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Posted on Dec 24, 2008 in Electronic Games

Vae Victis Expansion for EU: Rome – PC Game Review

By Larry Levandowski

Armchair General MagazineVae Victis, Expansion for Europa Universalis: Rome. Paradox Interactive. PC game. $9.95

Passed Inspection: Must-have features and interface improvements for fans of EU: Rome. Good price.

Failed Inspection: Expansion is light on content; no documentation.

At the end of a hard day’s march for your legions, Vae Victis improves what is already a very good game.

In 387 BC, an army of Gauls had taken most of Rome and were besieging the remaining Roman garrison on the Capitoline hill. The Gaul’s leader, Brennus, demanded 1,000 pounds of gold as ransom to leave the city alone. The Romans brought out their gold, but they noticed that the weights and balances the Gauls were using were fixed. The Romans complained to Brennus, who became angry, drew his sword and threw it on the balance. "Vae Victis", he declared, or woe to vanquished. This was a lesson Rome would never forget.

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One of the reasons why Paradox is such a strategy-game powerhouse is that they never stop improving their core titles. So now, six months after Europa Universalis: Rome hit the store shelves, Paradox has released the first expansion; Vae Victis.

The focus of Vae Victis is the introduction of domestic politics as well as some substantial improvements to the character interface. These features have a subtle but important effect on game play and add more depth to an already great game. Gamers not familiar with Europa Universalis: Rome can read the review on ArmchairGeneral.com.

The domestic political system in VV adds a new dimension to EU: Rome’s simulation of the ancient world. The player now has to contend with the needs and desires of the Senate, clan heads or his Council depending on the type of government. For republics like Rome or Carthage, the political display will show a map of Senate control by faction, along with a portrait of each faction leader. All domestic characters in the game are associated with one of these five factions: military, civic, religious, populist and mercantile.

As the game progresses, the fortunes of each of these factions wax and wane. While the player can affect the distribution of power somewhat, events and characters themselves will cause many of the swings in the balance of power. This is important, because the more powerful factions influence the direction of the nation. For example, all domestic and diplomatic actions must be supported by the Senate; actions that have no support will be blocked outright. So, for a major decision like going to war with Carthage, the player will only have a free hand to cleanse the coast of Africa if there is enough support. A handy pop-up shows the player the detail of how each faction feels about the proposed action. When the military faction is strong, as an example, the player will find pro-military actions to be easier.

If the player finds that the government blocks his desires too often, he can directly affect the balance of power. Want to increase the loyalty of a great general? Hold a triumph in his honor. Want to shift power to the mercantile faction? Imprison, defame or assassinate the heads of the rival factions. Of course, there are consequences like loss of popularity and prominence if you are caught. So, for junior despots out there, filling your jails with pesky faction leaders is bound to cause more trouble than it is worth.

A few other government-related features also affect game play. The player is now given national missions, like the destruction of Carthage for example. Completing these tasks will give bonuses such as increased popularity, wealth and prominence for the ruler. Another new feature is that the player can now enact laws that clamp down on corruption or shift the population distribution. But as in real life, laws are never a silver bullet and rarely have an immediate impact.

Along with domestic politics, VV also sports a new character interface that really brings the role-playing aspect of the game to the forefront. With VV, character information is now much more manageable. Several filter screens allow the player to quickly find and track characters, even the unemployed ones. The number of governors is also reduced by about two-thirds. This is a good thing since before VV, players of EU: Rome often had to track 30 or 40. At the same time the influence of governors is higher, making them a more important part of running your nation. Unhappy governors sometimes split away, and the prospect of civil war is a problem almost as large as barbarian invasions.

While VV adds quite a bit to EU: Rome, the new features are not perfect. The character interface still has cryptic entries on the character history log. The game is also optimized around Rome, so playing a barbarian nation sometimes has unrealistic restrictions. For example, in a typical barbarian nation, each clans will demand to have someone appointed in a government position, but often you will have no open slots. The result is that the player’s options are restricted by constant turmoil among the clans and declining stability.

Strangely, VV comes with no documentation. Pop-up tool-tips do provide a great deal of information, and the new features are mostly intuitive. Still, players will really have to tinker with the new interface to understand everything that is possible in this expansion.

Probably the biggest issue with Vae Victis, however, is that it does not provide a great deal of new content. Some players might feel that the improvements don’t add up to an expansion but should have been provided in a free patch. This concern should be diminished by the fact that Vae Victis is value priced at $9.99, however.

At the end of a hard day’s march for your legions, Vae Victis improves what is already a very good game. For those who were lukewarm about EU: Rome in the first place, the expansion is probably a toss-up. For fans of the game, Vae Victis is easy to recommend, so draw your sword and shout "Woe to vanquished!"

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ACG Intel

Europa Universalis: Rome Vae Victis

Europa Universalis: Rome

Paradox Interactive

Larry Levandowski has been a wargamer for more than 30 years, and started computer gaming back in the days of the C-64. Until he recently discovered the virtues of DOS box, much of his computer game collection was unplayable. A former U.S. Army officer, Larry has done his share of sitting in foxholes. Since leaving the Army, he has worked in the Information Technology field, as a programmer, project manager and lead bottle washer. He now spends his spare time playing boardgames, Napoleonic and WWII miniatures, as well as any PC game he can get his hands on.

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