We don’t generally review mods on FiringSquad, but every now and then they do catch our attention. Rome: Total Realism stands out easily among most mods, not only because it’s made for a popular game, but because it easily dominates the Rome: Total War mod scene.
The key focus for the mod designers was to make the game more realistic. To this end, they removed units they saw as objectionable, ahistorical or frivolous – consequently the screaming women, the war dogs and druids are all gone. Other units got modified to bring them in line with more believable performance as well. The legions are standardized now, with no praetorian or urban cohorts available. They’re also less powerful relative to much of their competition, though still generally the best infantry unit in the game, with a stellar defense value that lets them grind opponents down as they did historically.
Of course, that’s one of the side issues that comes up with the mod. The developers have pinned their reputations on being historically accurate, not balancing for the sake of balance (except, perhaps, in unit costs and support costs), but one question is impossible to answer. How accurate are the unit assessments? Can anyone know how good units were against each other, relatively? Is there any possible way of testing? Historical battle results are skewed by history, translations and the records of the witnesses themselves. Then there are the battle conditions to consider – numbers of men, morale, leadership quality, weather, and terrain. An encounter between a Roman legion and enemy unit might have happened only once historically, if at all. Who knows how the results might have turned out on a different day, battlefield or with different generals? All these questions fly in the face of the confident, even arrogant proclamations by the developers
, who are dismissive of Rome: Total War as it was out of the box for being completely unrealistic.
Realism questions aside, the mod is highly comprehensive. It outright eliminates distinction between the four Roman factions, rather combining them into one. The map is greatly extended to the East, covering up to and including what is modern Iran. Every unit in the game has been overhauled not just in statistics, but artwork – at the least the skins if not the models themselves. Rome’s position is considerably weaker at the outset of the game, with the immediate threat of Pyrrhus in the South, while a confident, powerful Gaul gathers its resources in the North for an epic conflict across northern Italy.