Thursday, 11 April 2019

Rome: Pathway of Power - The Woad Warrior

Written by TBD

Hector’s Journal #2: "You've heard the story before. The slave who became a general... or was it the other way around? Either way, I keep improving my station through means having nothing to do with my skills. Let's see if I can keep this going – if I do, I could even be Emperor one day!"

When last we looked in on Hector the slave owner, he'd failed multiple times at having his slave win a gladiatorial battle. So without having any better ideas, I kept trying...

Reloading after not having played the game for a few days, I'd forgotten I'd saved the game after already owning a slave so accidentally bought a different slave.

Let's take a look at my inventory...

Slaves are like Pringles - you can't stop at one.

Well, I've now got two slaves and 25 sesterces. I still owe the moneylender 60 sesterces and need some amount more than 40 to bribe my way into the Palace. So let's see if we can win a fight at the arena now. Maybe Billius and Barbarus can be the first ever tag-team.

On my first attempt, both Billius and Barbarus died to Ignominius' sword.

But I kept trying. After another loss, my fight was against Lurkio instead of Ignominius. I remember Lurkio being bad at fighting before, so felt my chances were good.

Nice work, Billius!

Well, it was much easier against Lurkio. I'm glad I'll never have to fight the unbeatable Ignominius. Let's see who wants to challenge the new champion, Billius...

Oh, bugger.

Billius died, then I entered Barbarus, who also died. 65 sesterces still wasn't enough to bribe the palace guard, so it was back to the drawing board.

I'd saved after Billius won the first fight, so just kept quitting the game and reloading (the game won't let me load within the game so I have to quit without saving, then restart the game in order to do the equivalent of a LOAD command.)

Eventually Billius beat Ignominius.

The fact that the guy who risked his life gets nothing may seem inequitable, but just be glad I have the ability to LOAD an infinite number of times, Billius, or you'd be dead.

Well, I didn't know how to withdraw Billius from the competition so a new challenger, Lecherus, killed him in the next fight. I still had 105 sesterces, and Billius had only cost me 5 so I leave as the soldiers take Billius' body away. I'll be sure to say something good about him for my eulogy - he did make me a profit of 75 sesterces, after all.
ECONOMIC ADVICE: If you reload and save-scum enough, slaves have a very good ROI.
Anyway, now that I'm richer, the palace guard will let me in for 80 sesterces.

Hmm. Perhaps the conspirators should have just bribed the guard to get an audience with the unguarded Emperor?

While talking to the Emperor, I now have a WARN option in my DO menu, so I use it.

After I warn him about Fellonius' murder plot, I get a little cutscene.

And if he hadn't confessed, I'd have been the one put to death. What a fair and balanced legal system!

I'm immediately given a commission as a Centurion. I'm sent to the rain-soaked land of Britannia, which, while currently part of the Roman Empire, has been somewhat retaken by a rebellious tribe of Celts.

So who exactly IS the Boss? Hogg? Nass? Tony Danza?

BRITTANNIA

Wait, so not only did the Emperor make a guy with no military experience a soldier, he put me in charge of an entire invading army? This Emperor is an idiot - maybe I should have let Fellonius depose him.

Oh dear. I'm now in a Real Time Strategy game. Now, it's time to admit that RTS games are not one of my favourite genres. I like city building games like Pharaoh and Emperor, but get bored with the fighting parts. I hate controlling armies and having to carefully use the best strategies in order to succeed. And there aren't any difficulty settings in this game so it looks like I'm stuck. Sigh.

As the only part of RTS games I like is building things, I choose to build a fort on the beach we start at.

Maybe we can conquer this land by challenging the Celts to a sandcastle building contest.

The way this section of the game works is we need to conquer this land by taking the enemy standard. Basically, it's a 'Capture the Flag' game. Exactly how taking a flag determines which government controls your country isn't made clear, but it's no more ridiculous than watery tarts distributing swords, so I'll let it pass.

First, let's look at some of the features of this new interface by detailing the buttons on the left of the screen.

UNIT
These buttons let us control each of our IV legions separately, or just use them all together with the ALL button. I did some things early on by getting different units to do things, but quickly got everyone killed by splitting my army so only used the ALL button for most of the game.

FORM
The form command simply lets you line up your soldiers in the direction you choose. I can have my units form up in orderly rows to the north, south east or west. I found this useful when entering a choke-point, such as a bridge that I suspected Celts to be amassing behind. But I mostly didn't use this, not knowing where the bad guys were until they were already running at us.

ORDER
I can give lots of orders. While I tested out all those possible commands, I basically used a total of four of them.


WHO?
This gives me details on whichever soldier I click on.

Sometimes they are various levels of tired so I let them rest. This guy is ENERGETIC so he can keep working for now.

Oh no, Centurion Benny Hill has died!

RUN
This works the same way as in the cities. Run only works for me though, so if I have soldiers following me they lag behind very quickly. A useless command in this section.

MAP
The map starts in a fog of war. The red dots in the bottom right are my soldiers. I can move the red cross wherever I want and Hector will pathfind there. You can see the southern wall of one of the villages at the middle left.


STD
This just lets me drop or pick up my standard (flag.) I can put it somewhere and at any point have the soldiers rally or retreat to it, but in reality I just kept it with me at all times except when I accidentally dropped it somewhere.


SYSTEM
This also works the same as the city levels, which lets me quit (with or without saving) or restart the level or game.

Anyway, I start off by just having all soldiers follow me as I walk around looking for some Celts to kill.

Ooh. I think I found Pointy Stonehenge?

When I meet some British soldiers, I try the complicated battle tactics of screaming at everyone to do the bleeding obvious.

These are the kind of military tactics you get when you promote a guy who has never led anyone in his life.

Little known fact: Ancient Celts used Australian slang.

After a short fight, we lose. I lose a lot in this game. The dodgy pathfinding I've found so far in this game doesn't belong solely to Hector. When I order my troops to attack, a number of them run off in random directions rather than where the obvious enemies are. Perhaps they want to take the long way around? Partly due to this, but mostly due to my general lack of skill and tactics, I die a lot. Whenever I die, I get an end screen and am told how I am to be killed.

You aren't the first people to burn me in a wicker cage. I faced the same death in King's Quest VI! I know how to get out of this - does anybody have any tears from a baby tear plant???

There are a few villages on the map that I can attack.


And sometimes the game's stupid pathfinding makes me restart the entire chapter because it sucks.

For some reason, my partly built fort stopped me from leaving through the extremely large gap to the west and I had to restart the section. I hate you, game's pathfinding!


It does kind of look like I know what I'm doing sometimes, but trust me, I don't. All these men died within a few minutes.

And sometimes weird things happen, and all the Celts seem to be sitting down nursing a grazed knee or something.

I'm not trying my luck so I order the army to walk past them hoping they don't notice us.

Now, as I mentioned, I died a lot in this part. I'll admit that after many deaths I looked up a walkthrough for this stupid strategy section - I hope you don't mind. I was really getting frustrated and had no desire to fully learn a system I wasn't having fun playing. By cheating in this manner, I read that if I enter the huts I can actually make some cash which will apparently be useful in the future.

Pillaging: To rob a place using violence. I get that you're waging war here, Hector, but do you have to sound so gleeful about it?

The walkthrough also gave me lots of tactics, and the advice to take all the villages before going for the standard, as I might need the money later.

But I couldn't be bothered with all that, so after resorting to a walkthrough, I largely ignored it, and just kept restarting, ordering my entire army to follow me, and aiming straight for the main village in the north, almost always getting myself and my army killed before reaching the village.

Eventually, after many tries, I win the battle and me and my remaining 4 soldiers take the British Standard.

That's what you get for trying to be independent, Britain! And I suggest you do the same in future if any of your rebellious colonies tries to rebel!

I return to Rome as a victorious General.


And as such a victor, the Emperor gives me another promotion.

It's good that no jobs in the Roman Empire require any skills or experience. A few months ago my only experience was in mail delivery!

The crowd gives me a round of applause, and I get ready to start my new job. I notice that Barbarus is still following me around. I'm glad he found me after I arrived back from Britain.

And after that ordeal in Britain (I mean MY ordeal, not Hector's) I think it's time to take a break for now. At the start of this section I thought I was travelling a similar career path as Maximus from the movie, Gladiator. Now that I'm a Senator I'm wondering if I'm following the path of a different movie character.

I AM the senate!

Session time: 2 hours 30 minutes (I swear it felt like I was playing that RTS section for much longer)
Total time: 5 hours 35 minutes
Inventory: 85 sesterces, Barbarus

10 comments:

  1. Albion is the name of the island, not a "Celtic war god". Can these writers at least pretend to do their homework? If they'd read a single book of Asterix they would know the name of some actual Celtic gods.

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    1. It actually seems plausible that it's both. The game does call the land Albion at some point too.

      A search for Celtic gods brings up a few results that mention Albion, though the name is not mentioned in Wikipedia's article on Celtic deities. It seems he might be more demigod than god though as he's just a giant fathered by a god.

      ALBION
      (Anglo-Celtic) A giant fathered by a forgotten Celtic Sea God who may have been part of a lost creation myth. He once was said to rule the Celtic world, and his name became the poetic name for Britain.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I'm not buying that. "A giant fathered by some forgotten god" is a far cry from "THE celtic war god" as suggested by the game.

      Delete
  2. Well, since this turns to be an "Asterix reference and stereotyping"-fest, I'll go on. At the screenshot that all Celts are sitting down, it is probably time for their hot water / tea. Best time to attack and conquer.

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    1. I was thinking exactly the same thing, attack on the weekend or after 5 for best results.

      He can also be glad it's capture the flag, I think all RTS players remember wiping the floor with the enemy then spending 30 minutes looking for the 1 lost soldier/peasant/harvester tucked into some obscure corner of the map to finish the level. We sometimes forget that bad game design was not limited to adventure games.

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  3. The Albion reference is pretty silly, particularly since this is a British game. I'm guessing it's meant to be a tongue in cheek reference which doesn't really land. It's one of those words which is known in the UK as roughly being the land, but not much more before then. So claiming it's a deity would just be half-accepted.

    BTW, "crikey" is also a bit of British slang - not just Australian! It's the kind of thing you see particularly in kids comics. It's fallen a bit out of favour, but you did use to see it everywhere in gaming magazines during the 80s and 90s here.

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    1. I am British and I use the word "Crikey" daily. With a small child around its a great alternative to swear words!

      I'm continuously amazed that this game seems to predate the Robin Hood game that used the same engine - even at the time I thought Rome was the sequel - it is so much more advanced in many ways. The Adventures of Robin Hood has none of the RTS stuff this game does for example. I always wanted to play this when I was young, but from what I've seen of Rome now, Robin Hood seems to me to be the better game.

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    2. I don't know why I assumed 'crikey' was only Australian, but thanks for the correction!

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  5. Looks like the devs tried to make an extra joke in the victory screen. BS XXXX are standards maintained by the British Standards Institute. But I'm guessing they just picked a random number, since BS 1328 is a standard for "methods of sampling water used in industry"...

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