The Expeditions game series is headed to Rome next, and it’s putting a greater emphasis on choice than ever before.
Logic Artists’ strategy RPG series has built a passionate fanbase on PC ever since Expeditions: Conquistador launched in 2013. Set in different locations and periods of history, the series puts players through a series of intense turn-based strategy battles in-between sections of classic CRPG-like storytelling and world map exploration.
Expeditions: Rome follows the Roman Legatus after their family is betrayed by a political rival. They go to Greece seeking aid to slowly build up power and influence over the course of the game. In each campaign, players have to make tough decisions, balancing the war effort with their pursuit of vengeance. The first big choice: Is Legatus male or female?
In a hands-off preview attended by Inverse, Logic Artists Creative Director Jonas Wæver and Producer Brad Logston touted the emphasis on player choice, which will have lasting effects on the game. Core party members can abandon the war effort depending on your actions, leading to multiple endings. Even your gender will change the way you experience the Roman empire.
“It was completely unthinkable that a woman could ever command a legion, so we knew that if we wanted to actually address that we would have to put in quite a lot of effort in exploring this story as its own unique sub-plot,” Creative Director Jonas Wæver tells Inverse.
While gender is a simple character creator option in most RPGs with not much bearing on the rest of the experience, Expeditions: Rome highlights how a woman in this position would be received given the historical context.
“If you choose to play as a woman, many characters will react very differently towards you throughout the game, and some scenes, especially in Rome, will change completely in order to address what an extraordinary and unusual person you are playing as,” Wæver adds.
The game has a larger scope and a bigger budget than previous Expeditions games due to publisher THQ Nordic, so the team was able to put more of an emphasis on options like this. “In previous installments, we’ve always kind of hand-waved the gender choice for lack of time and resources. This time we wanted to give a better idea of how Roman society worked,” he says.
With a Lead Narrative Designer that wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Mass Effect’s branching narrative, it isn’t surprising that that series’ emphasis on role-playing down to gender preference rubbed off on Expeditions: Rome.
“It’s an exceptionally challenging game to build,” Senior Producer Brad Logston explains. “You have to create and track all of these various decision points while still telling an exciting, believable, and emotionally impactful story, not to mention a fun game with cool encounters and robust RPG systems. Expeditions: Rome is pushing the frontier on just how far you can take these types of systems.”
Wæver points out that you’ll still hit the same general story beats and choices when playing as a man or a woman, but the way the characters and world respond will change. “That’s a roleplaying choice we want to facilitate fully, and we believe both stories are equally compelling based on that choice,” he says.
The developers went on to highlight a specific choice that has large ripple effects throughout the rest of Expeditions: Rome. After a character betrays the player, you have the choice to kill them. If you do, justice is served and some characters look upon you more favorably. However, keeping him alive would make sneaking into an enemy base later in the game much easier.
You can also debate the morality of this action later on, which leads to other benefits. Some consequences will become clear immediately, while others won’t reveal themselves until later.
Players can further specialize their character with Logos, Pathos, and Ethos perks that change the dialogue options are available in the game. Ethos choices rely on intimidation and authority, Pathos choices focus on manipulating emotions, and Logos choices use facts and logic to get people on your side.
You can only use two of them over the course of the game — yet another way a critical choice can have large ramifications on the story and even combat encounters you experience.
The developers expect the final game to have seven endings, but with hundreds of permutations for each character within that. Expeditions: Rome appears to be just as ambitious with its branching narrative as Mass Effect, The Outer Worlds, and Disco Elysium, setting out to prove the strategy genre can be much more than a number-crunching game.
THQ Nordic’s support means the game’ can now account for the choices influenced by perks, party members, and gender. That’s allowed the team’s ambitions to grow larger than ever before, according to Wæver.
“We have a great deal more resources at our disposal now,” he says. “THQ Nordic has helped us set the quality bar for Rome a lot higher than we were ever able to do before.” Expeditions: Rome has a bigger scope than any Expeditions game before it, and its ambitious approach to evolving how the franchise tells stories looks like it’ll pay off in the long run.
Expeditions: Rome is currently in development for PC.