The Total War series has earned its place among the greats of the strategy genre, sitting in between the likes of the turn-based Civilization games and the real-time gameplay of Command and Conquer. This summer, Creative Assembly brings back its Rome version of the game with the release of Total War: Rome II. The original game is closing in on being 10 years old but is still the best-received game of the series. Considering Creative Assembly’s consistently strong track record, Rome II was one of this year’s most anticipated strategy offerings and we’re glad to say it does not disappoint.
Balancing different conflicts has always been a key gameplay ingredient for Total War titles and Rome II is no exception. The game takes this concept and lets it play out on a grand scale with epic battles and tense situations. A vastly increased campaign map size makes all this possible, partly because it has been balanced out to reflect the various population groups inhabiting it. Think home town advantage, but on the level of an all-out war across much of Europe. Roman armies, with their large cities, profit when battling it out in familiar and civilized arenas. Barbarian tribes, however, are at an advantage when they face off with the Romans far away from those cities. It creates strategic opportunities and challenges in the terrain, which is also affected by weather conditions.
Your strategic choices aren’t just limited to the battlegrounds, as you can also greatly affect how pleased your citizens are by constructing buildings, resolving conflicts and raising or reducing taxes. Make the wrong choices and you might be facing conflicts within your own population as well as battling it out with competing factions outside your city gates. There are also plenty of examples where your actions outside the battlefield determine what happens when you finally come face to face with the enemy. Take for instance the opportunity to send out spies to determine the composition of an advancing army. If they are bringing a lot of heavy units and you’re expecting rain and mud, then you can exploit this fact. Getting it right in such a scenario is immensely rewarding, and feels like you’re personally turning the tide of the war.
The attention to detail on a strategic level carries over to the game’s presentation, with individually rendered soldiers and units on the battlefield numbering in the hundreds and a visual and auditory design that perfectly matches the game’s grand scale. However, this all seems to come at a cost. At the time of testing (upon the game’s release), the engine was plagued by disappearing textures and other small and bigger bugs (including general instability). For a game that has so much to offer, it’s a shame to have some of that grandeur taken away by bugs that shatter the intense level of immersion this game offers.
Luckily, Creative Assembly has since promised regular updates to improve the stability and performance of the game. With a series that has been going strong for almost 15 years, they have shown the commitment to follow through on that promise. I just wish they had waited another month to iron out some of these bugs before releasing the game. As it stands, it has all the making of the best Total War game ever made, but it’s being held back by some technical issues that may be temporary. Wait a while for all that to be ironed out and you’ll enjoy possibly the best strategy game of the year, or buy it right now if can forgive its current faults. I sure could, even though the score below could have been higher a few weeks from now.
CPU: Intel 3770K
Video: Asus GTX 660 Ti
Installed on: Kingston HyperX SSD drive
RAM: 8 GB DDR 3, Kingston HyperX Beast series