The Total War games are considered by many to be the very epitome of RTS gaming. There are few games out there that truly make you feel like looking outside the balcony of your palace, watching the bustling activity of the city you reside in and making you imagine that the world is yours for the taking. The RTS gaming in Total War is on an unprecedented scale, with the games being played out on a massive campaign map where you'll strategize, manage and prepare as you set out to become the most powerful ruler the world has ever known.
The Total War series has been an exciting journey through history. In Rome: Total War you'd discover the classical era. Medieval 2: Total War took you through the Age of Chivalry. Empire: Total War unveiled the colonial period. Napoleon: Total War had you fight through the wars of Napoleon. Total War: Shogun 2 showed you the way of the Samurai. Total War: Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai showed the Samurai's tragic downfall. Now developers The Creative Assembly and publishers Sega bring you once again to the classical era with Total War: Rome 2 where you'll take command of mighty Barbarian, Hellenistic, Eastern and Latin civilizations, in a race to dominate and conquer the entire world.
You choose one of 13 factions to play through the campaign (including the Greek States DLC), each with their own unit types, research trees and faction traits. Once you've chosen a faction you'll start out on the campaign map which is played in a turn-based fashion where you'll manage your settlements, gather resources and move units around the map to different locations. You'll be maintaining your domain through researching the various economic and philosophical options, giving you faction more beneficial traits and allowing you to construct new buildings such as markets, temples, irrigation systems and aqueducts. Building improvement has been greatly streamlined, as all your improvements will be locked a region comprising of a handful of your settlements and you can issue a single build order to every settlement in that region. No more panning the breadth of the map to find one settlement and improve that one individually. You should also recruit special agents to further your interests amongst your rivals. Diplomats can be recruited to establish trade agreements, offer tribute and form alliances while spies can be used for espionage, sabotage and assassinations. You'll need to manage taxes and improve the civil infrastructure of your empire to keep the treasury full while ensuring that the populace is content with living in your cities.
Of course the war effort also needs your attention, so you'll be researching military options which enable combat traits for your men and allow you to construct military buildings which give your men better equipment and allow you to recruit various unit types. All this is just the tip of the iceberg and responsible management of resources, research discoveries and the treasury will ensure a thriving domain and enable you to further your goals of conquest beyond your borders.
Battles are fought in real-time when you meet an opposing army or take part in siege of a settlement. Before the battle begins you'll have the option of auto-resolving the fight, withdrawing or engage in the battle. On the field your army can be arranged in groups with special formations before starting the fight. You'll need to use your cunning and a tactical mindset to emerge victorious. In sieges you'll bring out artillery to break their defences before committing your soldiers to the fray. The battles in the Total War games have always been a sight to behold and Rome 2 surely does the series proud when it comes to massive battles. It's a sight to behold when thousands of men clash into each other. Fights between units look raw and ferocious, much like how the classical era was long ago. One of the new features to land battles is the ability to use naval ships in battle as artillery or to transport troops to locations on the map if you're attacking places such as coastal settlements, opening whole new tactical options which can turn the tide in your favour.
The visuals in Total War: Rome 2 are simply divine. The Warscape engine has produced immensely detailed, high quality visuals and special effects that add a massive cinematic flair to Rome 2, which is great considering the sheer scale of the game. Since Empire: Total War the series has truly produced some glorious visuals and Rome 2 surely raises the bar. There's much more emphasis on the units with improved facial and body rendering, which results in each individual soldier becoming their own character. Birds fly above, deer run through the forests, waters glisten, armour gleams, swords shine, fire rages, arrows fly, cities exhibit the majesty of the ancient world, the level of detail is enough to quite literally take your breath away. The sound production is of Hollywood quality, with intense and gut-wrenching clashes of steel, splintering wood, flying arrows, all accompanied by a breathtaking musical score. You can even hear soldiers within the ranks jeer at their enemies and have humorous conversations with each other. Never before has an RTS game look and felt so filmic and CA have taken great care to ensure that Total War: Rome 2 has the production value equal to that of a Hollywood blockbuster epic.
Total War: Rome 2 is going to make your quest for glory a very long one. The campaign map is immensely big and could take weeks (even months) for you to take over and the camping is always worth replaying again and again with different factions and various difficulty settings, attempting new methods of expansion and conquest. There are historical battles to fight through such as the Battle of Carthage and the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. The multi-player will allow you to battle head-to-head with 4 other rulers in a straight fight, or you can even fight multi-player on the campaign map! CA have promised to provide full mod-support for the game and if anyone has seen what the modding community have done for the previous Total War games, then be sure to expect some very special things.
Rome 2 is absorbing, deep, enormous in scale and an absolute thrill to play. The game also has plenty of content that will keep you returning to battle, with much more content coming from both CA and soon, the modding community. However, Total War games have also been notorious for starting out with many problems and unfortunately for Rome 2, many issues manifest and spoil the enjoyment.
The Total War games are infamous for their AI problems and those problems are in this game also. There are times when the AI can actually be rather crafty on the campaign map and in battle, waiting till you're most vulnerable before moving in. Other times you may find the AI making some bizarre decisions. The AI on both the campaign map and in battle can rely too heavily on brute force. The enemy at times overcomits their forces throwing everything they have at you even at less important targets, allowing you to take the advantage of their mistake. Units have path-finding issues like getting stuck on scenery, taking the longest route to a destination or even charging enemy lines when you've told them to go somewhere else. The game is riddled with other kinds of performance issues as well, such as the game stuttering when moving or fighting across the battlefield and bugs which can cause the game to crash. There's sometimes a major delay in keystroke and mouse movement as well when ordering your men with shortcuts and moving the camera. There are a few graphical and sound issues as well such as scenery popping into view, textures failing to load and sounds occurring late when battle animations have taken place. It was recently announced by Creative Assembly that Rome 2 would receive frequent updates so hopefully these issues will soon be addressed.
The Total War RTS formula has remained largely unchanged in this new instalment. However when it plays this good then there's really no reason to change it. The Creative Assembly hits the nail on the head once again and provides the player with an engrossing, enriched, overwhelming and exciting RTS experience. If you're ready for battle in the classical era, then grab Total War: Rome 2, assemble your army, sound the drums and march to your destiny to become the supreme, unchallenged ruler of the ancient world.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Total War: Rome 2 for the PC provided by SEGA.