Published on September 21st, 2013 | by Zach (beezn) Beason0
Total War: Rome II Review
Summary: While Total War: Rome II has some definite problems that are fairly evident. The game, despite all of them will be able to draw you in as the call of battle beckons.
The classic idiom states, Rome wasn’t built in a day. This also applies to the development of Total War: Rome II. Sadly, it seems that the newest title from Creative Assembly and Sega could have used a few more days under construction. Sega brought out Total War: Rome II to be shown off to the gaming public at this years PAX Prime (click here to see this and other games we saw on the show floor). Considering it’s release date was the Tuesday after PAX ended this was a very good plan. The game was playable on the show floor, it was graphically impressive, it had very fast load times. Everything about it was a ringing endorsement for attendees to go out and buy it. Once outside the pristine and no doubt custom curated PC environment that was used to display Rome II problems arose for a lot of people.
There were a litany of issues that players experienced as they began to play Rome II, From in-game crashes, graphical problems, and the inability to actually start the game in some cases. Many players lamented that Creative Assembly had done just what they had in the past with Total War: Empire, a game that had problems getting AI opponents to attack players over the sea. If only they had another month to work on the games polish as opposed to putting it out and having to put out multiple update patches within the first two weeks of its release to fix major underlying issues. one Issue that was encountered over the course of this review was that I could win a battle, continue, and immediately have to play through the same battle for a second time. This happened a few times.
The controls in game are somewhat complex, which serves you well once you understand how it is intended for the player to actually use them. Before you fully grasp how the game was designed to be played though, the controls can be an unwieldy and a large hurdle to overcome. Only after adjusting your play style to match the way that the game was designed for you to play; does Rome II become enjoyable. The graphical detail that Rome II can generate (if you have the hardware) is quite impressive – each soldier is animated independently from others in their ranks. The camera is in an isometric, top down view that allows the player to zoom in and witness the clashing armies up close with vivid detail. Players then navigate the camera’s position using the W, S, A, & D keys, using Q & E to turn left and right. The same movements can be done with the mouse alone. The mouse also allows for left and right movements on the top half of the screen edge rotating the camera and the same motion on the bottom half panning across the landscape.
In combat, players have the ability to group soldiers in various formations, each providing their own tactical advantages and disadvantages. You can also set them to defend or attack selected points while otherwise being controlled by an AI equivalent of a lieutenant – in battles spread out over a large battlefield this can prove very useful, though, the more advanced players will likely prefer to manage everything themselves. A large part of the game beyond battles is devoted to socioeconomic upkeep which you manage in an over world style map. The fact that you have to manage the taxes, slaves (slaves were historically an important resource in ancient Rome), resource building, and economy of the empire in order to finance your military campaign. This key aspect of a war campaign is utilized in a passive, tech-tree based manner.
Rome II‘s campaign battles are alarmingly simple, the enemy AI seemed to be constantly underwhelming. Almost entirely too easy by default. I say this because while I was not familiar with the game, its controls, nor mechanics upon playing Rome II for this review, I had little difficulty in winning most every battle. And frankly, I’m not that good.
Audio in the game is punctuated by the sounds of your soldiers – footfalls, swords clashing with shields, letting fly a volley of ballista fire, this is the music that you fight to. While the game has a score to it, players will be making their own soundtrack with the sounds of battle. It sets the mood and immerses you into scenes with ease. On the other hand, the voice acting that you run into throughout the campaign feels somehow overdone. Not too much subtlety but they do convey a lot of conviction.
Discovering new tactics and experimenting with different formations is key to success in Rome II. You can take your time, spreading your forces out across the field or condense them all into one massive unyielding force; each time you take the field you can get an entirely different result. All of this lets players fall into a wealth of replay value. And if you have the mindset for it, this game is fun. That may only be true for a minority of players though.
Rome, as an empire, was one of great technological and political progress for its time – it survived and thrived for hundreds of years, crossed three continents and was a beacon for art and culture that we reflect on today. Total War: Rome II has, at its core, had the possibility to be a phenomenal game, but, comparing it to the wonder that was Rome? In its current state — this game sadly falls short. It is a shame that it was released in such an unfinished state. Once the last patch goes live you can be sure that the experience of playing Rome II will be much improved, but you only get one chance at a first impression.
Editor’s Note – This review was based on the launch and patch 1 versions of the game on PC and was provided to us by Sega’s PR.
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