[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/shadowofrome/cover.jpg[/floatleft]The time is 44 B.C., and the Roman Empire is in a state of turmoil. Caesar has been assassinated, and the wrong person has been accused. The general of the Roman army has become a gladiator. He begins fighting in smaller city arenas, but his drive to succeed takes him to the Coliseum for the final matches. Surprisingly enough, I am not talking about the movie [i]Gladiator[/i]. I am referring to [i]Shadow of Rome[/i], which is, from start to finish, an extremely beautiful game. Yes, the premise sounds exactly like [i]Gladiator[/i], and for the most part it basically is (heck, there is even a scene where General Agrippa, said gladiator, yells “Are you not entertained?” to the crowd). But to steal a line from Cone, if you’re going to rip off a movie, at least pick a great movie. And Capcom did just that.
I’ll explain the story in a little more detail. Agrippa, the Roman general, has led his armies to victory against the Germanic tribes and is on his way back home. What the general does not know, however, is that back home, Julius Caesar has been assassinated, his last words being “Et tu, Brute?”, and his father Vipsanius is being accused of the murder. As Agrippa returns home, his friend Octavianus warns him that his mother is on trial for a public execution. Agrippa tries to stop them, but he falls short and sees his mother die right in front of him at the hands of Decius, the new Emperor’s right-hand man. A girl of unknown origin named Claudia helps Agrippa and Octavianus escape, then together the three hatch a plan to save Vipsanius. Claudia suggests that Agrippa become a gladiator (her brother Sextus owns a gladiator stable), as the winner of the Coliseum games gets to slay Vipsanius, leaving a chance for Agrippa to save him if he himself wins. Agrippa agrees, and meanwhile Octavianus sneaks around the Roman Senate searching for clues to the true killer’s identity. I say that the game is like [i]Gladiator[/i], and fundamentally yes it is, but the game is more like an imaginative take on Shakespeare’s [i]Julius Caesar[/i]. The events of the story pan out very nicely, and the battle that is the culmination of all events at the end of the game is fantastic.
Naturally, with two stories going on at once (that of Agrippa and that of Octavianus), you can expect the game to split into two partsA