Creative Assembly and Sega are back with another historical strategy hit. Previously, they took gamers through the Napoleonic Wars and Ancient Japan, and they’re now back in Rome for another run with Total War: Rome II. There is no more denying Sega as a positive influence in this series after Empire, Napoleon, and Shogun 2, so there’s much to look forward to in this newest release.
As usual with the Total War series, you get the mix between turn-based grand strategy and real-time battlefield tactics that Creative Assembly has gotten down to a T. Throughout the Total War series, the basic formula has remained the same, but there are always some new features thrown in to keep it fresh and interesting. In the case of this game, it’s all about the visual experience of the game and how you get to share it with others.
Creative Assembly has done much to cut down what slows the gameplay down as witnessed in the previous titles. There is much less micromanagement to deal with in Rome II with a more simplified city management system so that you don’t have to waste most of your time in tweaking every single city and beating yourself up whenever you accidentally skip a city when you end your turn. It’s not dumbed down, but merely a renewed focus on the more important aspects of gameplay.
The major aspect of the game that most refer to in the Total War series is the real time battles, which has gotten even better in this title. While you can just auto-resolve battles and move on, it’s still more fun to actually go in and assume control of your army or navy and direct them accordingly to win the battles with skill and cunning, or at least witness carnage on a massive scale. There are a variety of units to use on your way to conquest, each with their own strengths and abilities. With the sophisticated tech tree though, you’ll have to plan ahead before you can get the really cool units that you’d want to command in battle.
With the improved graphics in this game, the units look detailed and distinguishable even when zoomed out. That makes for really awesome-looking battles that are epic and brutal, and they’re right there on your own screen. You can then use cinematic mode to take great looking screenshots in the battlefield that you can then share in social media, and that’s actually quite thoughtful of Creative Assembly and Sega to include. You can get more out of the tons of hours you put into this game by sharing some of your gameplay experiences with friends through this feature.
The interface is still just as complex and confusing, especially for beginners. There is a lot of trial-and-error involved in learning your way around it, but there is no way to make it less complex as it is now without taking out major gameplay features. This game is not for everyone, but it’s not as niche as full-on grand strategy titles that are all turn-based and on point with their historical references. It’s kind of like middle ground in the strategy genre that brings the best of both worlds in turn-based and real-time together.
During release though, there were quite a few bugs and glitches in the battles that may result in losses, despite having superior numbers over the enemy. They are flaws that may not seem obvious enough at first glance, but you then notice when they’re affecting battle results. There are also stability issues while running the game, which Sega has now addressed by scheduling patches every week after release for a limited time. That still takes away from the game for those who pre-ordered or bought it on the first week, but at least they’re still paying attention to it.
Also, there are lots of problems with the enemy AI that may seem quite wonky. While it is a definite improvement from the previous games, it’s still complicated for a game this complex, so developers still did a pretty good job in creating better AI for this game. But still, it may come up with some weird decisions. Hopefully, that can also be fixed and improved with the patches as promised. But still, having really passive AI that doesn’t attack you at all, if not rarely, does not make for engaging gameplay.
Through all the mumbo-jumbo in the game that may leave you scratching your head the whole time, players get such a nice feeling when they see something work out. When you figure out the seemingly complicated stuff and finally understand what it’s all about, then use it to your advantage, as well as make the right tactical decisions and execute them brilliantly, then it becomes a very rewarding experience and justifies the game’s complexity.
After real time strategy titles, then maybe something like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the Total War and Civilization franchises are perhaps the gateways towards grand strategy. Even if you’re not someone who is looking to get deeper into strategy games, as long as you’re even remotely interested in historical warfare, then Total War: Rome II should be an awesome experience. However, with all the problems upon launch, you better wait until it gets patched thoroughly before getting it, perhaps with a discount in the future.
NOTE: Unfortunately, without any patches, this game is somewhere around 4/10 at best. Once again, it’s a case of good game gone bad due to technical issues like tons of graphical issues, framerate drops, and so on. The reviewer didn’t encounter as many of these bugs, only the the comedy AI and some glitches in battles, but other users have reported much worse.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7.5/10