Total War: Rome II
The Creative Assembly
Rome’s finest crane their necks to see the top of Carthage’s wall. Ten thousand men, clad in legion armor, stand just outside bow range. They traveled here to put the city to the torch, to prove Rome’s might in the eyes of the gods. The General sits upon his armored mount and observes the men with a practiced eye. They’d been through much together, the General and his legion, and on the eve of their victory there was no need for words. The General unsheathes his sword and points it towards the city; ten thousand voices announce their resolve. There’s no hurry in their walk, only the march of the inevitable. Far to the east a hundred ships unfurl a hundred sails and to a drummers beat they glide across the water to bring fire and death to the cowards trembling in the cities heart.
Rome 2 certainly succeeds in bringing that epic feeling familiar to the Total War genre. The battles are stunning. You can watch as a spear leaves the hand of a skirmisher and travels in a crescent arc to embed itself in a soldiers shield. The campaign map is beautiful, too, with each town growing and changing in response to what you build within it.
This is assuming that you can run the game on ultra-settings.
It’s a system hog. It eats up resources at a rate that makes the minimum requirements look like some kind of unfunny joke. Poor optimization of the battles and campaign map means that if your system isn’t up to par you’ll be running the game at a rip roaring six fps, with visuals that look like they were torn from the back of a particularly generic cereal box. Make sure your computer has the muscle to run the game before you purchase it.
Though, it’s easy to see why it demands so much power. The battle and campaign maps are the largest to date. Your navy can now take part in land battles; that is, beyond the traditional cannon barrage you were capable of doing in Total War: Shogun 2- Fall of the Samurai. Your units can storm off their ships and create an additional flank, or fight through a city to its walls and open the gates for your soldiers outside.
The campaign map encompasses all of Europe and has 117 individual factions. It begins focused on your starting area with only a few neighboring provinces shown. As your empire grows it pulls back, expanding as you transform from a regional power into a full-fledged empire.
Since the campaign map is so large, the changes to city management are welcome. Now, instead of handling each city individually, your cities are grouped into provinces. They share a collective happiness, income, food, and population level. If you possess all of the cities in a province you can issue edicts which grant province wide bonuses. While this new system eases much of the micromanaging stress, veterans might find it to be a little simplistic; they might become frustrated at their lack of direct control.
There are a few glitches that Creative Assembly needs to fix. The AI is terrible and passive. More often than not a garrison protecting a town will flee to the sea rather than face a siege it feels it can’t win. This behavior continues even when dealing with a faction’s final city. You can go half the game auto resolving sieges before you run into a force that requires your personal attention.
What’s worse is the computer’s habit of treating the invasion of your lands like some kind of chore. It’s perfectly happy watching its territory shrink as your army pillages its way across the country side. Any invasion of the player’s land is hilariously uncoordinated, and of little threat; a city garrison is more than enough to handle the paltry forces the computer throws at it.
But fans will do well to remember Creative Assembly’s poor track record when it comes to launch day performance. Both Empire: Total War and Medieval 2: Total War, were nearly unplayable at launch. It was only through Creative Assembly’s prompt patching and the support of its mod community that the games became what they are today. Creative Assembly has already promised weekly patches, and, once the most glaring issues are fixed, this will probably be the best Total War yet.
It’s worth buying, but you should probably wait until Steam’s winter sale to pick it up.
– David Rheinhart