Numantia, I have so many questions. Numantia is best described as a turn-based strategy game with RPG elements that takes place during the Roman invasion of Hispania, particularly focusing on the conflict between the Romans and the city of Numantia.
I’ll be honest, I’ve not played strategy games for a while so when I put in to review Numantia I surprised myself. But looking back now, I can see why I was so shocked by my decision.
In Numantia you play either as a Numantian rebel trying to defend your home or one of the elite Romans who has decided that the Iberian Peninsula would look much better under Roman rule. When I put it like that it seems almost easy to see which side I prefer, but after playing both campaigns you’d be surprised at how much the RPG elements have really made a difference to a strategic game. Particularly in terms of empathy and compassion, even if they don’t make up a lot of Numantia’s content.
You’ll be spending most of your time in battle and boy, you better be prepared to fight for your life! Oh, and you’ll be wearing glasses a lot or squinting at the screen, trust me.
To start off Numantia throws you into a tutorial, so far so good as I’m bloody clueless at this point. The basics are pretty easy to get: there’s a hexagonal grid that informs you where you can and can’t go, but wait some of these shapes are yellow instead of blue, what gives? Turns out that yellow hexagons are directly linked to your morale. Morale is a very, very, VERY important feature in this game as it can decide whether you win or lose the battles you’re fighting. Sending your soldiers (also known as units) out to fight enemies with low morale might as well be seen as you sending sheep off into a pack of wolves. Not only are you as harmless as doves but these guys are so very ready to rip off your wings and gobble you up. So, lesson one? Treat morale seriously.
Another thing that the tutorial makes a priority to teach you about is the map: zooming in, zooming out, turning and twisting to analyse the battlefield. Locking onto certain soldiers, switching between them and all that jazz. Apart from it felt like each time I was trying to fight the controls. Every time I locked onto an enemy soldier and they went to attack, the camera was so slow to follow that even when I tried to follow myself I ended up soaring halfway across the map. It was frustrating, tiresome and in the end, I played the game with my map all the way zoomed out to avoid it.
If you find that griping though you’ll be none too pleased to hear that it isn’t just the map that makes me feel irritated. The font in Numantia is so incredibly small when it comes to the information about your units that even with my glasses on I had to roll my chair right up to the screen, squinting as though the sun had dared shine in my eyes and I didn’t dare back down from it in a fit of stubbornness. Jokes aside, me not being able to see a lot of what the Heroes (main characters who serve as units also) abilities can do and having to guess? Not fun. I can definitely tell that this is a port from PC to PlayStation 4 because otherwise I just don’t see how anyone could sit through this on PlayStation 4 and be like ‘hmm, seems good!’ Annoying, very annoying.
While it is no Age of Empires, Numantia does have exciting gameplay going for it. Getting behind your enemy to grab a sneaky backstab damage is satisfying, even more so when you get that sweet morale bonus by defeating enemy units. There are moments where you can’t help but cheer at the pure badassery you’re witnessing, even if it’s from the enemy team.
Speaking of the enemy team; did I mention that this is two player? Oh hell yes! Playing against a friend is always fun, especially when you’re pressed side to side and you can see what moves they are making. Numantia then becomes a weird version of chess with the intensity of a real-life battle, in fact, I feel like if you’re going to play Numantia just for the strategic elements then the best way is with a friend.
There are, of course, these RPG elements I’ve mentioned. Depending on your faction you take control of a group of protagonists and get to decide how your camp will run and how you will lead. There isn’t a lot to mention here if I’m being honest, though I applaud Recotechnology for doing their best to add narrative elements outside of gameplay. Some choices you make will come back to haunt you, particularly if you’re hurting on both silver and supplies. Some choices will make soldiers you need on the battlefield unusable for reasons relating to the narrative. It’s pretty brutal, but the narrative isn’t strong enough to make you want to pick any other option that isn’t the ‘winning’ one. So there goes your replayability outside of playing against your friends.
That’s not to mention that some parts are just frustratingly unplayable. During quite a few scenes when I would finish a battle there would be a segment that would explain what happened later, or so I assume because I actually never got round to reading it. It would skip ahead before I could read the summary, acting as though I’d pressed a button when I knew for certain I didn’t. Still, unsure and hoping I was making a fuss over nothing, next battle I didn’t press anything. Nope, it still happened. The cut scene was skipped. It kept doing this no matter the campaign to the point I gave up and read as much as I could.
Overall Numantia is a game that tries very hard to be different but falls just short of actually managing it. The RPG elements are nice, but they lack the depth that makes the game replayable. The game is full of bugs like the narrative sequences mentioned above, as well as the map and controls feeling as though I’m fighting against them at all times. Sure I enjoyed playing with my friends a hell of a lot, but it’s definitely one I won’t return to when I’ve got a perfectly good Age of Empires waiting for me.
REVIEW CODE: A PS4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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