track of your heirs, engage in diplomacy and negotiation and watch your finances. Keep an eye on the weather too and change your tactics according to whether you’re fighting in the summer or the winter. Who said building an empire was easy?

Battlefield engagements are realtime strategy affairs, with the player in command of a number of units that must be deployed and utilised to good effect. Your spear specialists, for example, are formidable foes when receiving cavalry but have very weak flanks and rear. Archers are good at cutting down cavalry and infantry but poor at hand-to-hand combat. Cavalry units move fast and hit hard but you’d better keep them away from enemy spears. Artillery is great for breaking down defensive walls but crumbles if attacked on the ground. Victory on the battlefield brings rewards like experience to improve your fighting fitness, extra units given by the Senate and special payments to cover your campaigns.

Just as you might expect, the controls are excellent. Touchscreen devices are ideal for strategy titles such as this one, as it’s like having mouse control without needing to drag a pointer across the screen; it can still get a little unwieldy at times. When selecting and moving a unit, you need to be especially careful that you aren’t also still in control of the last lot of troops you moved, for example. Perseverance and practice reaps rewards and you’ll soon be commanding your troops like Caesar.

Unfortunately for you, your enemy is also a capable field marshal. The Roman soldier is a talented killing machine, and the army a well disciplined fighting force, so don’t expect your coming battles to be easy. Enemy AI is excellent on the battlefield, though not as good on the campaign map, so opposing troops probe your weaknesses and play to their own strengths, just as you do with your own forces.

When assessing any video game, there’s one key question, ‘is it fun to play?’ ROME: Total War most definitely is. Clever use of touchscreen controls and a decent tutorial means it’s as accessible as a complicated strategy game can possibly be and there’s enough depth and challenge to keep you coming back for months. It’s not for wimps. If you baulk at game instructions that take more than three paragraphs, this probably isn’t for you but if you’re into your war games, or are at least prepared to invest the necessary effort to learn one, you should find ROME: Total War to your liking. Veni, vidi, vici!

ROME: Total War
  • Overall Time Killed
4.5

Summary

Not a game for the faint-hearted but a real challenge for those with the guts to play a real war game.

+ Great controls
+ Lots of depth
+ Good enemy AI
– No multiplayer

Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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