Shadow of Rome
|Shadow of Rome|
North American cover art
|Developer(s)||Capcom Production Studio 2|
|Genre(s)||Action, Hack and slash, Stealth, Vehicular combat|
Shadow of Rome is a 2005 hybrid hack and slash/stealth video game, with elements of vehicular combat, developed and published by Capcom for the PlayStation 2. The game was released in Europe on February 4, 2005, in North America on February 8, and in Japan on March 10.
The plot is a fictionalized version of the assassination of Julius Caesar, focusing on two characters, Agrippa, a soldier whose father is accused of murdering Caesar, and who is forced to fight in the gladiatorial arenas, and Octavianus, who sets about proving Agrippa's father's innocence. The game received mixed reviews. Originally conceived as the first part of a franchise aimed at a specifically western audience, the sequel was in the early stages of development when the first game was released. However, due to poor sales, particularly in North America, executive producer Keiji Inafune decided to scrap the franchise, and Shadow of Rome 2 ultimately became Dead Rising.
Shadow of Rome is a hack and slash/stealth game played from a third-person perspective. The hack and slash parts of the game involve close quarters combat with weapons, and some vehicular combat elements in the form of chariot racing. The stealth portions of the game involve basic stealth gameplay and some rudimentary puzzle-solving.
In the combat portions of the game, the player controls Agrippa, who can use various gladiatorial weapons such as swords, scimitars, maces, spears, bows, slingshots and flails. If Agrippa has severed the arm of an enemy, he can pick it up and also use it as a weapon. However, weapons can only be used for a certain amount of time before they break. During combat, a meter indicates the remaining vitality of Agrippa's weapon(s) and helmet (if he has one equipped). Agrippa can attack with his main weapon, his sub weapon or shield, or with a two handed weapon. The player can lock on to enemies to make Agrippa target them rather than swinging his weapons randomly. Agrippa can also throw weapons at his enemies and can fight with his fists, using strong and soft punches as well as shoulder tackles. If timed correctly, Agrippa can also steal weapons from his enemies, or knock their weapons out of their hands using a shoulder tackle. He can also attack from the ground by flinging sand into an approaching enemy's face, and he can attack downed enemies by stomping on them or stabbing them. If Agrippa stands behind a groggy enemy he can perform a suplex on them.
An important aspect of the game are "SALVO points." Salvos are specific actions or combinations of actions which excite the crowd. When Agrippa performs a salvo action, he is awarded salvo points, which fill up the salvo bar. If Agrippa calls for the attention of the crowd when the bar is full, the audience will throw him rare and powerful weapons. If he calls for their attention when it is not full, they will throw normal weapons, shields, food, or often, nothing at all. At the end of each arena battle, Agrippa will be given a ranking based on the total amount of salvo points he achieved in that battle.
The other component of Agrippa's sections in the game is chariot racing. In this mode, the player must race against other chariots and can win by either crossing the finish line first or eliminating all of the opponents, either by killing the enemies themselves or destroying their chariots. Agrippa's horses have a stamina gauge, and when it is empty, they cannot go any faster until it begins to fill up again. He can eliminate opponents by driving alongside their chariots and attacking them. Longer reach weapons can be found on the track itself, carried by slaves.
In Octavianus' levels, the player must use stealth to navigate various locations in Rome. Octavianus cannot kill enemies, he can only knock them out by hitting them from behind with objects such as vases, choking them with ropes or placing banana peels in front of them. Once he has done so, he often has to drag their body into hiding to make sure other enemies don't find it. Other ways to avoid enemies are by hiding in large pots or by stealing clothes and impersonating guards or other people. During these levels, there is an alert gauge which appears when Octavianus is spotted by an enemy. The gauge gradually empties over time if he is out of sight, and once it is completely empty, enemies stop looking for him. Octavianus can also distract enemies by throwing items such as stones and by whistling. Enemies can also become suspicious of Octavianus even if he is disguised, if he does anything unusual, such as running, standing still for no reason, or trying to open locked doors. Often, enemies will stop him and question him. The player will be presented a series of choices to try to assuage the guards' suspicions. If the player picks the wrong answer, his cover will be revealed. Octavianus is also able to listen to conversations in locked rooms by peeking through keyholes. During levels where he must follow someone, he has a Tail Gauge. When the person he is following is out of his sight, the gauge starts to empty, and when it is fully depleted he is adjudged to have lost the person he was tailing and the game is over.
The game begins as the Roman army, under the command of centurion Agrippa (voiced by Rick Weiss), is fighting a Germanic army in the northeastern provinces. In Rome, Julius Caesar (Michael Bell) is on his way to a Senate meeting when he is attacked and stabbed. As he dies, he looks at his killer and says "Et tu, Brute?"
As he is cremated in the Foro Romano, Cicero (Peter Renaday) reveals the assassin; Vipsanius (Daniel Riordan), Agrippa's father. As Vipsanius maintains his innocence, Cicero announces Caesar's successor, Antonius (Chris Cox). Listening from the crowd, Octavianus (Scott Menville), Caesar's nephew, refuses to believe Vipsanius is guilty. Meanwhile, in Germania, Agrippa receives word of Caesar's death, and orders him men to return to Rome.
In the city, Octavianus meets an elderly man, Pansa (Jack Angel), formerly Caesar's most trusted spy. With Pansa's help, Octavianus sneaks into the Senate where Maecenas (Larry Cedar), Antonius' secretary, proposes that rather than immediately executing Vipsanius, they hold a gladiatorial tournament across the Empire, the winner of which will perform the execution. Antonius approves of the idea, but dictates that Vipsania, Vipsanius' wife, be publically executed immediately. Agrippa arrives back in Rome, and Octavianus explains the situation. At the execution, presided over by Decius Brutus (Daniel Riordan), Agrippa attempts to save Vipsania (Moira Quirk), but as she flees, she is stabbed in the back by Decius, who then defeats Agrippa in combat. However, before Agrippa can be arrested, he and Octavianus are saved by a woman on a chariot. She reveals her name is Claudia (Nicole Balick), a female gladiator. She tells them about the gladiatorial tournament, and that her brother, Sextus runs a gladiator camp which Agrippa could join to gain entry to the tournament and possibly save his father. Meanwhile, Octavianus will remain in Rome and investigate the murder.
Sextus (Roger Rose) allows Agrippa to join the camp, and as he fights his way through the tournament, Octavianus begins to follow Cicero's protégé, Marcus Brutus (Cam Clarke). Back at the camp, Claudia tells Agrippa that she and Sextus are not brother and sister; he rescued her as a child after her brother was killed by a Roman soldier. Meanwhile, Sextus is visited by Iris (Heather Halley) and Charmian (Jennifer Hale), who come with "a direct order from our mistress." They want Sextus to assassinate someone, and if he does so, their mistress will aid him in his plans. Sextus accepts their offer.
In Rome, Octavianus decides to speak to Cicero, but finds him stabbed in his office. The dying Cicero tells him that a group of conspirators are responsible for Caesar's assassination, and that Vipsanius is innocent. Marcus is a member of the group, but the actual murderer is "another Brutus." Meanwhile, Agrippa makes it to the finals of the tournament in the Colosseum. Octavianus heads to meet with Marcus where he finds multiple senators murdered, and a distraught Marcus, who says that the other Brutus is killing off the members of the conspiracy. However, he refuses to reveal his identity.
At the camp, Claudia tells Agrippa that Sextus is really the son of Pompeius, who was killed in battle by Caesar. She explains that he plans to assassinate Octavianus (Caesar's only surviving blood relative) in order to gain support for his conquest of Rome. Meanwhile, Octavianus finds a note in Caesar's handwriting speculating as to the worthiness of possible successors, and learns that Antonius was not his chosen heir. At the camp, Sextus abruptly disappears along with a number of gladiators, and, much to her horror, Claudia learns he is working for Iris and Charmian. In Rome, Sextus confronts Octavianus, and is about to kill him when Claudia arrives, begging him to stop. Octavianus flees, and witnesses Decius stabbing Marcus. A dying Marcus tells Octavianus that Decius is the "other Brutus," and he was behind the conspiracy. Maecenas then has Octavianus arrested due to his investigation interferring with the upcoming tournament final.
In the final of the tournament, Agrippa faces Decius, who defeats and is about to kill him when Maecenas arrives in the arena, announcing the apparent return of Caesar. He explains that the man killed was a decoy employed because Caesar knew about the conspiracy. Maecenas announces that the murder was carried out by Decius, and that Vipsanius is innocent. Caesar then addresses Antonius, telling him he did not chose him as his heir. Iris and Charmian revealed Caesar's true choice to Antonius, who created the conspiracy, influencing Decius to carry out the murder. Once Antonius has admitted his guilt, Maecenas reveals Caesar really is dead, and the man pretending to be him is his true chosen heir - Octavianus. A furious Antonius orders Decius to kill Octavianus, but Agrippa intervenes and kills Decius. Antonius is taken prisoner as Agrippa is reunited with Vipsanius.
However, Rome is then attacked by Sextus, supported by soldiers loyal to Antonius, who is able to escape. Agrippa and Claudia head to the docks at Ostia and confront Sextus. Agrippa defeats him and begs him to surrender. However, Antonius launches an attack on the docks. A lighthouse is hit, and Sextus sacrifices himself to push Claudia out of the way of the falling debris. As a battle rages at sea between those loyal to Octavianus and those loyal to Antonius, Agrippa heads to Antonius' ship, who he defeats and kills.
Back in Rome, Agrippa and Octavianus join Claudia in mourning Sextus. She tells them she is leaving Rome to travel, but she will keep her eye on things. As she leaves, Agrippa asks her to promise she will return, but she doesn't answer him. Octavianus then vows to fulfill Caesar's dream of the Pax Romana, and Agrippa vows to help him any way he can.
In an epilogue, Iris and Charmian state it is time to tell their mistress they have "reached the end of the beginning."
The game was first revealed on January 28, 2004 when Capcom announced the plot would revolve around the murder of Julius Caesar. Using an enhanced version of the Onimusha 3 game engine, and developed by the same team, under the guidance of executive producor Keiji Inafune, the game was announced as being exclusive to the PlayStation 2. Capcom explained it would have two parallel stories and two different styles of gameplay; action and stealth. In his first look at the game, GameSpot's Ricardo Torres wrote "The robust and ambitious graphics engine pumps out an impressive number of polygons that are complemented by clean textures, lighting effects, and a number of visual filters and particle effects that certainly help bring the world to life. You'll see everything from striking lighting effects used to highlight dawn or dusk, to clouds of dust kicked up during chariot races or catapult battles. The powerful and fully 3D engine creates a rich world to explore that offers plenty to appreciate. You'll see diverse environments, such as a bustling marketplace, vast forests, sea vessels, citadels, and the Colosseum. But the most impressive aspect of the graphics at the moment has to be the wonderfully gruesome way in which you can hack up your opponents." At this stage, the game was supposed to feature a semi-branching storyline, whereby if the player excelled at the stealth sections, there would be more levels based around stealth, whereas if they were good at combat, more combat levels would feature.
The game was next shown at E3 2004 in May, where a playable demo was made available, with one Agrippa level and one Octavianus level. Capcom explained that the game was specifically designed for North American and European markets, and although release dates for both markets had been set, they were unsure if the game would get a release in Japan. The game was next shown at the Tokyo Game Show in September. A near complete build of the game was sent to gaming websites in January 2004, when it was revealed that the branching system had been removed and the game now followed a linear level-by-level progression system.
Although originally conceived as the first part of a franchise aimed specifically at Western markets, Shadow of Rome did not sell well in either North America or Europe, and ultimately, Capcom considered it a failure. Shadow of Rome 2 was already in early development upon the release of the first game, but executive producer Keiji Inafune chose to abandon the project, and Shadow of Rome 2 ultimately became Dead Rising.
Shadow of Rome received mixed to favorable reviews. Its holds an aggregate score of 76.40% at GameRankings, based on sixty reviews, and 75 out of 100 at Metacritic, based on fifty-two reviews.
Eurogamer's Kristan Reed was not overly impressed, scoring the game 6 out of 10 and writing "Shadow of Rome is one of those frustrating 'nearly' games that could and should have been brilliant." He felt that Capcom made a good decision in mixing two styles of play, writing, "It's easy to see why Capcom went down the road of contrasting the gameplay so strongly. It would be easy to get stuck in a rut as a gaming experience if you were constantly engaged in a blistering hack-and-slash the whole time. Likewise, a pure stealth experience would soon feel restrictive and frustrating, so mixing the two up ought to blend into a well-honed balance." However, he felt the stealth sections were underdeveloped, arguing "from the very first to the very last they're just never that enjoyable on a basic level," and calling them "tedious, exacting, basic and inconsistent." However, he was also critical of the Agrippa sections, calling them "blister inducing" and feeling they lacked variety; "the same tactics get you through every time." He ultimately concluded of the game "there's something oddly soulless about it."
Game Revolution's Joe Dodson was also disappointed, scoring the game a C. He felt the mixing of style was poorly implemented; "Most games include stealth and action mechanics so that the player can choose how to approach a situation, but in Shadow of Rome, Octavianus cannot fight at all and Agrippa is about as stealthy as a hippo on PCP. If you had a choice, you would always choose to play as Agrippa." He also found the combat system to be very shallow; "Agrippa's gameplay heavily relies on the X button. There are all sorts of special names for the crazy stuff he can do, but most of it requires one button press." He concluded that "Despite its grandiose subject matter, Shadow of Rome is merely a bad stealth game chained to a limited action game."
GameSpy's Bryn Williams scored the game 3.5 out of 5, calling it "a game that oozes potential but ultimately fails to deliver greatness." He called the stealth levels "distinctly bland, and above all else, poorly designed." He was also critical of the voice acting and the cutscenes, and concluded that "the overall theme and premise of Shadow of Rome ends up coming across as a missed opportunity for gaming greatness. The pacing is thrown out of whack on a regular basis due to the crippled stealth elements, so it's a little hard to justify picking this one up over, say, the much more approachable and enjoyable Onimusha series."
IGN's Ed Lewis was more positive, scoring the game 7.6 out of 10. He called Agrippa's levels "pretty damn satisfying." However, although he didn't dislike the Octavianus sections, he felt "neither side of the game truly catches fire on its own. They're both good enough to fit in as a whole game and prevent monotony, but they can't quite stand alone. Neither of which is complex enough or with enough detail to make them something to want to dig into." However, he concluded "Put both these elements of the game together and the result is the equivalent of a summer action flick with a decent plot."
GameSpot's Greg Kasavin was more impressed, scoring the 8.2 out of 10 and praising the "intriguing storyline and great-looking cinematic cutscenes." He wrote "Shadow of Rome quite successfully combines two distinctly different types of gameplay, since there are some decent stealth sequences thrown in between the numerous gladiator pit fights. These ultimately help give Shadow of Rome a good sense of variety [...] Feature for feature, there's nothing hugely original about Shadow of Rome, but its combination of different elements is definitely unique, its characters are expressive and fun to watch, and the quality of its presentation is right up there with the best of what the PlayStation 2 has to offer." He concluded that "Shadow of Rome offers some of the best hack-and-slash combat out there and wraps it up in an interesting story that puts an original spin on the whole Julius Caesar-getting-murdered thing. It's also got plenty of gameplay variety to keep you motivated from start to finish, and it's always pretty to look at."
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Marcus Antonius: He's not suited for government and politics. Having seen his performance as the consul when he took over in my absence, I must say, I don't plan to do so again. I will at least leave the Macedonia problem to him. Vibius Pansa Caetronianus: We may have moved from a time of war to an ear of peace, but our need for spies and intelligence has not diminished. He certainly has good insight. I don't suppose anyone would approve the appointment of a retiree to the post of chief consul though. Marcus Brutus: he has the intelligence necessary for politics, and his personality is perhaps suited to such a sphere, but I worry about his selfishness. He doesn't give enough weight to the thoughts of others. It would seem that Cicero's constant doting has led to Marcus' current attitude. It may be best to separate the two of them and allow Marcus to gain more experience outside of Rome by sending him away for a while. Cassius Longiness: It would seem he quite enjoys betrayal. I couldn't give him too much responsibility. Marcus Tullius Cicero: Perhaps it is due to his advanced age, but it would seem that he has seen the error of his ways and is now a great supporter of the ideals of the Republic. For better or worse, he is a true patriot through and through. Though perhaps it would be best to keep him out of politics until my policies are enacted. Decius Brutus: He is a marvelous soldier, but I must call into question his morality. I had best send someone to keep an eye on him. He might be a suitable leader for the northern colonies.
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