Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
Before I begin, I’m just going to say that I’ve been waiting ever so patiently for the past decade for the sequel to Rome: Total War. Despite the innovations Creative Assembly has added to titles afterwards like Medieval II, Empire, Napoleon, and Shogun 2, I think the Classical era remains one of my most favorite time periods. Choosing one of three Roman houses, you marched on your enemies and assimilated their lands—and for the first time in 3D too. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with Rome II at first glance, however the charm from its predecessor along with some modernization to the gameplay and the vast scale of it all, it was well worth the wait.
For those of you who are veterans to the series, the size and scope of Rome II should surprise you, reaching from the British Isles all the way down to Middle East. Of course, that’s not to mention the actual battles. Because the game’s UI is quite different from other Total War games (more on that later) as well as with quite a few tweaks to the game mechanics, I figured it’d be smart to play the prologue and get my feet wet. Right away, you’re thrown into an epic siege battle and given control of a smaller flanking force as the game walks you through the basics.
With state-of-the-art rendering and literally thousands of little men running around on the field, it makes for quite a sight if you have the monitor and graphics card to handle this beast of a game. And if you really want to soak in the chaos, a built-in cinematic mode zooms you right into the fray. Couple that with slow-motion and you’ve got the ingredients to make your own fan-made Gladiator-esque movies.
Aside from the graphics, the game mechanics themselves are just as innovative as ever. If it’s one thing Creative Assembly does well, it’s improving its formula without changing it too drastically. Armies, for example, are treated as their own entities (rather than mere attachments to a general like past games). As your men gain experience, so too does the army itself, allowing you to specialize in certain aspects of warfare.
Maybe you favor ranged attacks over brute melee engagements. Maybe you want an army filled with experienced engineers to give you a leg-up in siege battles, as well as passively lowering local construction costs. You can even customize each army’s emblem and level up generals and admirals in much the same way. Did I mention that you also recruit new units directly from the army rather than the nearest town? Yeah. That’s pretty neat too.
Management of your vast empire is also easier with the introduction of provinces—groupings of cities and villages that, when your faction owns a monopoly on them, grant additional bonuses. Instead of having to click on each city individually, every city within the province and its buildings are grouped together at the bottom of the screen for a thorough overview. Though it takes some time getting used to, the updated UI is a welcome addition.
Diplomacy and now internal politics play a bigger role and AI at the strategic map level has greatly been improved. Instead of exercising military conquest, you can now assimilate your cultural brethren into the fold without any bloodshed. There are also no limits on how many trade partners you may have so long as they’re connected to your capital and trade routes and resources are important for your success both financially and militarily.
The battles and grand strategy overall are faster-paced and troop movement seems more realistic—that is, lightly armored units are visibly more speedy than their heavier counterparts. Watching your swordsmen toss javelins into your enemies right before charging is quite a spectacle and seeing them raise their shields when under enemy fire adds to the sense of immersion and realism that makes this game so awesome.
The one thing I find most disappointing, however, is how glitched the game was at launch. It’s honestly why I held off on reviewing Total War: Rome II since I immediately felt that the game was rushed. The AI on the battlefield—both friendly and hostile—was all but brain-dead. I wanted my slingers to attack target A and here they are, running at B trying to engage in melee when B’s even farther away.
This isn’t to mention the other bugs like when you’re trying to get your troops to move and the game thinks you’re trying to form them up in a certain line instead. NO, I JUST WANT MY SPEARMEN TO MOVE OVER TO THAT FIELD. NOW. PLEASE.
Even though the first patch and round of hotfixes have solved most of these problems, I’m still bothered by the fact that if Creative Assembly has the manpower to work on DLC prior to the game’s release, why aren’t they working on making sure all the major bugs and glitches are taken care of? If you have enough time and resources to work on extra content before players can even enjoy your game, you have enough time and resources to make sure the game is as good as it can be.
Aside from its less-than-stellar launch, Total War: Rome II is still a great game that I urge anyone who’s a fan of the series or strategy games to at least try out. And given Creative Assembly’s constant updating and planned DLC—both paid-for and free—it’s safe to say that Rome II will be a lot of people’s favorite Total War game for some time to come.
UPDATE: Check out our review on the release of Total War: Rome II – Emperor Edition