Call of Duty: Roman Wars featured horse and elephant riding mechanics, a third-person camera and was built in Unreal Engine

Vicarious Visions developed a Call of Duty prototype set in ancient Rome

Skylanders developer Vicarious Visions pitched a Call of Duty game set during the Roman Empire to Activision eight years ago, it has been revealed.

Anonymous sources speaking to GamesRadar recalled that the publisher, which purchased the studio in 2005, began accepting pitches for a new direction in which to take the first-person shooter franchise in 2008.

Vicarious was finishing up work on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 at the time it was asked to pull together some ideas for a fresh Call of Duty, and planned to implement some of that game’s features – such as the overhead third-person camera – into its historical warfare take, subtitled Roman Wars.

This wouldn’t have been the only major change for Call of Duty, as Vicarious also proposed introducing the ability to ride horses and elephants, as well as operating catapults and other ancient weaponry. 

“I really thought an ancient warfare game would do well, re-skinned with the Call of Duty engine,” one source, nicknamed Polemus, said.

“Basically we were following Julius Caesar’s Tenth Legion – his special forces during those times – and we were doing a one level prototype based on the Battle of Alesia. So we built the one mission based on that. We had everything from riding horses, to riding an elephant, to working with catapults.”

The prototype was created quickly in Unreal Engine, and included some first-person sections alongside a ‘very Gears of War-style’ third-person shakey-cam.

Combat swapped guns for sword, spears, bows and shields, with the ability to throw sand in opponents’ eyes considered as a mechanic.

Call of Duty: Roman Wars was reportedly “received well” by Bobby Kotick and other Activision execs, but ultimately remained a prototype – even going on to be “repurposed and pitched to Ubisoft” minus the Call of Duty moniker, but this version also failed to make it to production.

“It would’ve started aligning with the Xbox One depending on the roll out and how long the production would have been,” Polemus adds. “Strangely enough, a launch title for the Xbox One was Ryse – the Roman war game, which is crazy!”

“You had Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, you had all the future stuff – especially with Halo and all those more futuristic-style shooters – they weren’t sure if it was going to resonate as strongly, but then a launch title actually was a freaking ancient Roman warfare game.

“I think if Call of Duty did that, and they did it with the mechanics we were working with and that engine? That launch title would have been a lot bigger and a lot more well received.”

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