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Beware the Ides of March
Centurion: Defender of Rome is a Turn-Based Strategy video game with real-time battle sequences, designed by Kellyn Beck and Bits of Magic and published by Electronic Arts. Originally released on the DOS platform for the PC in 1990, the game was later ported to the Amiga and the Sega Genesis in 1991. Centurion shares much of the concept and feel with Beck's earlier game Defender of the Crown (1987) and might be regarded as its Spiritual Successor. In turn, the Total War Series borrows a lot of concepts from both games.
The game begins in Ancient Rome in the year 275 BC, placing the player in the sandals of a centurion in the Roman army, at first leading a single legion. The player's ultimate goal is to become a Caesar through a mix of successful military conquests and internal politics of Bread and Circuses
The bulk of the game involve turn-based strategic planning and management on the world map and the real-time battles (with on-demand pauses to give orders to formations) against various enemies of the Roman Empire, such as the Celts, Carthaginians and Parthians. Centurion also features other "side-show" activities, such as gladiatorial combat (the player's duties involve financing the ludi events), chariot racing in the Circus Maximus, and naval battles. There is also some diplomacy (it is even possible to seduce the queen Cleopatra after forming an alliance with Egypt).
A devoted site with thorough information, hints and links to some Abandon Ware pages that may harbor the game.
Tropes used in Centurion: Defender of Rome include:
- Alternate History: Winning the game requires conquering nations that were never under Roman rule; Ireland–northern part of Britannia, barbarian peoples between the Rhine and Danube rivers and the Ural Mountains, and Middle East enemies like Parthia.
- Alternative Calendar: Subverted; the intro uses Ab Urbe Condita (years since the foundation of Rome) but then the game uses the Gregorian calendar (BC / AD).
- Anachronism Stew/Popular History: The in-game historical date is only a turn counter; the game mixes elements and leaders separated by centuries such as Hannibal and Cleopatra.
- Ancient Rome: An amalgam of The Roman Republic and The Roman Empire.
- Anti-Cavalry: Not present in the game and the player usually learns it the painful way because enemies with huge cavalry are a very hard nut to crack.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Partially justified, the number of legions you can rise depends on your rank, and you are only a magistrate of Rome, not a supreme ruler.
- Arch Enemy: Carthage and Partia never ally with Rome. Lampshaded by their leaders.
- Artificial Stupidity: The enemy generals only know one tactic, Attack! Attack! Attack!, and sometimes the extremely vulnerable leader is in the first line of combat. Once he dies a big chunk of his army retreats or loses morale.
- The Assimilator: Given time, barbarian peoples will become Roman citizens. This was called romanization in Real Life
- Attack Pattern Alpha: There are several possible formations and battle plans available before a combat. The enemies rarely use most of them, relying more in frontal assaults.
- Barbarian Tribe: Many of the conquerable nations.
- Bread and Circus: Taxes affect the mood of your people, and the citizens of Rome get rebellious if they don't get frequent Gladiator Games.
- Break Meter: Courage: Fierce, Good, Weak, and Panicked. Some enemies are easier since their maximum morale is lower.
- Chariot Race: one of the mini-games
- Combat by Champion: The fleet battles are represented by the two flagships fighting. The trope is subverted, since winning the flagship battle can still cause the rest of your ships to be destroyed.
- A Commander Is You: And a leader of several historical field commanders, one per legion.
- Conscription: Legions are levied and reinforced locally, raising or strengthening one lowers the manpower of their current region and their initial courage depends on that of the habitants of the province where they are raised, it reaches the maximum eventually, thanks likely to some offscreen BootCampEpisodes going on.
- Decapitated Army:
- The death of a general is followed by the general retreat of a significant part of his army. If the units aren not very brave to begin with then it overlaps with Keystone Army.
- If the player loses Italy, taxes are no longer collected in any province.
- Easy Communication: Averted, during battles you can only change the orders of the units who are within the leader's range of voice (and each leader has a different one.)
- Empty Promise: You can promise a certain tax setting during a negotiation and then set it at different level, with no real consequences.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Check, you start as a Centurion and your task is to be a defender of Rome. The Romans however had a particular view on the subject of defense; what a better way to defend a territory than to conquer all the ones around it, crushing any potential enemies... so they spiralled into known-world domination fairly quickly (The Mediterranean Sea was called Mare Nostrum, "this sea of ours").
- Game Over: Sic transit gloria mundi, the Roman Empire has fallen.
- Gladiator Games: One ot the mini-games. The citizens of Rome get restless if they don't get one from time to time
- Hollywood Tactics: Averted; units are more vulnerable in the flanks and rear and orders can only be given to units in range of their commander. And then played straight by the AI, it usually relies on head-on charges with their very vulnerable leader leading the attack, when the leader dies, most of his army flees.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Galley slave, Legionnaire, Senator, Emperor. Unwinnable the last one
- Last Stand/Suicide Attack: Required against powerful enemies and in high difficult levels; as only one legion at a time can be deployed in combat often his sole purpose is to soften up and decimate the enemy forces so the next legion have better chances of victory.
- Mini Game: Chariot races and gladiator games, with some parameters that you can adjust with money. Naval battles qualify too, they are just a combat between the flagships and not the whole actual battle, whose outcome does not depend much on the former.
- Opening Narration: Romulus and Remus founded Rome [snip] and some years after that there you are, an ambitious young centurion sitting idly by the banks of the Tiber river, with a legion.
- Optional Sexual Encounter: The player can attempt and seduce Cleopatra succesfully if certain conditions are met. The scene is implemented as a special form of diplomatic bargain and ends with a Sexy Discretion Shot.
- Permanent Elected Official:
- You, the game spans decades and centuries but you are an inmortal Roman magistrate, with a better rank as time passes and you progress.
- The political leaders of the other nations are permanent, too. Hannibal will greet you at the gates of Carthage no matter in what century you pay him a visit.
- The Roman generals hang on in there too until they are killed in battle.
- Rags to Royalty: You start as a simple Centurion with a simple legion and end up as Caesar when you win the game.
- Rape, Pillage and Burn: The legions can plunder a province for a one-time bounty. It makes the province poorer for the rest of the game.
- Risk Style Map
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Panicked units make a 180 degree turn and leave the battlefield. A lot of units panick when their leader is killed so massive routs are common.
- Shout-Out: The chariot races to Ben-Hur and there are some to Cleopatra (she looks exactly like Elizabeth Taylor) and to Spartacus, among many others concerning classical antiquity.
- Spiritual Successor: To Defender of the Crown. And the Total War series could be considered this to Centurion, since they share a lot of concepts and gameplay.
- Take Over the World: The goal of the game.
- Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
- Plundering an occupated nation makes its romanization progress slower and makes other free nations reluctant to sign an alliance with you.
- Outrageous taxes often lead to popular uprisings.
- Sentencing a brave gladiator to death is received poorly by the people, they get more entertained and appeassed with a fair pardon.
- Violence Is the Only Option: Averted, you can sweet talk other nations into signing an alliance with you.
- War Elephants: Carthage's signature troops. Hispania and some african people field them too.
- A Winner Is You: Averted, the game gives you a nice compendium of your deeds with numerical data and then you are honoured with a victory parade
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Talents (money), acquired via taxation of provinces, plundering and winning bets at the races.
- Zerg Rush: Since legions can't be combined the player has to send wave after wave of them againts the more powerful enemies (e.g the one with huge cavalry forces) that cannot replenish fast enough. Enforced We Have Reserves.