Chariots of War may be an improvement on Legion, but there are better options out there if you enjoy historical strategy games like these.
Chariots of War is essentially a revision of Legion. The new turn-based strategy game from Slitherine Software and Paradox Entertainment updates last year's disappointing ancient-Rome strategy game with new civilizations and more-satisfying empire-building options. The end result is something of a poor man's Civilization, except with a simplistic and problematic combat engine, a lack of real depth, and an absence of multiplayer options.
At least Slitherine and Paradox have beefed up the Legion engine in every respect. Where Legion was a cut-rate look at the Roman Empire, with little in the way of strategy beyond setting up army formations and gathering the resources needed to build soldiers, its successor has a broader scope. Virtually every civilization from the ancient Near East is included for your conquering pleasure. The game has 10 playable nations, from the famed Egyptians and Babylonians to lesser-known entities like the Scythians and Hittites, along with another 50 or so less-prominent factions such as the Israelis and Bedouin.
The game is structured similarly to Paradox's award-winning Europa Universalis series, in that you can choose to guide any civilization on the map, although some are so weak in comparison with their neighbors that they're not very compelling unless you're really, really looking for a challenge. More than 200 authentic cities and settlements in historically accurate provinces can be plundered in the six solo campaigns. You can fight to unite Egypt, wage war over the Levant, conquer the cradle of civilization in Mesopotamia, direct the Hittites to mastery in Anatolia, or go after the whole region in the two grand campaigns.
So Chariots of War does have some pretty impressive breadth, but unfortunately, it doesn't have nearly as much depth. While Slitherine and Paradox may have spread out the game design, encompassing a lot of themes and gameplay mechanics embraced by large-scale strategy games like Civilization and Europa Universalis, Chariots of War is a pretty superficial game, and it has some serious flaws. For instance, everything is focused on combat. Building an empire is wholly dependent on conquering your neighbors, to the point where you can't establish new settlements or colonies. If you want a new town, you have to use troops to take an existing one.
That wouldn't be an issue if the battle engine weren't so unsatisfying. As in Legion, you don't take a hands-on approach to battles. Instead, you set up formations, plan out how units will attack and when, and then watch helplessly and hope you're victorious. The game has other options with regard to attack plans and specific formations when dealing with chariots, but being unable to make changes in the midst of a rout is as frustrating as ever, especially since you always lose your entire army in the event of a defeat. The game's artificial intelligence adds to this frustration, since it always seems to know the location of your weak points and will hone in on them unerringly. This makes the campaigns rather challenging, at least, and turns planning into more of an ongoing concern, since you can't just build dozens of units and steamroll enemy towns. But it's a shame that the game apparently has to bend the rules with inhumanly precise AI enemies to offer up this challenge.