History is filled with incredible stories of bravery and hard-fought battles. Many of them have been replicated in virtual form, but one such story has yet to be told on the PS4: the siege of Numantia. This is a story of bravery, of incredible perseverance, and ultimately a look at the brutality of the Roman Empire.
In Numantia for the PS4, you can play as the underdog fighting against impossible odds, or you can see everything from the Roman solider's perspective. Laid out like a turn-based strategy game, does this game wrap a piece of history in a fun and functional experience, or should this story be told a different way? Let's find out!
The Siege of Numantia: Experiencing History
Prior to playing Numantia on the PS4, I had not heard of this incredible story from the time of the Roman Empire. While it's not hard to find out how the story ends, I was curious to see how such a power struggle against impossible odds would translate to game form.
Nutmantia tells its story with a mixture of narrated cut-scenes and choose your own adventure style choices between battles. The narration feels like a classic documentary, quickly providing facts, but doing so without too much emotion.
While the dry historical portions may not convey much emotion, they do offer intriguing snippets of information. When you're not in battle, there are more personable scenes where characters interact and you're given choices on how to proceed in specific situations.
Your choices often have consequences that affect morale, offer supplies, or cost you some of your precious silver. It's light management, nothing too taxing or in-depth, but it does offer a way to connect with the heroes in your army and the people of Numantia.
It's a nice way to mix history with fiction. The game could have leaned into the facts and simply provided cold and calculated information as you progress, but instead, the developers opted for some light reenactments that remind us that we're dealing with real people.
It's not incredible writing or characterization, but I appreciate the gesture and I thought it added to the experience behind historical value.
You can also view the conflict from both sides with two separate campaigns. I personally liked the Numantia campaign better, but having the option between the two was a nice touch. History buffs will love the portrayal of real events, and those who are interested will find the day-to-day storytelling engaging enough to keep them invested.
Hardcore Strategy and Overwhelming Odds
The gameplay in Numantia doesn't offer a lot of depth when compared to other strategy games, but it does have plenty of challenge for those looking to get their hands dirty.
Navigating the map between missions is fine, but going into the barracks or market to purchase and augment your soldiers brings a clunky UI to the surface. Trying to maneuver between the menus on screen and select your various units is confusing at first.
I eventually got used to it, but the menus weren't very intuitive. There are options to purchase items as well to strengthen your troops, but there's not a lot of options for how you want mold your troops. They all have a basic purpose and some skills, but that's about it.
Once you get into battle, you'll find yourself on various maps that change the foliage and time of day, but mostly remain flat. I imagine this reflects the landscape of the area, but it makes for fairly bland looking battlefields.
Combat plays out in rigid turns that allow you to move units and take actions or attack. There are a nice mixture of ranged units, melee fighters, and special options like horse-mounted fighters.
While it may seem simple at first, the combat does offer some pretty interesting options for strategy. Ranged units, for example, can rain down damage from pretty far, allowing you to weaken tough opponents before they get close to your melee fighters.
Specific units have skills you can deploy, and build up a meter that allows them to move extra spaces, among other things. The tutorial does a good job of getting you acquainted with all of these mechanics.
The actual moment-to-moment gameplay is really just about planning ahead and being smart with your movements. Heroes are powerful, but they're not invincible. Similarly, ranged units are great at a distance but will fall quickly if attacked by a melee unit.
There's definetly an element of challenge in Numantia. The battles can last for a while, and mistakes can have ripple effects long into your struggle. It's difficult to plan ahead, but that's what the game asks of you. Otherwise, you may find yourself fighting a losing battle, and without any way to fast-forward through turns, you could be losing for a while.
The combat may be a little slow, even for fans of turn-based strategy. There's not a lot to do besides move, attack, or deploy a skill. Even so, when you get into the zone and you make some great moves, Numantia's gameplay can be quite satisfying.
Wonderful Art Juxtaposed With Crude Graphics
Numantia's presentation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have excellent art used for cut-scenes and displayed in the village or camp views. It's a style reminiscent of other strategy contemporaries like Banner Saga, and I think it looks fantastic here.
Once you get into battles, though, the style is swapped out for traditional 3D graphics. The battlefields have low-res textures with very little detail. The soldiers, even when zoomed in, are very basic in their design.
Animation is serviceable, but stiff. I would have preferred the hand-drawn style during battle, but I imagine it would have been more difficult to implement.
While it's not consistent in its presentation, Numantia is still a striking game at times. Personally, I think games are a great medium for teaching people about history, about past conflicts, and about other cultures.
Numantia isn't perfect, and while it doesn't offer the best strategy gameplay, it does a great job of telling a story with both historical facts and traditional storytelling. History buffs should take a look, and if you also happen to be a strategy game fan, then Numantia is absolutely for you.
Final Score: 7.0/10
A copy of Numantia was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 11/4/17