The Total War ancient world franchise, better known as 'Rome: Total War', consists of three instalments: the initial 'Rome: Total War' and its two expansion packs. Having reviewed all three of them singularly, I am now writing yet another review to help customers choose between the two Gold Editions - with the first one comprising 'Rome: Total War', and its first expansion pack 'Barbarian Invasion', and the second (and object of this scrutiny) consisting of 'Rome. Total War' and its chapter entirely centred on Alexander the Great.
Keeping in mind that both Gold Editions have the original 'Rome: Total War' in common, choosing either one of them may depend primarily on the historical period of preference ( in my case, I would have to recommend 'Barbarian Invasion'); however, in terms of game play and strategy, picking the second combination out might be a sound idea for many reasons.
Although it revolves around the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Barbarian Invasion expansion offers pretty much the same options as the main game in terms of game play and strategy. Just to cite the preeminent ones, the map is the same as the one in 'Rome: Total War', and the factions, although entirely different, are structured in much the same way. In terms of campaign, in both 'Rome: Total War' and 'Barbarian Invasion', you will have to conquer and hold a given number of regions in order to meet the victory conditions. Both military units and building units in the two games follow identical criteria, and diplomacy also plays a decisive role in both of them. On the other hand, in the Alexander expansion, the presence of a brand-new map that stretches eastwards all the way to India - abandoning therefore the typical territories of Roman and Celtic Europe to embrace the sweltering regions of Middle East - gives the expansion pack that flair of originality that makes it leap out in terms of the opportunity to control new regions and hire different mercenary units, widening the scope of the game significantly. With the game set on the eve of the Persian war, you will lead the encroaching Macedonian army into Persian territory, having also the chance to consolidate Alexander's grandeur by subjugating nearby barbarian factions. Despite controlling Alexander's faction only, the game still stands out from its previous companions under two standpoints. First, being solely limited to Alexander's military campaign and his victory over the Persian empire, there is no such thing as diplomacy, which would surely make no sense whatsoever in terms of the game's philosophy. Second, there are no difficulty levels on Alexander, but the game is quite challenging, for you will not only have to meet the typical victory requirements, but you will also need to complete the game within Alexander's life span, having as a result a chance to test your strategic ability to organise and optimise the game resources.
In conclusion, my advice to all customers - as well as fellow history buffs- is to get each of the three games of the series anyway, for each is a gem that truly presents a chance to interact with the most significant periods of the ancient world. Having clarified this one point, my only complaint about both Gold Edition packages is the marketing decision of combining the two expansion packs with the main game only instead of providing an ultimate edition with both expansions in one disc. Notwithstanding such inexplicable marketing strategy, however, I will give this edition 5 stars, for it deserves each of them, and even more.