I have been a fan of the Total War series since the first game, Shogun Total War, and I made no exception of playing this game. It has everything we look for in a Total War game – large battles with you men fighting for the glory and honor of Rome (Or whichever Faction you choose), coupled with the immersive faction control and brilliant map graphics.
To start with, I need to point out that this game is a resource hog. The total War series is known for its high demand on a computer and this game is no exception. That is not to say that you can’t play it on lowered graphics settings or customize the visuals so it runs better on your computer. What I am pointing out is that you should first and foremost find out if your computer can handle this game. And don’t say “my computer can play Shogun 2,” because that is what I said. When I started the game I didn’t have many problems with it, but when I got into the tutorial (which I highly recommend all players do) and got into the first section of combat, the game became very unresponsive. So I had to turn it down, which made me quite unhappy because I love looking at everything at its maximum quality settings. But when I wasn’t in combat and out on the world map, I could have the graphics cranked to the highest settings and enjoy the beauty that they creators laid before me.
The world map is beautiful, and while it hasn’t changed too terribly from the setup of Shogun 2, there are some major differences that a veteran should pay attention to. First off, where all of the other games in its lineage had only a single main city in each province, Rome 2 changes it up. Each province is split up into smaller states within the overall province. Each province is usually split between different factions, and fighting to control each faction quickly escalates to larger and larger armies. When you finally control a whole province you get new options on how to govern the province as a whole. These can range from increasing takes or increasing food production and happiness to making it a military state of sorts where troops recruit and replenish faster.
Troop recruitment was another thing that was changed between Shogun 2 and Rome 2. Rome 2 has changed the way you raise an army and use them. In order to first raise an army you have to choose a general. You then can select the general’s bodyguard unit (which for the Romans I had the options early on of Triiari or Mounted) which can differ between factions. From there you have the options to train troops on that unit. No longer are you restricted to only building troops at a town. Troops are now trained directly on your general, which allows for more movement and strategic placement of armies.
Rome 2’s world system has changed how Total War games are played in numerous ways, not just how you conquer the map and raise armies but also how you build your cities, research technologies and take care of diplomacy. City building is very limited from the last games in the series, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as in-depth. Because each province has multiple states within it, you can split up how each state benefits your overall province. They each function individually, so you have to keep track of each city’s happiness level, but they also help function as a whole, so that you only need one barracks in a city to benefit the whole province. Many of the later technologies are only attainable by researching in the tech tree, which has been slimmed down a substantial amount from the other trees in the Total War games. Instead of large branching trees that benefit your whole faction, your options are limited to two small trees that generally only take about twenty to thirty turns to complete. I found it interesting that the research tree would take so little time to complete, but with how small the map is, all of these changes seem to benefit the game speed and playability quite nicely.
Combat in Rome 2 is still very similar to the other Total War games – you have your troops, they have theirs, let’s duke it out. The counters of the typical rock paper scissors setup is changed. While the usual Archer v Swordsman v Spearman v Horseman is still prominent in the game, there are other types of troops, from Roman javelin Vestatis to Germanic Axmen, that can change the flow of battle. A new Line of Sight system has been added which adds a new complexity to the combat. I know that Shogun 2 had a type of LoS, but if your units were close enough to the enemy of if the enemy was in the open you could see them. In Rome 2, if your troops can’t see the enemy, then you can’t see them, period. The mini map shows where you can and can’t see by having black overlaid on the map. So combat in the city has a lot of black fog of war running all over the place, while fighting in a grassy valley has very little. This new LoS system adds a complexity to fighting, because even if you know that an enemy unit of Greek Hoplites are right around the corner in a Phalanx formation, you can’t see them and thus you can’t shoot at them from afar.
You really have to consider your movements now, as each unit has different abilities that can change the flow and win or lose you the combat if you are not careful. Proper use and placement of every unit at your command can turn a battle from a defeat to a victory very easily, especially with the new navel system. In Shogun 2 you had navel battles, which were for the most part completely separate from land battles. In the Fall of the Samurai DLC it introduced navel bombardments, which were nice, but, if your enemy wasn’t grouped heavily or you were not taking a castle, very ineffective. In Rome 2 your ships play a part in land combat. Should you try to take a city on the coast and you have troops in your ships, you don’t have to disembark to take the city. You can attack the city with the navy. This brings up a combined battle with navy and land troops at once. You have to fight your way to shore and unload your ships then fight on land. All of your ships can disembark, so the total strength of your and your enemies’ armies are displayed as a combined value of navy and land power.
And as your armies fight, they gain experience as they have since the first Shogun game. Only this time, not only does your general gain traits, but so does your army. Army traditions have always been a real thing but Rome 2 brings these to the table in game. Should your army continue to win battles they will gain experience that can be used much like the generals train. These go from increasing melee defense to how well your army shoots or even how well they are at taking a city and what kind of siege equipment they can build. You can rename your armies and change their standard so that they fit how you think of them.
Overall, Rome 2 is a great new addition to the series that we have learned to love in strategy games. While key mechanics are different to how you play the game, it still feels very much like a Total War game, which should have old fans and newcomers alike very pleased. From the long draw of a single player campaign to multiplayer and playing a multiplayer campaign and vying for power with your friends, I think Rome 2 makes a great addition to the Total War franchise.
(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied on behalf of SEGA. Thank you.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 7/10
Gameplay/Design – 9/10
Visuals – 8/10
Sound – 8/10
Lasting Appeal – 10/10
Overall – 8.5/10
(Not an average)
Developer: Creative Assembly
Ratings: Ratings: T (ESRB), 16+ (PEGI)