Pax Romana PC CD-ROM Official Website
Developed by Galilea Multimedia
Released - Out Now
Price : £19.99
Whilst the Roman game on every strategy gamers mind is Rome:Total War it would be wrong to ignore Pax Romana. Looking very similar to the Europa Universalis series, the game allows you to play the game in two different ways. You can either play the build and destroy strategic mode or go for the deeper and in many ways more satisfying, political mode.
Pax Romana is, as the official website puts it, 'a game that puts you in the shoes of a Roman senatorial family, from the Early Republic (275BC) to the end of the Civil War (44BC).' The game itself is actually comprised of two modes, political and strategic. Strategic mode is your basic game with you being in complete control and you have to build and conquer in the usual manner. Political mode however is what Pax Romana is really all about. Here you choose a faction leader, who will have a position in the senate (they are all rated in terms of political, financial and military power so it's best to choose the one that will fit your style of play), and your goal is to recruit senators to your cause and in doing so gain power and influence and gain a major role, maybe even becoming emperor. You can use any means possible to win support though, even military pressure if you have enough influence. The strategic mode contains 4 scenarios and the political mode has 6, which includes the Punic Wars and the Rise of Caesar. A patch is due to be released in the near future and more scenarios are promised.
Pax Romana isn't turn based but the game has the depth of a turn based game. If you've played Europa Universalis you'll already be aware of the style of the game. It's real time but can be paused at any time in order to make decisions. Personally I would have preferred a pure turn based environment, but this is as close as you're going to get from a real-time game. You can alter the speed of the game at any time, although I recommend running it on the slowest possible speed until you're 100% sure of what's going on, otherwise you'll be defeated in no time at all.
Whilst Pax Romana is undoubtedly a deep and quite satisfying strategy game it does have one major problem, it is difficult to get into. Yes the game does come with tutorials that show you how to perform certain actions and how to manipulate the information that is at your disposal, but it doesn't teach you how to play the game. I felt completely lost the first few times I played the game and yes that was after completing the tutorials. The manual is poor and doesn't really help in getting used to the game. The tutorials are also quite a mess in terms of presentation. The information boxes keep overlapping each other and it's a right pain to have to keep dragging them out of the way. It's a superb strategy game and perseverance is definitely required to get to grips with it but it's about as unwelcoming as you can get and will put off those not dedicated enough to invest the 2-3 hours that it requires to feel familiar with the game.
Graphically the game is virtually identical in style to Europa Universalis II. This is no bad thing however. Pax Romana is essentially a real-time board game and the graphics do their job well. You'll see small animation whenever a military unit is ordered to move from one location to another or when you're ordered fortifications to be built. They aren't going to win any awards but they look adequate and serve their purpose well. The various locations you can enter such as your Domus, the Taverna and the Temple of Vesta have been nicely rendered and perfectly suit the theme of the game. In fact if you're a hardcore strategy fan, and are used to some of the rubbish graphical presentation that has graced various titles in the genre over the years, you'll be pleased with how pleasant on the eyes the game is.
Pax Romana is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All information is given in text only and there is no reliance on sound in the game. In fact the only sound of note in the game is the music with no speech being present at all. The one exception is the introduction, which features speech and is not subtitled but thankfully it's of no real importance anyway. This may seem a little odd but what the game lacks in terms of presentation it makes up for it in terms of depth. We've already mentioned that the manual is pretty dire and serves little purpose to be honest. A game such as Pax Romana cries out for a manual that give you encyclopedic knowledge of the game and describes all the ins and outs of the gameplay, but sadly that is not the case here. What is there seems to more like a glossary rather than anything useful.
If you are serious about your strategy games then Pax Romana is definitely recommended, even more so if you like the period in history. It's not without it's problems and in my opinion the game could have been made a whole lot easier to initiate beginners. Still once you're past the teething problems, you'll appreciate what's on offer. You might also find this forum topic and this forum topic rather useful if you are still lost after the tutorials like I was.
Game Rating: 7.0/10
A deep and satisfying Roman strategy game but it takes a good amount of time to really appreciate the depth on offer. It's well worth persevering with though.
The introduction is unsubtitled but otherwise there are no problems at all.