There has been a lot of interest in exactly which parts of Roman history we're covering. Most games tend to focus on the Roman conquest of Italy, which is an obvious choice for games because you get to play as the familiar Romans, in the familiar boot of Italy, and there's a nice smattering of enemy factions around Rome. Other mediums – TV shows, books, plays – tend to focus on Caesar's civil war against Pompey and his eventual assassination. Obviously everybody knows Caesar, and the intrigue of this era is fascinating, but it doesn't work very well for a strategy campaign; the civil war was a bunch of one-off battles that happened all over the ancient world with very little building or expansion.
But one transformative period that is too often overlooked, is Caesar's ambitious campaign in Gaul.
It is said that, before the Gallic Wars, Caesar saw a statue of Alexander the Great and came to realize that Alexander had, at Caesar's age, virtually conquered the entire known world. It says a lot about Caesar's ambition, and perhaps his hubris, that he would not be satisfied so long as Alexander – the most notable historical figure of the time – was more accomplished than he.
The Gallic Wars were a chance to change all that. By the end, Caesar had ballooned the territory of the Roman Republic by nearly half and again its size and built an army powerful enough to support his civil war, which laid the groundwork for his ultimate dictatorship along with the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. This was a pivotal point in history, and it's the story that we're telling in Hegemony Rome.
With such a rich story, we decided that we wanted more freedom to recreate those events, but we didn't want to give up the free-form nature of the original game.
This is something we discovered after developing the original Philip of Macedon campaign. We were rather happy with the organic nature of the campaign, but we also saw something special in the Bardyllis quest at the beginning of the game, where you come across a set-piece battle against the enemy general who so recently threw your kingdom into chaos.
Encounter the enemy on the same battlefield Caesar describes in his commentaries
Unfortunately, as the campaign progressed, the free-form nature of the game worked against our ability to create such set-piece battles. We wanted the best of both worlds, and we couldn't do that in a single campaign.
That's why we released Hegmony Gold with a separate sandbox mode. This allowed us to offer a completely free-form experience, similar to the middle portions of the Philip of Macedon campaign, while allowing us to focus on a more scripted experience, like the beginning of Philip's campaign.
We learned a lot from developing Hegemony Gold that way, and we think there's a lot of promise in that approach. In a future post we'll discuss how we've improved the sandbox mode, but today I want to talk more about how we've structured the campaign.
One of the things we discovered is that the best part of Hegemony is when you're starting from scratch. When you have a single city, alone and exposed, and you're tasked with carving out your own empire from the surrounding area.
This plays perfectly with the history of the Gallic Wars. In 58 BCE, Caesar was forced to respond to the threat of the Helvetii near modern Geneva. In 57 BCE, he was forced to respond to the rebellions in Beglium. 56 BCE brought with it a new invasion of Germans crossing the Rhine, along with Caesar's own ambitions to conquer Britannia. Finally, in 54 BCE, Caesar was faced with a unified Gallic rebellion, starting just north of Lutetia (modern Paris) and eventually ranging all the way south to the Mediterranean, ending in 52 BCE when Caesar defeats Vercingetorix and pacifies all of Gaul.
Belgica on the strategy map
This allowed us to break the campaign into four separate chapters – they play like completely separate campaigns – each allowing you to start in a new area.
You can play these chapters in any order you like, but they get harder as you go on. Those of you with sharp eyes may have noticed some gaps above in chapters 3 and 4. That's because these chapters are two years long; these chapters are longer because it's assumed that you're better at managing a large empire by this point, and you're also ready to deal with the changing seasons. Basically, the further into the game you get, the more closely it resembles the sandbox experience, so if you're new to the game, the best way to learn how to play is to start with chapter 1 and work your way through the entire story.
As I mentioned above, one of the new things we wanted to do with the campaigns was add more set-piece battles. But one of the important features of Hegemony Rome is that you're playing on a seamless map, so we didn't want to introduce some sort of “instanced” battle that interrupts the gameplay like some other games do. Rather, as you complete the objectives and push against your boundaries, you'll occasionally encounter specially scripted battles. If you lose the battle, there's no unnatural restarting of your mission. You merely retreat back to your own territory, build up a larger army, and live to fight another day. And don't worry; your enemy will be ready for your ultimate return.
So that's a brief overview of what you can expect in the chapters. What I would like to hear from your guys is if you'd like me to go into more details about the chapters in a future article. Would you like a more specific overview of each chapter? If so, would you like to try to avoid spoilers, even when they're on the historical record? Or would you like some more technical articles, like how we do the battle scripting, or how we manage the difficulty curve and teach the player how to play the game? Let us know below!
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