Game Guys review - Total War: Rome II

11:17 PM, Sep 19, 2013   |    comments
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  • 'Total War: Rome II', a strategy computer game from SEGA and Creative Assembly.
  • 'Total War: Rome II', a strategy computer game from SEGA and Creative Assembly.

The award-winning Total War computer game series from developer Creative Assembly returns with Total War: Rome II.  The game is bigger than anything the company has done thus far in the series, but is it better?

To put it simply, more or less.

For more than a decade, Creative Assembly has taken strategy gamers around the world and through history from ancient Rome to feudal Japan and back again.  Total War: Rome II, which is the successor to the 2004 title Rome: Total War, utilizes the same basic setup and backbone as the series' previous titles - something that returning players should be happy about - but adds a number of new mechanics as well.  Once past the game's interesting and well-fleshed-out tutorial, players get to choose their faction amongst three Roman options and a number of non-Roman ones.  The chosen faction is then controlled over the game's turn-based over-world map.  In fact, most everything a player does (sans actual combat) is performed here including troop training and movement, diplomacy, and decisions personal to you as a player.

All-in-all, this over-world map part of the game feels something similar to the Sid Meier's Civilization games and yet it doesn't thanks to differences in gameplay emphasis.  Where in Civ, players are managing the overall growth of their faction, Total War: Rome II puts some of the focus upon the game's characters and their struggles, strife, and triumphs both politically/militarily and socially.  It's a nice touch that humanizes what could easily have been a rather cold and robotic game a-la Europa Universalis.

Where Rome II really stands out, however, isn't on the over-world map; it's during combat.  Truly the heart of this game, players will find themselves commanding thousands of troops from antiquity ranging from foot soldiers and archers to mounted cavalry and various historically-accurate war machines.  It all looks rather good - even with a few bugs here and there that Creative Assembly has been busy patching since launch - and plays well.  Battles are rarely calm and simple affairs, however, and it wouldn't be unheard of to lose a few.  This is not a game that goes easy on the player.  War is hell, after all.

To touch on some of the aforementioned new features and mechanics that come along with Rome II, most of what the devs decided to include truly does add to the experience.  Naval and land battles can now happen concurrently, for example, with armies being reinforced by sea.  While helpful in a gameplay sense, it also keeps battles from seeming like they're happening in a world separate from the rest of the game.

There is also now a fog of war and line-of-sight requirements that need to be met.  No more seeing everything from the start.  Not only does it plus-up the game's realism during combat, it also adds to the tension of not quite knowing what the enemy's up to at all times.  Scouting becomes a must as the game progresses.

All this and more and yet the game is still quite easy to control.  Pointing and clicking make up the bulk of the user interface, though a number of the clickable commands are also mapped to the keyboard for easy advanced-user hotkeying.

Up to this point, everything seems great - then it all comes crashing back down to earth thanks to the lackluster AI Creative Assembly's game employs.  Frustrating to say the least, AI-controlled faction and unit cooperation is woefully lacking on most fronts.  While a slight improvement over this series-long issue overall, it's a question as to whether or not it's actually better or simply less noticeable.

On the battlefield, players can figure out tricks to lure enemy regiments into becoming vulnerable or compromised.  While this may be all part of being a good tactician, when the same bag of tricks works more often than not for every opposing faction ranging from other Romans to the Britons, it tends to take away from the overall enjoyment and satisfaction of combat.

Then there are the bugs.  While intermittent and getting better through the game's already implemented patches (more are on the way), they range from simply annoying to game-critical.  Most often it's something as simple as a texture not rezzing correctly or awkward animations.  At worst the game will seize up and crash.  No, really, it can seize during a siege.  It's almost poetic.

But even with the issues, the SEGA-published Total War: Rome II is still a computer historical strategy game worth playing.  It's world map is huge and stretches from the Highlands of Scotland to Northern Africa and Eastward modern day Afghanistan (then known as Bactria).  It's a big game with big potential that's hugely enjoyable to play - even with a few large underlying issues that need fixing.

21/25 24/25 23/25 23/25 16/25 91/100

Version tested: PC

(SEGA supplied a copy of this game for review.)

See how what our review scores mean and how the math adds up.


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