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History Great Empires: Rome Review

See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 06/05/2014 at 02:00 PM by Julian Titus

Don’t know nothin’ ‘bout history…

For that rare breed of gamer that loved classic PC strategy games but somehow doesn't own one of the gajillion platforms that Civilization can be played on.

This review is part of the 2014 Sh*tty Game Review Fest - read about the event here.

When the directors of PixlBit approached the staff with Operation: S----ty Game Review, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been off the writing horse for a bit, and there’s something a bit refreshing about getting a chance to eviscerate critique a game that you know isn’t very good. If anything, it helps put things in perspective. So, when we got our games and did our unboxing videos, the general consensus amongst the PixlBit readers and staff was that I got off easy with HISTORY ™: Great Empires: Rome. Well, as someone who has absolutely no love for classic PC-style games (no, seriously), an old-school, turn-based strategy title ala Civilization is about as appealing as playing Barbie’s First Free Clinic Visit.

Powering on Great Empires for the first time reveals a copyright of 2009, but starting a game makes me think that the actual code may have been written about twenty years prior. Since this title is sponsored by The History Channel I can only assume that this is some meta comment on video games and history. I don’t know what the significance of making the graphics look like they came from 1989 could be, but I’m also a product of the Texas public school system, so I’m sure the disconnect is on my part.

Having played exactly zero hours of Civilization and its ilk, I decide to begin with the tutorial. Well, “tutorial” is a bit of a misnomer, since it doesn’t do any actual tutoring on how the game works. Instead, I call it a “tooltiptorial”, as the only thing I can do is click on buttons with the stylus for a description of what the buttons are for. However, this tells me nothing about how the flow of the game works or what my objectives are.

Since this game came out in 2009, I dimly remember that video games came with these booklets of papyrus that had instructions scrawled inside. Opening the case reveals one such descendant of antiquity. The History Channel spared no expense in making this game all historic and stuff. However, the booklet only repeats the tooltip explanations, and I am once again stymied. Like a true American student of history, I throw the book out the window and decide to wing it. After all, it is a proven fact that the only things to be learned from the past is that people wore funny clothes and everybody was a racist.

Great Empires: Rome is sorely missing musical accompaniment. I don’t know how The History Channel could have made such a huge gaffe, as everything I’ve ever watched about the Roman Empire has had sweeping musical scores and Latin chanting all over the place. The lack of music makes an already boring affair all the more tedious. With no idea what I’m doing, I click on things until I finally get one of my armies to engage the enemy. I’m not sure what these people have done to deserve getting attacked, but Fox News has informed me that since I play video games I’m a bloodthirsty animal, so I just go with it.

The battles in Great Empires are most illuminating. It appears that warfare during the Roman Empire consisted of two armies full of soldiers that wander the battlefield aimlessly. I also learned that humans were much slower back then; probably because they didn’t have the benefit of Gatorade to replenish their precious electrolytes. Trees and other shrubbery seemed to flicker in and out of existence back then. That seems inaccurate to me, but far be it from me to question the veracity of The History Channel’s scholars.  Sometimes people just fall down in battle, which I can only assume is because of scurvy, because didn’t everyone have scurvy before 1957? I think I read that on the internet once.

I’m completely confused by my experience with HISTORY ™: Great Empires: Rome thus far, so I decide to consult the source by spending the evening watching The History Channel. Unfortunately, this bears no fruit, nor does it help me learn my motivation as the Roman Empire. All I’m able to learn from this excursion is that the old man from Pawn Stars resembles a sad fish, and that the reason for this game is probably aliens.

Since I have no experience with this genre of game, I can’t actually tell if it’s a poorly made product, or if the fault lies with me. I was kind of hoping to be able to rip this game a new one, but I walked away so hopelessly confused with the whole thing that I felt like I was back in high school. I love history, but historically the people who teach history make it so dreadfully boring that I don’t end up learning anything. I can say with 100% accuracy that HISTORY ™: Great Empires: Rome did nothing to make me more interested in the Roman Empire, and it certainly didn’t make me curious enough to seek out more retro-style PC strategy games.

I think I’ll probably go watch Caligula after this. I hear that’s pretty accurate, and you get to see Malcom McDowall have sex, so it can’t be all bad.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Nick DiMola Director

06/05/2014 at 02:09 PM


06/06/2014 at 12:29 PM

ahhh, Mr Galifinokopoulos

or something of that nature lol.  

That haircut screams credibility.

Daniel Iverson Staff Alumnus

06/06/2014 at 10:43 AM

Haha, well done. This must have been fun to write, if not to play.


06/06/2014 at 11:48 AM

There's definitly some Seanbaby vibes here like you said in NWP and it's all the better for it.

I'd like to think that the "retro" graphics weren't intentional. 

Julian Titus Senior Editor

06/07/2014 at 12:22 AM

Thanks, that means a lot! I used to read EGM from cover to cover, and Seanbaby's Rest of the Crap was a great way to end every issue. I gave this game 2.5 stars, but it's easily 4 Phil Collins.


06/06/2014 at 12:28 PM

Barbie's First Free Clinic Visit.....I wonder what the ESRB on that is lol

Julian Titus Senior Editor

06/07/2014 at 12:23 AM

"S" for "Skanky".


06/06/2014 at 03:57 PM

I am blind to good or bad when it comes to strategy games, especially ones with a history angle. I want to try this.

Our Take

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

06/07/2014 at 10:03 AM

5 star review. Would read again :D


06/10/2014 at 07:12 PM

You know as a strategy gamer like I am I usually defend History Channel games but this one lets just say im glad I didnt have to play!! And your reveiw was very entertaining to say the least. 

Super Step Contributing Writer

06/18/2014 at 08:26 AM

Loved the review and wish Caligula hadn't been taken off Netflix the day after I started watching it.

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