The glory that was Rome.
Short of a Richard Sharpe or Jack Aubrey based MMO, ancient Rome may be the historical MMO setting for which I have the most complete literary background, at least in terms of total pages read. From Colleen McCullough’s novels about Rome, to Robert Graves‘ masterpieces, with many works in between, I have immersed myself in the Roman Empire over the last 25 years. Heck, I subscribed to HBO just to watch their series “Rome.”
After all, what is not to like about Rome? You have intrigue, sex, drinking, gluttony, violence, togas, slavery, torture, goddess worship, pagan rituals… it sounds like my house when we can get somebody to watch our daughter for the weekend.
Which brings us to Perpetual Entertainment’s Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, an MMO based in ancient Rome and destined to come out this year.
I am not enthusiastic about this as an MMO and it took me a while to figure out why.
After some thought on the subject, I think my problems with the game are two fold.
Scope – Sentio aliquos togatos contra me conspirare
To me Rome is larger than life. Men (and a few women) vying for power, controlling an empire, and leading the legions of Rome to new conquests. Titanic battles being waged with the Carthaginian, the Gauls, the Germans, and any number of nomadic peoples. Uprisings, slave revolts, and civil wars raged across the empire at various times. Things were happening and on a large scale.
Even the city of Rome itself was larger than life, a mix of Roman culture with those of its subject and tributary states mashed together in seven stinking hills of filth and grandeur.
Knowing all of this history, somehow the thought of rolling up an individual is a bit of a let down. I will be unlikely to be able to sway events or rise to real power if the MMO paradigm is followed by Perpetual. As for the alternative to power, I do not know how to say “Kill Ten Rats” in Latin, and I am not sure I want to find out. (Okay, I do want to find out, if only for humor’s sake, so comment if you find a site with common MMO phrases in Latin!)
Reality – Romani Ite Domum
The other problem I have is the reality of Rome versus the idea of a high fantasy-like Roman universe. In all of my reading Rome has always been treated as realistically as possible. Being grounded in something akin to Roman reality, I have no problems with classes like soldier, gladiator, scout, or rogue. But a priest or a mystic? Magic in the Roman world? It just steps outside of my ability to suspend disbelief at the moment.
And then there are the Gods. I am familiar with the Roman belief in the influence of the Gods on their daily lives. It is a topic well covered. The Romans were a superstitious lot, dedicated to their Gods and the rituals to appease or sway them. But they were also not above cynically mucking with the auguries and such to get the results they wanted. Politics and power always seem to trump belief. And even for the devout Romans, serious, lasting intervention by the Gods was seen as a rare event. So giving players powers granted from the Gods just does not sit well with me. This might be an over reaction, I admit, but that is just me. In a parallel example, I loved Age of Empires II (and still do) but had no use at all for Age of Mythology.
Interest: Mixed – I like the era, but little me in a Roman high fantasy world somehow doesn’t click.
Affinity for the Theme: High/Low – Again, I warm to Rome as a theme, but my own affinity is not for Rome of myth and legend.
Will I play: If some friends play I might, or if think the game might convey some of the majesty of Rome well. In an ever more crowded MMO market, something will have to influence me heavily to buy in.
Do I Need To Play Day One: No. If nothing else, this is Perpetual’s first time at bat. I’ll let somebody else take the bullet.