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Centurion: Defender of Rome

Moby ID: 213

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 70% (based on 26 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 75 ratings with 9 reviews)

Excellent game.

The Good
A very good port from the Amiga, Centurion is an excellent strategy game with great replay value and good gameplay. Although it can basically be finished within an hour or so, the game features well-rounded gameplay with great combat, interesting types of minigames and good managerial section.

Designed by legend Kellyn Beck (who also designed just-as-legendary Defender of the Crown), it is one of the best games I've ever played. Excellent graphics, good music, good controls and excellent gameplay make this one game you will not forget.

The Bad
Although a good game on its own, the PC version does have its drawbacks:

  • The music is FM-based and not nearly as good as in the Amiga. Although the limitations are understanble, I still think it could have been done better.
  • Very weak diplomacy, which is present in the original version as well, and that is unfortunate.
  • Horrible sound effects. Jesus, and I thought the Amiga sound effects were bad...
  • The game is too damn easy. I could never finish it on the Amiga, and the hardest setting on the PC is not nearly as difficult.

The Bottom Line
Overall, an excellent strategy game for the whole family. Wait, wrong game. Just play it, for crying out loud.

DOS · by Tomer Gabel (4539) · 2000

A classic!

The Good
I loved the challenge of conquering the world. I loved trying to figure out the right combination of responses to negotiate treaties. And also racking up huge kill numbers was fun! The sea battles were great (modeled right after Pirates!), the chariot races were fun, but the best part had to be the responses of the enemy generals. Stuff like "Your tribe wear clothes not right" by Galba of Narbonensis and "I shall rip out your lying tongue, dog of Rome!" by Vercingetorix of Gaul just rule. :D

I really liked the music, but there were only like 2 in-game songs... I wish there had been more.

The Bad
Well, it didn't have a way of recording the "Record Achievements" at the end of the game. That would've been nice.

Also, I would have liked to see a greater diversity of units (Roman elephant units, archers, catapults, different types of cavalry, etc.), more flexibility of movement on the battlefields (you couldn't move units diagonally), more types of battlefields (trees, rivers, etc.), and stuff like that.

They really needed to cut down on the amount of gladiator fights! Practically every 3 years the citizens of Rome would "grow restless" and you'd have to hold a gladiator fight. That part was pretty pointless.

The Bottom Line
This is a really fun game. You should try to play it if you never have.

DOS · by Raphael (1245) · 1999

Become Caesar, conquer the known world.

The Good
The manual described Roman history including famous battles, the Generals in the game are historic, the provinces and largely historic but Britain for example was never entirely conquered (perhaps that's why they stay angry). Going up in rank allowing better and more legions and fleets. Provinces gradually being civilized going from Occupied or Ally to Colony and Citizens and paying higher taxes. The capitol province of Italia falling and taxes stopping, makes the game very difficult at higher levels. You have to increase taxes when you reconquer it and risk rebellion.

Review: Centurion, Defender of Rome - or Centurion, Defender of Boredom as I remember it, good for killing time. You begin as a Roman Officer in charge of the Roman Empire's one and only province - Italia, with one Legion, and Rome's Garrison, which can not attack, only defend Italia. You must rise through the ranks (Centurion, Tribune, Legatus, General, Praetor, Consul, Proconsul, Caesar), by gaining (and holding!) Provinces & Legions, and winning Games. You can only become Caesar by conquering the entire known world (Europe and the Mediterranean).

There are five main sections to the game: The province map, land battles, sea battles, gladiatorial games, and chariot racing. Each can be set at a different level of difficulty, so if you are bad at one thing, and good at another, you can compensate.

There are 27 Provinces, most can be brought into the Empire by negotiation. Some will join as Allies, but will never advance beyond this, and will always be in an Angry state. There are 3 options at a time in negotiation, only one will be the right one. Some options are far more effective than others. A negotiation ends in 3 ways, the legion withdraws from the provinces, goes to war, or the Province becomes an Ally and the legion stays in place that turn. Some Provinces join sooner than others, as Allies, depending on your rank, and how many turns have passed. Do not bring Provinces into your empire you can not protect, as once lost, they will never re-negotiate, and must be conquered, joining the Empire in an Occupied state. You can also negotiate your way into Cleopatra's bed. Sometimes it is better to invade than wait for an Alliance, as that province may raise 2 or 3 barbarians armies in that time.

Provinces can be in four states: Occupied, Ally, Colony, and Citizens. They change state over time, providing they are not lost, and bring in more taxes with each improvement in state. They also provide reinforcement troops to repair damaged legions. Legions fight best when at full strength, and commanded by a good General. Allied provinces provide a vast number of recruits the first turn, enough to raise a Legion, sometimes.

Taxes are required to repair and raise Legions. Also to hold games to keep provinces in order. Each province has morale: Content, Restless, Angry, and Rebellious. If Rebellious, you will soon lose that Province unless you hold games, reduce taxes (or have none for a while in that province), or maintain a Garrison to crush any uprisings. Soon after it is likely to raise a barbarian army to threaten your borders. Tribute levels can be raised for a few turns, if necessary, but rebellious feeling will sweep your empire, so don't keep them high too long.

When Rome becomes unhappy you must have a Gladiatorial game, you can't just pay for this, you must fight it. Make sure to fight well, or the people will remain unhappy, deciding whether the opponent lives or dies greatly affects happiness, so please the crowd, or else! Paying for a better Gladiator helps, but also drains your treasury. If Rome rebels, you don't get any new taxes until it is reconquered. The Romans seem to want games, very often, the game would have been a lot better if this feature could have been turned off, as in one game you have to fight several dozens games, all the same, lasting 5 minutes each, EXTREMELY BORING, but very necessary. You can play without looking, so I used to flip over to a TV channel for the duration.

Another problem is the fleet, you need several dozen ships to transport a legion - which costs a fortune, yet minor kingdoms regularly raise fleets to send armies to attack you. If you wait to save enough tribute to build a fleet, you will have conquered enough provinces to attack North Africa by land! Fortunately some countries can be gained (if not held) by a small force sent to negotiate. Tribute can be gained gambling at the chariot races, lose a little money a few times, and your odds will go up, then gamble a lot, and win. It seems an unrealistic way to build your fleet though. I can only win chariot races at the lower levels. They can also be quite boring, as you have to do several laps, and bet several times, to make any real money, you also have to start with a reasonable stake.

Fleet battles are extremely tough, fight them at your own risk. If you are defeated you will lose expensive ships, plus the troops in them.

Land battles are the core of the game. Each legion gets a different general, Scipio Africanus, is the best. DON'T LOSE HIM! There are a number of infantry and cavalry (for speed) cohorts which can either be automated or directed. They fight better attacking at the side, or ganging up. You fare better, if you control all the cohorts, but this is tedious, and tricky. If you lose your General the armies courage goes down, and you can no longer direct cohorts, the same applies for your enemy, so try and get his General if you can.

You get better armies once you become a Tribune, gaining some two Cavalry groups, fighting without Cavalry is a nightmare. When you become Consul, you get two more Cavalry groups, (though they are not very easy to field), and more & higher strength cohorts, so they fight longer before folding and inflict more damage. Of course against Elephant or Cavalry, you will lose more troops. Once you have Consular Armies, you lose much less often, but have a new problem of finding lots more recruits to replace the higher casualties, and upgrade to larger armies (previous to this only Rome's Garrison is Consular, so sometimes it is a good idea to retreat a weak army and let the Garrison fight).

Much depends on which formation your enemy chooses, it's largely random. Each legion has a courage level, which improves over time (training): Panicky (only one Province luckily), Weak, Good, and Fierce. Courage, is effected by how high a regard they have for their general, and how many casualties the cohort has taken. The courage of each Province varies so try and recruit Fierce troops, all the time (they come mainly from the west), so in the costly eastern battles, you may not have enough good recruits (or they may be too far away), so you will have to compromise.

At higher levels, enemy elephants (you are not allowed any, even if you capture Provinces which have them), act very much like tanks, and decimate your Legions.

Most provinces in the east are weak but can't be taken, as they can't be held eg. Pontus, with weak mercenary troops, where Caesar did his 'I came, I saw, I conquered' thing. It's interesting to note the mighty Julius came to Britain, but did not conquer it, it was 100 years until Cladius mounted a successful invasion (shipping problems?). The Romans thought they would fall off the end of the earth, when they went to Britain.

Barbarian armies are forever appearing in Provinces, and rampage through other provinces (without ANY loses - not very realistic), until they get to you. They always terminate in Italia, either conquering it, or being defeated.

To conclude the game is great fun, and absorbing. You can suffer great defeats, but with sacrifice fight back. There are however too many tedious bits, which you should have been able to turn off. The fleet is too expensive, perhaps you should begin with one. Historically Rome attacked Sicilia, Hispania, Carthago, and Macedonia by sea, before expanding elsewhere. Also you should be able to make peace with the Cathagian, Greek, Egyptian, and Persian Empires (but not the barbarians) - perhaps for tribute, of course they could decide to break the peace if you get too strong, or attack each other - but the chance of unprovoked attack should be greatly reduced. And it would be good to play as one of the other powers, perhaps with Elephants. The casualty rate at the end is interesting, I usually take about 100,000 dead to make the empire. Worth it? Perhaps, better than endless barbarism.

The Bad
The DOS hack doesn't negotiate alliances correctly. Having to play gladiator games every few turns over and over again, a real drag, should have been able to turn this feature off. But I suppose Roman Emperors had to attend games. The fleet costs far to much, you can't take the war to the Carthaginians as the Romans did in history. Barbarians being able to cross other territories without fighting their armies. Both should be reduced making defense and attack easier. Perhaps alliances could be introduced so several territories can fight as one.

The Bottom Line
Good strategic game teaches you history.

Amiga · by David Ledgard (58) · 2005

Centurion: Pretender to the Throne?

The Good
Centurion: Defender of Rome has a prestigious pedigree, being a close spiritual descendant of the classic Cinemaware titles of the late 1980s. In particular, it tries very hard to be a Roman Defender of the Crown. In some ways, it actually succeeds.

The game concept itself is awesome, as there is a wealth of both real and fictional (AKA “Hollywood”) Roman history for the designers to draw upon. Even if you don’t think you know anything about the Roman Empire, you probably do – even if it is just the vague references and images you inevitably pick up on from reading books and watching movies and television. As you would expect from a Cinemaware-style game, the graphics are splendid, particularly in the “splash” screens that set the scene for the game’s big events.

Diplomatic encounters inject quite a bit of personality into Centurion, in addition to providing a non-military path to victory over your enemies. Sometimes this “personality” is quite literal; your pulse can’t help but quicken a bit when you first encounter the legendary Cleopatra herself!

The tactical battles are amusing and manageable at the lower difficulty levels. As for the bigger picture, the grand strategy involved can be rather interesting and challenging. Care to play Roman Risk, anyone? I also enjoyed the gladiator combat once I got the hang of it and figured out its function in the game (which makes sense but isn’t all that obvious if you just play the game without studying the instructions first).

The Bad
I had some fun playing Centurion, but I have to admit to being disappointed with it in the final analysis. The good intentions are there, but the designers just didn’t come through with the level of quality I expected.

The PC-speaker sounds/music are not just bad, they are downright intolerable. The legion listings have no information on commanding generals, even though managing your generals is (or should be) a key to your success. Land battles are highly unrealistic; there is no variation of terrain, no missile warfare, etc. It is very tedious and awkward to direct individual units in battle, which would not be a problem except for the fact that you absolutely MUST micromanage your troops at higher difficulty levels to have even a prayer of winning.

The naval element is not properly balanced, as sea battles are generally unnecessary, and not an efficient path to conquest anyway. Navies are way more expensive than armies, and not as much fun, so you’ll probably end up conquering the Mediterranean by traveling exclusively overland. Not exactly true to Roman history, is it?

As for the chariot racing, it simply isn’t fun. Races are long, dull, and difficult; the control scheme frankly feels broken. Good thing chariot races aren't required to finish the game! Also, even though I enjoyed the gladiator matches, they don't seem to be necessary for finishing the game, as the masses can be appeased in other ways. Dueling in the arena can be a welcome respite from the rest of Centurion, but that’s about all its good for.

The Bottom Line
Some aspects of Centurion are entertaining, but the game as a whole is ultimately more "bread and circuses" than substance. It's ok, but it's no Defender of the Crown.

DOS · by PCGamer77 (3158) · 2019

Full of promise but never delivered

The Good
The basic "Cinemaware" style game mechanic was well executed (strategic map for troop movement and area control linked by mini-arcade games).

The land battles were interesting, once you understood the strategy, but could be very frustrating if you did not.

And who can beat the subject matter!

The Bad
The arcade games were horrible! The true Cinemaware games walked a fine line between simple and simplistic, but EA's attempt at the genre had a severe lack of control and depth.

Gladiator combat lacked any subtley (bang keys until you win/lose) and the chariot racing was equally disappointing.

Finally, the graphic look of the game was disappointing. This was released years after the original Cinemare games, yet hardly improved on their style.

The Bottom Line
Defender of The Crown meets Ben Hur. But in a bad way.

DOS · by Tony Van (2803) · 2000

Defend the empire in this classic game of strategy and guile.

The Good
Defend Rome from barbarian tribes and build armies to fight in real time battles.

Watch your forces crush potentially superior foes.

Expand the empire and pacify the world in this simple, yet engaging strategy game. Certainly not as difficult as Annals of Rome, much more simplistic and fun for the casual or new wargamer. Great war and superb yet simple land battles make this game made a decade before its time.

The Bad
Lack of depth. Action in the Colosseum can be very boring and chariot races, although very rewarding if you win, are also very boring. Naval battles tend to be boring as well and useless. This game has been called defender of boredom by some and in these cases, earns that remark.

The Bottom Line
A game made well before its time. I recommend it to all casual or new war gamers. Those who are interested in the history of the Roman Empire will find this title entertaining. Avoid naval battles as they are expensive and fruitless endeavors. Keep to the land battles as much as possible until its time to take Britain and Sardinia. A must download for any strategy game fan.

DOS · by bb bb (25) · 2005

A rough gem

The Good
This is one of my favorite games of all time. While old and primitive by today's standards, Centurion was years ahead of its time and offers hours of fun gameplay.

The centerpiece of the game is real-time land battles. It may take a while to figure out the quirks and strategies of the units but it is well worth it. The game takes into account factors like unit moral, the direction units are facing (and being attacked by) and the general's abilities. These factors, along with army formations and tactics form an eligent and challenging experience which was unmached in gaming until the likes of "Shogun: Total War" came out almost 10 years later.

The empire level is fun as well. It's a turn based system where you can move your legions around, invade provinces, fight off invaders etc. Its deep enough to have stategic depth without being complicated or requiring micomanagement. There is only 2 resouces: money (talents) and manpower - both of which are usually in short supply. Eventually you earn enough promotions to command up to 14 legions and once you conquor the world you become Ceasar and win.

I also liked the fine tuned difficulty settings, where you could change how difficult each part of the game was, rather than the game as a whole. You could even change difficulty levels mid-game if things were too easy or too rough.

The Bad
But there are many flaws in the game. Graphics were clunky, even for 1991.

The costs of some things don't make any sense. An infantry legion (4200 foot soldiers) costs 20 talents, the same as a single galeon (which can carry only 200 soldiers) and the same as a heavy chariot for racing. This makes sea battes overly expensive and dangerous since you can lose your whole fleet if the battle goes badly. Its often easier to simply go around the whole mediteranian to conquer north africa than to build a fleet to cross it.

While land battles are excellent, chariot races and fleet battles are boring and poorly made. Thankfully we don't have to fight gladiator battles in the genisis version - which are even worse.

There are other minor detals which are irksom. Like not being able to combine armies or transfer troops, not being able to dismiss bad generals (being forced to suicide them in battle to be rid of them) and the really bad savegame password system.

The Bottom Line
A well designed empire building game with real-time land battles. A game ten years ahead of its time.

Genesis · by Tony Maki (10) · 2003

Another classic from the classic days of gaming

The Good
My brother in law was the manager of a computer store in the late 80's. One day he told me I could have one of the PC games in the discount box. I went through the titles and found this one. At first glance I didn't think much of it but it was the only thing in the box worth my time and it was free. It turned out to be a great game. Like all great classics the controls were easy to use and learn. I am a Ben Hurr fan (movie) and when I started a naval battle I heard the famous music from Ben Hurr. COOL!

The Bad
I never could master the art of diplomacy very well. I ended up 99% of the time using force. The naval portion of the game was a little lame. Your personal ship goes into combat with the enemy commanders ship. Instead of tatical control of all the fleet. That is decided my several factors not in your control.

The Bottom Line
A must for any Classic Gamer.

DOS · by William Shawn McDonie (1131) · 2001

Not very rewarding.

The Good
The battles were pretty fun.

The Bad
But on easy mode, all you had to do was make all your men stand in one place, wait for the enemy to come, and your army kills them all as they're coming. That's a guaranteed win every time, so the battles got boring pretty quickly. Anything harder than "easy level," and you will surely lose every single battle you fight, no matter how many men you have. The battles could have had more men on them as well, and the computer's forces sometimes had elephants! Hey... I want to control elephants!!! But the game won't let me - that's only for the computer. It's no use negotiating with other countries because they will all want to go to war immediately. Once you win, you don't unlock anything, and nothing happens. Game over, man!

The Bottom Line
You can play something better in your spare time.

DOS · by Mr Blea (1) · 2005

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Narushima, Alsy, Tim Janssen, Jo ST, Patrick Bregger, Игги Друге, SlyDante, Pseudo_Intellectual, Jan Geerling, 666gonzo666, Terok Nor.