Total War: Rome 2 – game review
It took us a bit of the time to get the review out for Total War: Rome 2, the reason being the weekly patches Creative Assembly started releasing after the initial backlash of angry fans. With Rome 2, Creative Assembly had tried to do a few things in a more modern and “fast paced” style, but in the end the game although much faster than predecessors was left with many holes and unpolished surfaces. The weekly patches had smoothed out the game much while keeping the core vision of developers and thus here is our review keeping in view the updated game and future vision of the developers.
Total War series needs no introduction with Roman being one of the most popular setting for RTS fans, the game was highly anticipated by gamers. The game is set in 272 BC ~ 300 BC, and era when Roman empire controller Italy and wanted to expand its borders too ends of the world. The prologue of the game will not only introduce you to jump into the story but also acts as a nice, although a bit long tutorial for the game.
The default campaign lets you take control over 9 unique, ancient factions: Rome, Carthage, Ptolemaic Egypt, Macedon, Pontus, Parthia, The Suebi, The Averni, and The Iceni. With over 100 of unique units with their own pros, cons, morale, combat habits etc. Making it one of the biggest RTS games to date. And the developers are yet not done with it as they are releasing both Free and paid DLC for the game called “Cultural Packs” which add more factions and units to control in skirmishes and multiplayer modes.
Anyone familiar with Total War series will know that the overall gameplay is divided into two portions: Turn based over-view campaign map and then the real time detailed combat on vast battlefields. The strategic maps are huge this time and will feel daunting to players. But along with the gorgeous huge maps comes new gameplay elements of politics and faction system.. something that should be very integral to a game based on Rome.
Each territory you control on the map increases your population count allowing you to increase the army, but unlike previous games army men cannot be generated on their own and will need Legion leaders and they will move together as a Legion. This streamlines the game a lot rather than the old concept of managing small armies all over the map as well as makes each “named” legion more prominent on the strategic map.
Another upgrade to the strategic campaign map is the province system. Rather than managing each city individually, a province is indicated by 2~4 cities with the big walled city as the capital and using the capital you can manage and control the minor cities too. Initially this may not look as considerable change, but believe me as your empire grows and you really get a grasp of how HUGE the game world is each turn will take a considerable amount of your time managing each city individually making diplomatic decisions, selecting tech research, building new facilities etc. Its once again a great and welcome change for the new expansive game because as you can imagine handling e.g. 10 provinces is still less time taking than handling 40 cities under those 10 provinces individually.
Coming to the second part of the game: the realtime battles. These are more glorious than before and with more units than ever before on the 3D battlefields do look amazing. Although while zoomed out its hard to see them as anything else than just little colored blips with shields, but when zoomed in you can even see facial expressions of soldier showing horrors of war on their faces. The battles play out like older games where you control group of soldiers rather than individual soldiers as in other RTS. The tactics on battlefield come from position, formations and how well you use terrain and weather to your advantage to win against the odds. Veterans of the series already know that how wet grounds or long marches can fatigue your soldiers, making them less effective in war but in Rome 2 those kind of effects were slightly less punishing than before which is not something I liked. And I do wish they fix that soon via the regular patches.
Another problem I found in the realtime battles are some imbalance issue of units, which should be fixed soon too i.e. some unit types are pretty strong and can easily become your favorite when recruiting army thus never giving you the fun of juggling with other unit types to balance out for upcoming war. Shogun 2 had nice rock, paper scissor mechanics which are less emphasized here and once again I do wish they make a come back.
Each unit type does come with not only their own morale, attack, defense but also the decisions on campaign map effect their quality. They can be low quality soldiers if your city facilities are in turmoil, once again adding a nice depth to the game. Moreover each unit has its own unique abilities too which can manually toggle at any time e.g. Legion leaders will have ability to boost morale and rally troops, mounted troops can be asked to un-mount, giving them more attack bonus at cost of mobility, shield bearers can raise their shields to add defense bonus against the showering of arrows etc. One of the cooler things this time is that your naval fights are part of ground fights too rather than being separate entity. Thus large sieges of cities near water are much more fun as you can bring your navy to lay siege on cities and can un-mount soldiers from ships to take over cities. There is an addition of cinematic mode also which lets you experience the fight in kind of third person which looks gorgeous as your cavalry charges into spear-men of your enemies.
All the beautiful additions of the game doesn’t come without any price though as the game comes with a lot of bugs, which as we mentioned in the start too that developers are trying to iron out non-stop. The worst of these is the dumb AI of the game. Whether its ground battles or decisions on campaign map, you will see enemy do really nonsense things of retreating their armies leaving cities to taken over easily or never attacking on their own, making diplomatic relations unnecessary. These kind of things do make the in-game battles feel broken as well as taking away some fun from the overall campaign too. But with the developer’s continued support we really hope this will be fixed soon. Total War games have a past history of being imbalanced and buggy at release time, and normally the retail version always acts like a beta with player feedback governing the final game and that formula seems to be still true for Rome 2.
Graphically the game is a treat both in 3D realtime battles as well as in the campaign map. Although initially the game had some performance issues but now they seem to be patched as I even went back to test the game on a old Dual Core processor with outdated Geforce GTX 460 and the game worked fine with recommended settings. When it comes to audio the dialogue delivery is pretty standard affair along with sound effects but what shines most is the full blown orchestral music giving you just the right feel of the great Roman conquest.
Overall Creative Assembly took some bold decisions to change from typical Total War formula which by and large work well. The basic game is same but the new alterations have made the game more fun and fast paced. Ignore the AI bugs, which hopefully should be resolved in a month or so and you will have yourself one of the finest Total War experiences.