Nemesis of the Roman Empire / Celtic Kings: The Punic Wars / Carthage (Картаген)
Nemesis of the Roman Empire (Carthage from this point onwards) is a 2003 standalone expansion pack to the classic RTS game from Bulgaria – Celtic Kings: Rage of War.
In it players are introduced to two whole new factions – the Iberians and the Carthaginians (the nemesis of Rome) who join the roster of the original title containing the Gaul and Roman Empire. They come alongside two new campaigns, one detailing Rome’s Punic Wars against Carthage and battles on the Iberian Peninsula, while the other covers Hannibal’s war against Rome. Alongside them there are several non-campaign custom maps where the player takes control of Iberia in a defensive mission against one of the aforementioned factions.
The strategic map overview feature + some of my trade routes.
It is a unique type of RTS. You see, you do not build structures in this game bar catapults or siege towers. Instead, the map is populated by villages, forts, and cities (main bases) and players need to capture and hold (or damage them) while managing their economy and armies while keeping control of said cities. Powerful heroes, different types of forts with their own pros and cons (such as trading posts which turn food to gold), and 4 different factions make this game interesting, alongside light RPG element just like its predecessor. There are also neutral factions (the Teutons) and animals into the mix. Alas, it is not a full 3D engine, but the hand-made art for the game is still gorgeous!
Senator Cato is a meme always.
The game comes with its own relatively good map editor as well as support for a computer AI player. It is not bad actually, I do have some critique, but the computer is no slouch at all. To top that off alongside the campaigns we have multiplayer, co-op functionality, custom maps, as well as a map generation feature which creates maps for you! It is indeed a full package!
The editor above. Also, we can change seasons!
One thing to note here is that Celtic Kings and Carthage and their sequel Imperium 3 – these games are set in history and feature real events and battles but they aren’t really truly historically accurate games. There are fantastical elements in them – often used to make the gameplay or world more interesting, they are never ever presented as something true to life which is good.
Praetorian Guards + Hastati engaging the Sacred Band supported by mercenaries. There is also a nifty game encyclopedia here^.
For example, the new Carthaginian faction relies on Mercenary units and its own powerful Sacred Band of nobles to wage war. Awesome units like the Sacred Nobles, Libyan infantry, and war elephants make an appearance, but alongside them there is also the Shaman – this faction’s magician unit, who has control over some of the dark arts. For example, if he dies he can turn himself into a ghoul that saps away some of the life force of nearby enemies. Same goes for the Iberian sorceress who can make soldiers invisible or the Gaul druid who can take control of animals or Roman priest who can ask the Gods for divine intervention and strike them with lightning. There are also magical sites where powerful map-shaping rituals can take place or ruins filled with powerful magical items. Iberia on the other hand has some amazing ranged units and very brutal Elite Guards and Defenders with giant shields who can take a beating. They also have stealth assassins – mountaineers who can turn invisible and harass enemy lines.
Both factions are a joy to play and combine very well with the previous 2 factions, it is relatively balanced I’d say.
A giant melee with my captured Iberian forces, war elephants and Teuton archer support.
So, what is the deal with Carthage? Well, the problem is that it is available to be bought but in only a few select regions of the world. This means that I, a Bulgarian lover of the game, cannot buy this game in my home country. And mind you – this is a Bulgarian video game; I believe our 3rd official big release. In fact, it seems most of Europe or Asia cannot access it. Only North Americans are lucky here!
This is a first one for this series. A game that is semi-available in a couple of regions of the world but nowhere else. This is better than not being available at all, make no mistake… but I wish Haemimont (the developers) sorted out the IP conundrum and made this game available for the entire world. It isn’t my national pride speaking here – this game IS good. Objectively. I don’t think it is quite a classic like its two predecessors (Celtic Kings and Tzar), but being a damn good expansion pack is still no small feat.
The legendary intro
Made by Epic Games of Unreal Engine (it started here) and Fortnite acclaim, released in 1998 – this is one of the classical FPS games. It was a technological powerhouse able to impress even against powerful competitors such as id Tech 3 and GoldSrc. Its gameplay is top of the line even to this day with smart enemies and interesting, inventive level design. In some ways I even think it was superior to Half-Life 1, another amazing title from the same year (1998 was packed full with godlike titles!).
This is jaw dropping with 1998 technology!
Make no mistake, this isn’t a game for everyone. It is basically an arcade shooter like Quake 1 but even more polished and I’d say well designed. Just like with Half Life 1 which came a bit later, players are on a continuous journey from load screen to load screen as they explore and try to escape Na Pali. While translating ancient alien texts, fighting wildlife and alien mercenaries and protecting some of the remaining peaceful aliens who were enslaved – this is a long and extremely fun adventure!
Ancient alien temples about to be liberated/exploded!
Unreal 1 used to be available everywhere. On GOG, Steam, Epic – it was everywhere. Now Epic Games removed it from stores and I have no idea why. I hope they are thinking of making a remaster or remake or something, but why remove the original? Yes, Unreal is a very old game nowadays. It needs mods or community patches to really work as expected on a modern system. But we have that. We have mods in spades. The game is not just awesome – it is one of the greatest ever first-person shooters in all of history.
That we can no longer officially buy it is a travesty in my opinion. Unreal and its expansion Return to Na Pali deserve to be played forever – they are the very definition of what a classic is. An example to their entire genre and game design itself. If you haven’t played them, please try to get them in some way and install the OldUnreal 2.27i Community patch and then if you wish – the Unreal Evolution mod.
These reflections in 1998…
There. I just gave you your new favourite FPS game.
Starship Troopers (2005)
We had a couple of heavy hitting games here but now I will finish with a title that is not actually all that great.
But you know what? Doesn’t matter. I miss it!
In this older FPS you take control of one of the elite Marauder units for the Mobile Infantry while attacking the bugs from the movie on their home planet. The game has impressive technology in terms of how many enemies and friendlies it can draw a time, but all else is quite poor. Next to games like Quake 4 it looks downright ancient.
The shooting and mission design are also kind of middle of the road. But several of the defensive missions are a lot of fun and the game does actually follow the general art design of the movie very well.
Defensive missions are fun!
There is a lot to improve with this game. From AI to enemy and level design and its graphics are quite poor by 2005 standards. But I still feel as if people inside Strangelite Studios did care while making it – there is a soul somewhere there in its mediocre body. And I don’t celebrate only the good or great games – I believe all games deserve to be accessed by everyone in our art form. So, I do wish it one day releases on Steam or GOG!
And this marks the end of our fifth article looking back at games that I really hope get a re-release one day.
It is unfortunate that gaming companies do not really care for preservation much... I hope at least gamers do!
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