The future of 3D Mass Combat IS NOW!
Bwahahaha! Actually this one word explains how I feel about the game. But they don't accept one line reviews about the game, so here goes!
First thing I'd like to clear out is that I will separate this review into 2 different sections:
 Rome: Total War, original game.
 Rome: Total War, after Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion Expansion.
The later updates the original Rome: Total War in many gameplay aspects of the game, so it cannot be entered as the same review. Rome: Total War - Original Game
I'm a big fan of the Total War series. I was first astounded by the series ever since I played Shogun: Total War (those Medieval: Total War sucked big time). But the passion I got when playing those 2 earlier games IS NOTHING compared to the excitement I got while witnessing the programming genius of THIS game. I once said to a friend of mine who also loved the series but hasn't played Rome: Total War: "The two previous games combined doesn't even come close to Rome: Total War". Is it that good? Yep. It really is.
So what's so great about it? Here we go...
I really remember the first time I watched it. My mouth was opened the whole time. I was expecting an upgrade in graphics and the mass total war combat engine, but I wasn't expecting THIS MUCH of an upgrade! The opening cutscene was a success to arouse my curiosity about the game. And after playing it, I wasn't disappointed.
Installation Process and Game Loading
I think this is the only game where someone actually comments in a good way about the installation process. Actually what I'm commenting is the artistic graphics when you wait for the game to install. The black shadows of warriors surrounded by a blood red background really prepares the mood for war! Each time the game loads, there are a lot of different quotes from various sources regarding wars. Now there's a little educational value for you!
Egad. Never in my life have I experienced a game that really describes Battle Music in the exact precision! The game presents Roman Latin Opera style music. When you play the real-time 3D combat, the music you experience is something like what you felt like when you watched the battles in Lord of the Rings: Two Towers!
Political Map Upgrade
The political map was upgraded in such away that masterpiece is the only word that came into mind when I first saw it. Detailed geographical terrains and borders. Mostly I eye candy really, but I ain't complaining much!
Welcome to Mass 3D Combat - The Future IS NOW!
Roman legion formations, special abilities, detailed unit graphics, upgraded graphics and sounds. This is something you need to experience!
Sound and Voice-overs
Now this is the part when you know the developers did a helluva job in! Each time you start battle, your commander starts a speech (does not effect gameplay, purely entertainment only) in accordance to his capabilities. A veteran commander does really great speeches, while an idiotic commander does some really funny speeches. Each unit you click on replies to your command in a "grunt Roman" kind of way. The sound of your troops in itself shows that these blokes are mean bad-asses!
Here's an example: Clicking on your Commander Cavalry unit to attack an enemy. Commander says in a rough voice: "Unleash Hell!". Really, this game has the best gaming quotes in war, ever!
 Rome: Total War, after Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion Expansion
Barbarian Invasion acts like a "patch" to the previous Rome: Total War. It updates a helluva lot of things in the gameplay that is bloody crucial to Rome: Total War. Most of it anyways is a good thing. Though I must admit, this part sounds more like a patch thing...
Better Aggressive Enemies
Barbarian Invasion did a total upgrade in the enemy AI (Artificial Intelligence). Before, most enemies were passive, excluding the Romans (Julii, Brutii, Scipii). Now, all nations are aggressive as hell and they attack like hell.
Sieging Enemies Can Actually Siege!
Some stupid bug in the original Rome: Total War prevents enemies from actually attacking you if your city has walls, since they don't build siege weapons. Now they attack with a vengeance!
Better AI in Combat Tactics
The enemy usually have mediocre defensive tactics, where they can easily be lured into traps. Now the enemy acts and reacts to your formations. They also pay attention to your Guard Towers to avoid archer attacks from those towers (though some Barbarian nations still aren't smart enough to notice this...)
The BadNow for the bad:
 Rome: Total War - Original Game
Enemy nations (mentioned earlier) are not aggressive (referring to non-Romans). They usually take a defensive stance (if not, no stance at all). Romans usually do all the massive attacking, though non-Romans do attack, the frequency is not as much as the Romans.
Another strategy game that has a diplomacy screen that doesn't do much. The only thing you can do is request Trade Routes, Alliance and Sue for Peace. Requesting Military Access is impossible, requesting help from other nations is almost impossible, offering to attack other nations for a sum of money for some reason hampers your relationship with that country (the one you asked for money), relations with other nations is impossible to find out (good/bad relations).
Each turn=6 months
Is is a very irritating feature, especially since your generals die one your very quickly in this feature. Let's face it, Alexander the Great became emperor before he was 20 (I think). If we used this 6 month thing, he would be emperor in his 60's.
Retinues cannot be removed
Retinues (servants of generals) have different abilities. The thing is, the maximum is 8 and you can't get rid of the ones you don't like. The only way to get rid of these lesser retinues are by moving them to an old general and wait for that general to die.
Irritating General Skills
I don't know about you, but I really hate it when my general develops a bad skill (ie. a moron, drunk, womanizer, etc.). Eventually I hacked and edited the script to change the character script to my liking, but I wish there was a way in the game to have the computer remove those traits (like an Oracle or something for the price of money).
Sieging Enemies do not attack
Well they can't siege your city, but they never attack. They just wait there until you attack or surrender.
Not enough information on neighbouring politics
Especially when you end each turn. Personally I'd like to know if an enemy nation is sieging or attacking another city or army close to my line of sight. Since you usually accelerate the "end turn" by pressing Space Bar, since the units move to slow, you end up missing any military action going on.
No strategy in Naval Combat
It's just about more ships. The more ships, you win. No strategy whatsoever involved.
Siege weapons cannot live city in when defending
Either that gate is too small, or they forgot that siege weapons should actually be able to leave a city in the first place.
Grouping Nightmare Commands
They f*ucked up big time when it comes to unit grouping. Attacking using a group doesn't send them to the intended unit you want them to attack, but they attack the closest unit to them. This is a nightmare when your using cavalry and those phalax spear units have their spears aimed at you. Grouping only works well for moving, but doesn't work very well when attacking.
Archers don't know when to stop shooting
Hello, please notice that my cavalry are currently squashing that enemy unit. Will you please stop firing those arrows at my behind? I've had more than one instance where I've had more causalities due to friendly fire than the enemy. The archers also don't following the "stop firing" command very well. They have to fire a final volley before they stop. What are they, trigger happy? The only way to prevent this is by ordering them to move, which they stop firing immediately. But sometimes it f*ucks up the formation.
Chaos on the walls
Moving units on the walls is a total nightmare. Sometimes
they move where you want them, often they go round-and-round not sure where they're going.
 Rome: Total War, after Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion Expansion
Not much of a patch...
The only bug they fixed in the original was regarding the enemy ability to siege and attack. They didn't fix anything else. Doh.
Corrupt saved games
Ever since I installed Barbarian Invasion, the game often crashes when loading after a battle. And you can't load that game directly from the main screen.
The Bottom LineGreat strategy game, though with a lot of flaws that may require your personal tinkering to suit your liking.