Longbow Games bridges the gap between the depth of two dimensional grand strategy and modern Total War in a love-letter to everyone’s favorite tiff: Caesar vs the Gauls.

Right off the bat, Longbow Games are keen to teach you how to play Hegemony with a tutorial taking you through the first chapter of the game. There’s no nonsensical tutorial area or long-winded tooltipping to get in the way, and although trivial there’s something to be said about how to teach strategists the ropes. We all know how to play Total War, and we’ve all got some experience with other grand strategy titles. Some of us even remember Hegemony Gold, so kudos to Longbow Games for not treating us like idiots.

Most of the games primary features are in the current build

A primarily single player experience, Rise of Caesar is still in Early Access at an affordable sub-£20 price, and although only two parts of the campaign are currently accessible, most of the games primary features are in the current build. It’s certainly playable, although some balancing issues and bug-fixes are understandably on the way. Is this one of those perpetually stuck Early Access games destined never to be released? No. In fact, two more chapters of the games campaign are due for release before the title goes live. Check you out, Longbow Games!

Row by row, taking whatever the hell you want. It's the Roman way!

Row by row, taking whatever the hell you want. It’s the Roman way!

Hegemony Rome takes you across “over one million square kilometers,”

Hegemony Rome: Rise of Caesar is a strategy game in the vein of those created in ‘the olden days’, before developers were chasing numbers. That means it requires a little thought, and it requires strategy — not merely collecting everything collectible on the map and playing it safe. The single player campaign follows Caesar’s campaigns after he came into power, fighting against the Gauls, just as he wrote about them in Commentarii de Bello Gallico. With some swanky CG cut-scenes you wouldn’t expect from a game in this niche, and consistently competent voice acting, Hegemony Rome takes you across “over one million square kilometers,” through the Mediterranean up to the shores of ancient Britain.

That’s a big freaking chunk of land, and what makes that even more impressive is that the 2D map and 3D world are seamlessly tied together through use of the mouse scroll, allowing you to zoom in and out of the strategic view and 3D world at any time without loading. Of course, that million square KM of space is split into different campaign areas, but they’re huge, and perhaps the most impressive thing about Hegemony Rome is how uniquely immersive it is with this mechanic — strategy and micromanagement are no longer split, and you can do what you want at a whim.

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Control units, supply lines, and strategise from the 2D or 3D maps simply by zooming in and out.

Although currently inaccessible, the sandbox mode will allow you to play as one of 14 of the games factions, but for the campaign you’re stuck with Caesar as you firstly secure the southern areas of Gaul from West to East, moving to the North to defend against an insurgence of Germanic forces keen to take plots of land previously owned by the Gauls themselves. The context and story flows perfectly with the gameplay, and as well as ‘Hegemony’ quests (necessary quests to move on in the campaign), there are alternative quests which unlock rewards, such as capturing mines, or taking garrisons etc.

Units are conscripted from a supply of reinforcements from towns

To do all this, you’ll need to raise an army. Armies consist of the standard different unit types you’d expect from a Rome themed game, with Generals or Legionaries who can be placed in charge of different units. Units are conscripted from a supply of reinforcements from towns, and farms, paddy’s, and other resource areas must be neatly tied together with supply lines to keep everyone fed and alive. Moving your armies out of reach of a major city or supply line will slowly deplete their supplies, so it’s important to get those supply lines linked, and plan ahead when moving into the fray. If you attack a stronghold with a starving army, things won’t go too well in your favor.

There is limited control of formations and, the UI could do with squad selection options.

There is limited control of formations and, the UI could do with squad selection options.

Units can also be upgraded, as can buildings, which can unlock more recruitment options for more advanced units.

Armies are select-able by clicking on them, or on their peg in the 2D map, but the UI could really use a list of unit per location similar to something like Sins of a Solar Empire in order to keep track of movement and location, and to better select them based on type, but the current method works well if you’re not worried about micromanagement, or if you’re someone who likes to select multiple and throw them full charge at the enemy forces. Units can also be upgraded, as can buildings, which can unlock more recruitment options for more advanced units.

Be careful not to grow too quickly though, as there is a constant income supplemented by trade generated by workers in the farms. One of the neatest things about Hegemony is the ability to slaughter or capture enemy forces once defeated. If slaughtered, the enemy will grow more hostile towards you, and provoke you carelessly. If captured, you can send them off into the mines or farms to work as slaves, without having to pay for, or purchase, more worker units.

Don't get too comfortable with your successes, there's plenty to catch you out.

Don’t get too comfortable with your successes, there’s plenty to catch you out.

It’s tempting to rally up your forces as one giant army, but as with most strategy titles your cities can revolt based on happiness and morale, with raiders and bandits also causing problems. They can even build bridges over rivers to take you on when you least expect it. If even one chain in your supply line is broken, vast areas of the map can be completely cut off and this can cripple your progress substantially. Managing resources isn’t very in depth, with the meat of the gameplay dedicated to conquering and managing armies, but it’s quite unique in that managing where your armies are in relation to your supply lines is a nice way to dabble in resource management without having to dedicate too much time to it.

There’s certainly a difficulty spike in the first chapter

Battles themselves look not dissimilar to a Total War: Rome 2 battle, with the player picking formations and then either letting the battle sort of work itself out, or sending in units you want to send based on your own plan or strategy. At the start, it’s really rather easy, basically ensuring you out-number the enemy, but by the end of chapter one the Germanic forces easily destroyed me, because I didn’t take the time to upgrade and unlock better units. There’s certainly a difficulty spike in the first chapter, but not one you’ll regret, since you’ll learn a lot from it.

Hegemony is easily the most impressive 3D strategy title I’ve seen in a long while, and rather than reinvent the wheel, it does everything we want a 3D strategy game to do, and it does it well. It even has aquatic supply lines, and the ability to build garrisons and bridges courtesy of your units, with a number of neat little tricks thrown in here and there that you won’t have been expecting. Longbow Games and Kasedo Games have built an awesome strategy title that really shows how in-tune they are with this niche’s demographic, and looking at the seemless map transition, battle dynamic, and scale of the whole project, it’s hard to see Hegemony Rome: Rise of Caesar as anything but supremely impressive.

Perhaps my biggest concern with Hegemony is the rather featureless user interface, where notifications of important situations are hidden behind three tabs to the bottom left of the screen. However, these are things that in a beta, are often ironed out. The meat of the gameplay is what counts, and Hegemony Rome triumphs as brilliantly as Caesar, with hopefully less bloodshed in the process.