So what does "simple impulse power" mean? Well, in the federation Warp drives are Matter/Antimatter powered, while Impulse is Fusion-driven. My guess, then, is that "simple impulse power" means "fusion power". So I think that the Romulans DID have warp drive, as early as their war with the Humans - a war that would have lasted about ten seconds flat if one side had warp and the other didn't. But Romulan warp drive was fusion powered, and hence a good deal slower or shorter ranged than Federation designs.
Later the Romulans traded with the Klingons to get some D-7's, introducing Matter/Antimatter power to the Romulan fleet and apparently giving the Klingons cloaking technology in return. And of course, eventually M/AM technology was replaced by Quantum Singularity power, at least for the D'Deridex class Warbird.
The description of how the plasma weapon works is my own, intended to
explain the details of how this weapon seemed to perform on screen.