Total War: Rome II Review

By Darryl Kaye on September 9, 2013

The Total War franchise continues to expand into new parts of our worldwide history, but for their latest game Creative Assembly decided to go back to another of their previous titles, Rome. This sees the game expand in numerous ways, with a plethora of campaigns, units and sheer regions on the map. And to its credit, Total War: Rome II helps the franchise stay ahead of the curve when it comes to this style of real-time/turn-based strategy games.

Unlike the original game, Rome: Total War, the sequel decides to look further afield than just the Roman Republic. Indeed, there are 117 different factions featured in Total War: Rome II, as the map stretches from the tip of England all the way through to modern-day Afghanistan.

After you get through the tutorial, you're free to branch out on your own. It's at this point that you can choose to go through a campaign as one of the 8 playable factions. This might seem like a small amount considering there are 117 in total, but it's a manageable number and it allows you to experience the main types of faction that are present.

To start off, you've got The Roman Republic. They represent the Greco-Roman culture and of course, start in the Italian peninsula. Then you've got other factions such as Macedon, the Iceni and Egypt. Each comes with their own set of challenges. For example, playing as The Roman Republic will see you involved with a lot of politics. You will constantly be fighting a battle against the people as you try to appease them in order to keep morale high, all while attempting to expand your empire. Conversely, if you choose the Iceni, who represent the Barbarian culture, it's much more about traditional conquest.

Once you've selected your faction of choice, that's when things start to get a bit more interesting. From here, you will be given objectives you need to complete and it's pretty much up to you to determine how you want to go about completing them. For example, you can acquire land through brute force and invasion, or through garnering profitable treaties with surrounding nations.

This is where the turn-based strategy side of the game comes into play. You'll be given access to the rather expansive world map and from here you will need to decide the best course of action. You can send out agents to survey the area and/or sabotage neighbouring war efforts. Likewise, you can choose to focus on your own business and expand your city while also growing your armies.

This is where the micro-management comes into play a bit, as the larger your army gets, the more it costs to maintain. You'll need to weigh up how important your army is in terms of defence, in relation to your budgets, but you may also find that a war is helpful in justifying the budgets. Also, through the expansion of your empire, you're also able to earn new forms of revenue.There are many different facets to this element of the gameplay and it can get quite detailed. You will constantly need to be researching new technologies to get the best out of your cities, but also to help your armies perform better on the battlefield. The expansion of your cities is also important, especially when it comes to the capital city in a given region. Then there's the ability to use edicts if you own all of the cities within a region.

Perhaps the only drawback with all this scale comes in the speed of the campaign. When you start off, ever faction has to have its turn and it can take quite some time for it to roll through all 117 of them. You'd think this would speed up over time, as the amount of factions decreases due to invasions, etc. However, by that point you'll have more access over the map, so it's actually slower due to all the unit movements, etc.

The other major element to the Total War franchise is with its combat. Of course, you can choose to just have the AI simulate battles for you all the time, but by doing so you lose the ability to show off your tactical nous. Aside from the traditional battle, there are quite a few different ones that have been introduced with Rome II. You've got combined naval/land battles, siege battles, river battles and more.

Control in any of these battles is pretty straight forward. You're able to group different unit types together and position them how you see fit. The new battle types, such as siege battles, also present a rather interesting challenge.

However, the AI does leave something to be desired sometimes. Having a horde of people with ranged attacks will often result in a pretty easy victory, as the AI will refuse to give up its position even when under bombardment. The combined naval/land battles are also a very strong concept, but again the AI doesn't seem to use additional units to its advantage.

It's a shame, because while these things are great in the short-term for victories, they do start to make them feel a little bit hollow after a while.

These problems aren't present within the multiplayer component of the game, but the campaign is just as much a part of anything. Of course, if you play on the higher difficulties things a more challenging, but there's perhaps something wrong when you're able to win battles with relative ease despite the AI predicting you'd lose over 90 percent of your forces. Either that, or perhaps you've turned into a tactical genius overnight.

When it comes to the game's presentation, Creative Assembly has again raised the bar. When zoomed out, the large-scale battles look immense, but when zoomed in, they are awe inspiring.

There's nothing quite like having a load of horse units charge into a massive melee that's already involving more than a thousand troops on the ground. The sound production is also rather special "“ it's an element that always delivers and the team should be very proud.

Final Thoughts

Total War: Rome II can be seen as another benchmark for Creative Assembly. The sheer scale of the game is impressive in itself, with so many factions and provinces throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. It does feel a little bit lacking in some departments, but that's perhaps because the game is so expansive. The AI can also leave a lot to be desired sometimes, but there's no denying that the tactical element is solid and playing against other human opponents certainly makes things more interesting.

Production values are top notch.
The sheer amount of factions present within the game.
AI can be a little bit flaky.
The wait between turns as it cycles through the factions.
Sometimes feels as though the developers tried to incorporate too much.
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