In the modern era, good PC exclusives tend to be hard to come by, so when an exclusive such as Creative Assembly’s Total War: Rome II is announced, there’s very little I can do to prevent being hyped especially considering that I really enjoy playing games from the Total War series. For the past year and half or so from when I learned about the game’s existence, my hype built up steadily especially after watching videos going over gameplay such as sieging Carthage and how they recorded the sounds for the game. All this hype that built up would eventually go to waste though because Total War: Rome II really leaves something to be desired.
Total War: Rome II plays like every other Total War game. Players manage their faction and throw units at other factions to take over their cities so that the player can rule the world map. Combat is a mixture of real time strategy along with turn-based strategy where players can pause the game in order to issue orders to units. Pausing the game is a necessity since it is fairly easy to become overwhelmed with ordering units around. Along the way there are little things like diplomacy between factions and managing your empire to ensure that it generates profit to train more units as well as keeping citizens happy so rebels don’t appear within your borders. Overall the gameplay is very fun because it satisfies the requirements of a Total War game: the ability to throw thousands of units at rival nations and take over the world.
New features have been added to the game that I really enjoy. For the first time in Total War, commanders have the ability to have both sea and land battles take place at the same time. For example, if you assault a port city with a land army, you can also bring in a naval force to fight in that same battle, so this leads to different strategies like hitting a city in the front with a huge force while you sneak in naval troops and land them on another part of the battle.
A new system where troops will gain bonuses called traditions is in place. After receiving enough experience, a unit of troops will be able to choose an upgrade that will stick with that troop for its lifespan similar to how you pick upgrades for generals. However, if the troop is wiped out, you can train a new unit with those bonuses to continue where they left off, although the main difference will be that the unit will have no experience rather than being battle-hardened veterans.
While there are some new features added to the game that make the game enjoyable, the game is plagued by poor design decisions as well as cutting out features that were a part of previous titles, and as a result it really ruins my ability to get immersed into the game.
A family tree is no longer present in the game. In prior Total War titles, generals under your command could be married and you would see their lineage pan out as the game progressed, and their children would grow up and then have more children of their own. I have no idea why CA chose to remove this and it’s incredibly unfortunate that they did.
Another feature that was removed was the speeches before a battle. In older titles, the general of your forces would have a short speech before every battle where he would try to inspire the troops. It doesn’t have any effect on gameplay, but it provided a bit more immersion and humanization to your generals, and I like when games do little things like that. In Rome II, all you get is the general saying one or two lines of dialogue when you begin your battle.
The most troubling issues with the game is the way soldiers fight. Roman soldiers upon engaging enemies will all blob around the enemy rather than staying in formation, which is what Roman soldiers are practically known for doing. Essentially, Romans fight like barbarians instead of staying in their phalanxes. I wouldn’t have an issue with this fighting style if I was playing a barbarian faction, but seriously, what was CA thinking? It’s completely absurd. It really makes me feel that there was no QA done for the game for something so basic as Romans being able to hold formation.
Upon ending a turn, players have to sit through about a hundred different factions playing out their turn. There are times where I seriously consider alt tabbing to do something else because of how long it takes turns to end, and I can’t even imagine how much longer it would take for people without SSDs. It makes playthroughs last way longer than they need to.
Troop AI is very unintelligent. Generally speaking, AI in Total War games have never been amazing, but there’s a huge issue with troop AI where they won’t engage targets after defeating an enemy platoon. This results in tedious micromanagement of troops rather than having battles feel natural with troops engaging other enemies once the force they were fighting gets routed. Along with this, units route incredibly easy. I have seen units that have over half of their troop count left run away from battles.
While Total War: Rome II isn’t a bad game, it really does not feel up to par with Creative Assembly’s previous titles. If I was unfamiliar with older Total War games, I would probably enjoy the game a lot more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having fun with the game, but there’s a lot of missed potential that I can see in a lot of places, and as a fan of the series, it’s honestly really more disappointing rather than anger inducing. However, I’m willing to give Creative Assembly the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance to fix the game seeing as how they promised patches and updates throughout the game’s life cycle. A lot of Total War games are terrible on launch, but after a year or so they get fixed and become fantastic games, so I’ll have to check back in a couple of months to re-evaluate my score. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and apparently, Total War: Rome II wasn’t either.
Available on: PC; Publisher: Sega; Developer: Creative Assembly; Players: 1-2; Released: September 2, 2013; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $59.95; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.