Creative Assembly’s Total War franchise is known for being one of the most demanding games for the PC in terms of sheer processing power. It takes a beast of a machine to render those stacks of infantry and cavalry units clashing against each other. It’s crazy to imagine that we’ve reached a point where we can play the same game not on a powerful gaming PC, but on a mobile phone that fits in your hand.

The first Total War game to be ported to Android and iOS devices was the original 2004 Rome: Total War game in 2018 but now developer Feral Interactive has brought its expansion, Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion, to the same mobile platforms barely a year later.

How Does It Compare To The PC Version?

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While I have played many titles in Total War franchise (including the likes of Total War: Shogun 2 and Total War: Rome II), I have never actually played the original 2004 Rome: Total War and its expansion, Barbarian Invasion. However, after playing the mobile version and comparing it to my experience of playing other Total War games, here’s what I can say.

Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion offers largely the same essential Total War experience of turn-based faction management and real-time tactical battles as a PC version would. There are over 18 different factions for players to choose from, including a declining Western Roman Empire and rising Barbarian tribes like the Goths and the Franks.

Just like the PC version, players still have control of generals, assassins, spies, priests, and whatnot to utilize on the campaign map while managing their settlements and making sure public order is maintained. The popular horde mechanic is intact from the PC version (an updated version of which was in 2015’s Total War: Attila, which I played), where barbarian factions can still survive even if they lost their last settlement.

Barbarian Invasion also introduced the religion mechanic for the first time in the franchise, with the 18 factions only adhering to one of three available religions, including Christianity, Paganism, and Zoroastrianism. Religious unrest can lead to rebellion, so players have to take steps in converting the populace or pacifying them by other means.

Struggling With The Touchscreen Gameplay

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While most of the gameplay mechanics remain intact in the transition from PC to mobile, the RTS battles are where PC players might feel most divided on. Total War veterans who have been playing on PC for years are used to the precision and accessibility that a mouse and keyboard grants them. This is especially important when real-time battles get chaotic and hectic.

I’m the kind of Total War player who prefers to auto-resolve most of his battles but for the sake of this review, I played my battles in Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion and I do have one major complaint, in that the touch controls are less than perfect for a game like this.

I absolutely hated that I had to wrestle with the finicky and unresponsive touchscreen controls, which felt so imprecise and confusing that it spoils the entire experience and makes what should have a straightforward battle into a complete and utter mess.

When there’s a whole bunch of army units clashing and smushed together on the relatively tiny screen of a mobile device, it all becomes a jumbled mess of struggling to move my units where I wanted them to go and struggling with controlling the sensitive camera all at the same time.

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How am I supposed to strategize and command my units when the touchscreen controls are not doing what I want them to do? This is the reason why I was never keen on a mobile Total War game, and why it wouldn’t work with touchscreen controls. Perhaps this problem could be mitigated by playing it on devices with larger screens, like iPads and tablets instead.

It’s all a shame, really, considering that Feral Interactive has done an excellent job in optimizing the game, so much so that battles flow smoothly on my Sony Xperia XZ Premium, despite not being one of the officially-supported devices (as clarification, my phone more than fulfills the recommended spec requirements for Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion).

I was impressed with how there were barely any framerate drops at all during battles. Although Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion is a 15-year-old game, the fact that a PC game like this can perform so well on a mobile device is a testament to both how powerful today’s mobile platforms are and how far mobile gaming has progressed.

Mobile War

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Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion for Android is probably best geared towards those who are already massive fans of the franchise and want to experience their favorite games from a brand new perspective, it’s definitely serviceable, albeit the lack of anything new in terms of content if you’ve already played the PC version.

However, the touchscreen controls may be the dealbreaker, as I definitely feel that Total War games are ultimately better suited for mouse and keyboard controls. The touchscreen controls are frustrating and imprecise, making me miss the PC version even more.

The appeal of playing a Total War game on mobile device sounds impressive on paper, but there’s no denying the fact the franchise belongs on PC, where the best experience still lies.

Pros

  • Almost exact same game as the original 2005 Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion
  • An extremely well-optimized port that performs well on non-officially-supported devices

Cons

  • Struggling with the frustratingly imprecise touchscreen controls
  • Real-time battles are a hassle to play while wrestling with the camera and touchscreen controls

FINAL SCORE: 40/100

Rome: Total War: Barbarian Invasion for Android was reviewed on the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.


 

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