Hands On: Total War – Rome II

By Adam Smith on August 1st, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

Sit me in front of a solid strategy game for a few hours and I’ll ask you to give me a few hours more. I visited Rome recently to play Total War: Rome II. It’s not that Total War games live in Rome, but it was an amusingly appropriate location to host what appeared to be 99% of Europe’s gaming press. After two hours with the game and half an hour talking to the developers, I packed my bags and went to sit in a hotel, wishing that I had those few hours more. Thankfully, after the trip I received a preview code, so two hours turned into many. As a lapsed admirer of the series, I waited for Rome to suck me back in.

Your PC is brilliant. Give it a quick kiss while nobody’s looking. That’s provided you’re reading this on the monitor rather than squinting at a CleverPhone while hunkered in a pub toilet, ankle-deep in beery leavings and surrounded by the literary genius of a thousand wall-scrawlers. If you are there, tipsy or flat-out drunk, go home this instant and give your PC a big cuddle. It misses you and it deserves your love.

Total War: Rome II is one very good reason to maintain that loving relationship. You may be aware that there are two new consoles approaching retail, each already wrapped in its own peculiar branding and consumer mythology, but no matter how loud and detailed their explosions, they’re never going to turn too many heads from glowing monitors.

Creative Assembly have made a game with so many graphics, with such incredible fidelity and scale, that it puts every future-generation explosion and racing car to shame. And it’s a STRATEGY game. Now, can be quite curmudgeonly about this sort of thing – a strategy game should wear a sturdy cloth map and very little else, but playing Rome, as it strutted around like a peacock, flexing its tailfeathers, I was inclined to applaud vigorously.

That it’s a beautiful game capable of dropping jaws has been clear for a while now but I refused to be won over by all of the on-screen camels, men and elephants. I’m glad that the battles are as attractive as a neodymium magnet, but I’ve been craving a glimpse of that cloth undergarment – the campaign map. Earlier this month, I spent a couple of hours with the game’s prologue, a tutorial/introductory scenario, and had the chance to explore a small, Italy-only, slice of that map. What I saw pleased me enormously.

First, some bad news. Not bad news about the game, but about the limits of what I did and didn’t see. I played at a preview event (playing Rome on the set of HBO’s Rome, just outside the city of Rome) but also received code of the same prologue build to tinker with at home, so I’ve explored what is available thoroughly. It only allows the player to control Rome, in the earliest of days, and only contains a limited region of the map. The beginning is heavily scripted – lift this siege, attack this city, hire a new general – but there’s just enough room for experimentation as regards city and army construction.

Diplomacy isn’t an option though. The mini campaign is about squashing the Samnites and consolidating Roman power. There’s nobody to talk to, except for advisors and generals, because the world is made of enemies. Total war indeed. A shame, because diplomacy is one of the areas I’m most interested in exploring, but I still managed to discover a great deal while clicking on everything in sight.

It’s a more character-based game than any Total War before it, and not just in terms of the people under the player’s command, but also the cities and armies that they control. Choosing which buildings to construct allows a settlement to specialise, its growth depicted on the map as it stretches across the province, filling space with distinct structures and a style of its own. The differences aren’t simply cosmetic though – even in these early days of Roman rule, the player is shaping the demeanour and direction of the city, and thereby the empire.

Eventually, it will be possible to see the influence of the Empire, or any other band of miscreants with enough power, changing the image of the known world. Captured cities can be culturally converted, their buildings torn down and rebuilt in the style of a new ruler. And cities will be seized. To my great embarrassment and delight, the AI managed to scupper my plans during the tutorial. I’d planned a combined land and naval assault on a city just down the coast, confident of success and eager to command a large selection and variety of troops. A few defenders stayed behind, even though repelling my superior forces was surely impossible. Others abandoned the city, perhaps to bolster the line at my next point of conquest, in a mountain pass.

Except that wasn’t their plan at all. They headed inland and out of sight and the next thing I knew, they’d reappeared on the road to Rome. I’d been outsmarted – admittedly, it happened primarily because I wasn’t BEING particularly smart, playing with as many toys as possible rather than keeping an eagle eye open for impending disaster. Still, I was reassured that the AI acted so aggressively. In battle, it surprised me a couple of times, although not without displaying the occasional bout of passivity and confusion that will be familiar to anyone who has played a Total War game before. The enormous variety of units and increased number of battle types should keep things somewhat unpredictable for a long time though.

The battles are utterly absorbing though. It helps, of course, that they are as impressive in the zoomed in detail of a camel’s blinking eye as they are from on high, where units are like pools and streams of ants, swarming toward one another and leaving only corpses and ruin. The magnitude of even the early stages is staggering and the nitty-gritty of positioning and formations sucked me straight back in.

I say ‘back in’ because I took a hiatus from Total War. I’ve played a good deal of Shogun 2 but the setting doesn’t grip me in the same way that Medieval and Rome did. Empire was never even a passing fancy. Rome, for obvious reasons, feels like a homecoming for the series, but perhaps the most intimidating and brilliant aspect of the game is that it isn’t really a Rome game at all. It can be, if that’s what you want it to be, but it’s also a larger beast, a Classical Era strategy game with diverse cultures and possibilities.

There will be more scope than before for the kind of alternate history shenanigans that grand strategy games cook up so well. Want to build a Germanic empire that stretches from the forest of the north to the south tip of Italy’s old boot? I’d certainly hope you do. How about an Egyptian Kingdom that survives, as a world power, crushing Rome and enslaving its people? Sounds like a challenge.

Interweaved throughout these tales of triumph and terror are the stories of individuals, whether they be soldier, general or politician. Legions have their data tracked, so the city and general that founded them can become legend should their deeds inspire the singing of songs and heroic mythologizing. This gives those legions (or armies, in other cultures) traits, influencing their methods and identity, causing opponents to react to their reputation, even though it may have been forged a century before. Their character can change over time but it outlives the soldiers and even the general at their head, lending every battle a more personal touch.

Politicians, true to form, cause problems. At worst, these can result in rebellion or civil war, particularly if one of the aforementioned legions becomes so awe-inspiring that a poisonous whisper can turn its general’s head to higher aspirations. The intelligence of the interplay between systems should keep player’s in doubt, always wary of allowing a legion and its general to become too fearsome lest he believe that the ruler of Rome himself should have cause to fear. The possibility of a rogue legion marching on the capital, as an emergent rather than scripted event, is more exciting to me than a hundred perfectly modelled elephants rampaging through a burning city.

There are deeper levels still. Generals have an entourage, made up of companions that range from hunting dogs to seers, and from strategists to floozies. It’s not entirely clear whether they simply add a buff to certain skills or whether they will lead to textual events with decisions to make. There will be plenty of the latter though, with choices affecting a general’s confidence, skills and standing.

Watching all the videos that have been released, showing off historical battles and factions, I was beginning to think Creative Assembly had a reason to hide the campaign. I can’t deny the spectacle of those battles but I’ve been waiting to see what’s behind them. Now that I have, there’s the promise of a game that hasn’t just had a facelift to impress the world, but that has improved significantly where it really matters – in the nature of its long-term strategic decisions, character and cultural portrayals, and imaginative potential.

The Emperor has some fancy new clothes, it’s true, but he’s also got a hell of a body. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of it.

Total War: Rome II is out on September 3rd. We’ll publish an in-depth interview with the developers shortly, in which lots of very clever things are discussed and then I ask about Warhammer and somebody says ‘no comment’.

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105 Comments »

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    All the Pretty Picture…..

    Where’s our Demo?

  2. Doth Messar says:

    Before I read this article I too had reservations. Now I am going to preorder it, something I never do. That’s what good writing can do!

    • Chalky says:

      I’ve never played total war before but I’m considering getting this when it comes out. I probably won’t preorder but it certainly looks very impressive indeed.

    • Premium User Badge Smashbox says:

      Never preorder anything. But, certainly, buy it when it comes out!

    • d3vilsadvocate says:

      I built an SLI system for this game. Might as well preorder it to be honest.

    • bill says:

      Never pre-order.

      • Coops07 says:

        Never say never. People say never pre-order, what if the game is cheaper to pre-order than it is to wait for release day? Screw morals I’d rather have the discount.

    • Max Planck says:

      I come to you from the future, don’t preorder!!

  3. Premium User Badge Arathain says:

    Adam writes: “The intelligence of the interplay between systems should keep player’s in doubt, always wary of allowing a legion and its general to become too fearsome lest he believe that the ruler of Rome himself should have cause to fear. The possibility of a rogue legion marching on the capital, as an emergent rather than scripted event, is more exciting to me than a hundred perfectly modelled elephants rampaging through a burning city.”

    It’s great that this is a feature. I finished listening to the excellent History of Rome podcast series earlier this year, and one of the things that struck me is that this sort of thing, where the Legions spontaneously declared their general Emperor and marched on Rome happened all the flippin’ time in the later part of the Empire’s history.

    Sometimes it even appeared to happen against the general’s will- the Legions would offer their general the choice of being Emperor or being dead. For this reason having the Legions themselves develop as characters is a fantastic idea.

    • Fanbuoy says:

      This. All of it. The History of Rome is magnificent. I’ve already pre-ordered. Yay!

    • Curry the Great says:

      Got a link to that podcast? :-)

      On-topic:
      It’s sounding great, but the memory of dissapointment of Empire (bought it for 50 euros to find out there was no sound in the game, at all, cause bugs.

      Also, for europeans: I preordered it off http://www.nuuvem.com.br/produto/1213-total-war-rome-ii, it evens out to like 32 euros which beats the 55 euros on steam by quite a margin. If anyone knows a cheaper one, let us know. Keep in mind that pre-ordering is fundamentally a dumb idea, unless the discount is big enough.

      Fun fact: on steam its 30 pounds for brits or 55 euros for europeans (that’s 47 pounds! Why!?).

      • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

        Partly because Valve are assholes and think 1$=1€. And games on tier 1 continental Europe are just more expensive for… reasons, I guess.

      • polyester says:

        Slightly off topic, but would there be anyone with recommendations on good history podcasts aside from the history of Rome already mentioned? I’ve gotten into listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History recently and have been looking for more in the same vein.

        Definitely happy finding out about the History of Rome. I know what I am going to be downloading when I get home :)

      • bill says:

        If you are worried about bugs, why would you pre-order it?
        Wait until it comes out, gets some reviews, or even wait until players have played it enough to report bakc on whether it’s bugged. By that time it’ll be discounted anyway.

        I don’t get why people preorder. I especially don’t get why they pre-order and then complain that the game wasn’t good.

        • cassus says:

          I don’t get why people are so down on preorders.. Certain games are pretty damn safe to preorder, like the Total War series. I’ve played a few of them, rome, shogun, empire (actually REALLY loved empire. Not sure why so many hate it, it’s the perfect first total war game to play, especially if you want to learn a little bit about the war of independence.) and.. another one, can’t remember. I never preorder games cause I’m always broke most of the time, but I’d have no reservations preordering this game. Even if it comes out packed with bugs, it’s still a game I’ll buy day 1 cause I know that I’ll deal with the bugs just to play the damn game.. I want it!
          I also know that CA will patch bugs, they always do even if the player base whine 24/7, cause they know they need those whiners to buy the next game, therefore they will patch it, so, again, completely safe to preorder.

          The games you stay away from in regards to preorders are the games that do it disgustingly, and that’s basically down to EA and Activision. They are crapping money and they don’t need the preorder money.. They also keep INSANE prices throughout the preorder period and they rarely give you anything good for preordering. Also, EA games are on Origin.. I wouldn’t even buy stuff on there at half price.

          I’d like to add, I’ve been playing Fallen Enchantress the last few days and it’s pretty damn great. I have sort of an undead faction going now, and the tactical battles are very satisfying. One of my heroes has summon skeletal horde, and another one has some life stealing abilities.. That’s really all I need to be happy, but there is so much more awesome stuff in this game. If you like Total War, there’s a fair chance you’d like this. It’s like Civ with Heroes of Might & Magic slapped on top. Bugs seem to be squashed as well. 15 hours in, and nothing.

    • Vinraith says:

      The History of Rome is truly great, and it’s worth checking out Robin Pearson’s History of Byzantium, which is a continuation.

      http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/

      http://thehistoryofbyzantium.com/

      It’s a real shame there’s never been a great Roman history game. I’ve got high hopes for Hegemony Rome, but none for Rome 2. Total War games are a beautiful spectacle wrapped around a shallow, broken strategy game. I can’t help but chuckle at a discussion of “emergent behavior” in one of them, considering what we all know the AI is going to be like.

      • Curry the Great says:

        Is there a way I can download all of this by clicking one button?

      • lordcooper says:

        You know nothing, John Snuuuuuuh.

      • sonson says:

        Which was the last one you played?

        You seem very quick to attack them based on comparative little experience with them of late

        Tom Chick, who hates poor AI, loved Shogun 2. Most of the Three moves ahead crowd loved it. Hoary old grognard TIm Stone loved it. Unless you actually *play* it it’s impossible to really understand how much the last game brought everything on, AI in particular, to a phenomenal extent.

        • Baboonanza says:

          The AI in Shogun 2 did work much better that Empire, though I believe this was largely due to CA crafting the game around the limitations of their AI. The campaign worked well due the tight constraints of the map – it was essentially a network of valleys. The battle AI worked better for the lack of gunpowder units, and sure enough when these showed up in the expansion it suffered considerably.

          The battle AI needed for Total War games is extremely difficult really so it’s not surprising that they haven’t got it right yet, but I do have faith that they can improve it in Rome.

        • Vinraith says:

          I’ve played every iteration of the series since Rome 1. I’ve enjoyed none of them for more than 10 hours. They’re just not at all what I want in a strategy game. The spectacle always looks so good, but once one actually starts playing it becomes clear that spectacle is all they have going for them.

          • dolgion1 says:

            I take it that you enjoy Paradox games then? I’d recently bought the Total War Master Collection because I remembered enjoying Rome back in the day. I tried Empire and it felt like a pathetically limited game that was all looks and no substance, and misleading people to think they’re actual grand strategy. I also couldn’t begin to find any enjoyment in the battles. People seem to say Shogun 2 was a huge step in the right direction, and I’ll finally play it to figure out if there’s any chance of Rome 2 to interest me.

            It seems like Total War games are really good if you enjoy huge battle after huge battle and their tactical challenges, and some mild worldmap strategizing on top of it all.

            After enjoying Crusader Kings 2′s emergent gameplay, I’d be really surprised if Rome 2 can offer a gameplay experience anywhere near as dynamic as CK2.

          • sonson says:

            So you didn’t give them any investment then. 10 hours isnt near enough time to see what there is to see, as with most grand strategy.

            I adore CK2 but it took me a lot longer than 10 hours to get to that point.

            Of course if it wasn’t your thing in that time then that’s absolutely your prerogative; but your statement that there is nothing to it is not based on much empirical evidence. It would be like me saying Dark Souls is unfair and imbalanced on the basis of the fact that I kept dying all the time for my first few sessions.

      • Leb says:

        Medieval 2 (especially with latest Stainless Steel mod) is one of the greatest strategy games I have ever played.

        And you are talking to someone who considers himself somewhat of a Paradoxian

      • cassus says:

        I think you’re bashing TW Rome 2 for reasons only relevant to strategy snobs.. I recognize your attitude towards the game from pretty much all of the Europa Universalis/Hearts of Iron/insert ugly game with amazingly deep gameplay here. The TW games don’t aim to be those games, cause there’s no way in hell they could keep the budget of the TW games while selling to the 37 guys who buy the Europa Universalis/other crazy games. They make a 4X game in the style of Civ, not in the style of grand strategy amazeballsness that I’ve been working on getting into for the better past of the last decade.

        I’m the same way with all racing and fps games ever. If you think a racing game you’re playing is a simulator, then you’re probably wrong. If you think your FPS is realistic, then you’re definitely wrong. ArmA is as close as you’d get to a realistic shooter, and it’s not particularly realistic. Sadly, the only developer even trying is the developer behind ofp/ArmA, so wherever the next ArmA game takes us will be the pinnacle of FPS simulation, by miles and miles(of open terrain.)

        What I’m saying is.. We need to stop the snobbery. Games really aren’t made for the people who expect insane depth, they really aren’t. Unless they’re basically cloth maps with (sometimes animated) gifs you move around (and the gifs are fucking DLC……) That’s the budget you’ll have if you’re making that hardcore a game. Wish it was different, those days are over, if they were ever here in the first place.

    • Jockie says:

      I wonder if there is the possibility of a Spartacus style slave uprising taking place within the main campaign.

      Additionally I’d love to play a campaign as a Roman slave faction.

  4. Runty McTall says:

    “…the battles are as attractive as a neodymium magnet…”

    :D

  5. grechzoo says:

    Im so glad I have a terrible PC, I cannot afford to buy this, on top of EUIV and GTAV.

    Also it helps my personal tastes are suited more to the deeper strategic mechanics of the Paradoxian grand strategy games. (Which are also much more forgiving on my poor slugging PC.)

    However I will always have love for creative assembly for introducing me to the genre, and they have quite the pretty thing on their hands.

  6. NyuBomber says:

    “(playing Rome on the set of HBO’s Rome, just outside the city of Rome)”

    Rome-ception!

  7. doma says:

    In the interview you plan to do later. Please ask about the modability of Rome 2.

    • lordcooper says:

      I’m pretty sure the interview has already happened.

    • Great Cthulhu says:

      Myself, I would very much like to know how the endgame diplomacy is handled. I greatly disliked how at the end of Shogun 2 everyone turns against you, irrespective of prior relations, odds of winning, distance, etc. It both ruined my immersion, and made every turn of the endgame a tedious sequence of full-stack battles.

      • sonson says:

        Firmly cemented alliances with trust worthy partners which are well maintained will remain. Or at least they did on every campaign I’ve played, difficulty normal and Hard.

        Personally I found a well played realm divide to be the perfect antidote of reaching critical mass and beating everyone else into the ground without any semblance of challenge. Kept things interesting right up to the end.

        • Great Cthulhu says:

          More power to you if you liked the mechanic. Honestly. I just happen to find it tremendously un-fun, so if it’s in Rome 2 as well, then I won’t buy it until it’s dirt cheap. Which would be a shame, because I really loved the first Rome.

  8. tnzk says:

    If only you were allowed to rome around a little bit more, Adam.

    • Haplo says:

      Apparently he wanted to, but he was caught up in a legion of journalists.

      • Aibrys says:

        Or perhaps a horde of developers?

      • Premium User Badge Skeletor68 says:

        That is so praetentious.

      • The Random One says:

        He should be glad they sent a preview code and didn’t embargo his report. So he could play it at rome and then spqr about it.

      • Fumarole says:

        The journalists were so dense one could pilum up and use them to keep back the common folk.

    • sonson says:

      Veni, vidiogames, vici

  9. bstard says:

    Warhammer?!

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Creative Assembly recently got the rights to make (some) Warhammer Fantasy games.

  10. Pesticide says:

    How was the AI, everyone seems to deliberatly not write anything about the campaign AI of battle AI sofar making me fear the worst, that its the same silly 2 year old ill be crushing over and over and just trow stuff at my screen on how silly and stupid it is, a pretty picture isnt going to keep me playing for hours if the AI is rubbish like it has been for almost all warscape empire total war engine series :(

    • lordcooper says:

      Try reading the article.

    • sonson says:

      This was true up to Shogun 2 and the various add ons. If they’re using the same AI as of the latest version it will be very decent.

      • Premium User Badge wengart says:

        Yea, since the debacle that was Empire there seems to be a concerted effort to improve the AI, both on the battlefield, and on the campaign map. It isn’t perfect, but it is good enough for me to enjoy the game immensely.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Are there any games that involve political strategy, army strategy, battle tactics and trade that have really good AI?

      I mean it must be hard to program something with so many variables involved surely.

      … and at least they don’t send horsemen against spear now XD

      • Frye2k11 says:

        Individual soldiers didnt have AI at all, except their obsession with getting back into formation. The problem with the AI was entire platoons letting themselves get slaughtered because one of the men got stuck on a building. Personally I bought about 4 or 5 of their games before I lost hope.

  11. sonson says:

    I do find the level of criticism TW games get to be pretty over the top. I’ve a veteran of the series, I bought the first game on day of release and have done the same with all iterations since, so I’m hardly objective here. That being said you would probably struggle to find someone who had a more withering attitude towards the AI failings of the series once the 3D engine kicked in, or anyone who was more keen to see a more believable diplomatic/factional simulation than the alternating dog pile/political stillwater that most maps became. It was rarely a challenge for the right reasons. The AI was very very poor after Rome up until Shogun 2 (although it is very good as of now).

    That being said, there are few games that I can recall that have been both so ambitious and, more impressively, which have come so close to achieving that ambition.
    People always talk about how all the series does is add “more graphics” but if anything the tactical battles and pretties have changed the least. The campaign map however has evolved from narrative mingame in the first two games to a Civ lite simulator to an actually pretty robust 4x campaign map game with RPG elements and a very impressive AI which follows exactly the same rules as the player until higher difficulty levels and puts up a good fight with it. All the while maintaining some of the most epic set pieces PC gaming has to offer in one of the most visually beautiful and technologically scalable packages, with a sense of spectacle that is still pretty much unrivalled. The contexts are imaginative-Early Modern Japan-or suitably epic-Rome- and invest heavily in balancing a sense of narrative context and authenticity against fun and creativity.

    I can only think of a few other modern examples which embody that quality of hugeness and richness which was a mark of classic PC Gaming a decade and half ago or so that can boast of coming anywhere near as close as fulfilling it. The TW series embodies what PC gaming is to a considerable extent. The TW series would not be able to exist on any other format or in any other medium. It possesses that sort of insane, geeky enthusiasm and earnest vision that is very British and Arthur Sinclair-y. TW needs the scope of the PC to execute it’s vision, and while it has creaked until it’s considerable bulk it nonetheless manages to pull off its conceit with aplomb.

    Like I said I *hated* the AI up until recently but I still played the series for probably thousands of Hours, because it’s unlike anything else and the majority of it’s components work and they work well. You want to play toy soldiers on your own, and give them a narrative to fight against, there is nothing better in the world as far as I’m concerned. There are better 4x games; there are better tactical games; there are more historically accurate ones; but there are none that come close to being as good at marrying the three. No-one ever seems to question why such a financially successful and huge series has no real credible challengers. I just don’t think anyone else can do it.

    Obviously Blood Pack DLC and poor AI five years ago makes all of this moot of course.

    • NoseBagUK says:

      @sonson Well said

    • BTAxis says:

      I think it’s just fashionable to hate on TW nowadays.

    • gunny1993 says:

      The only thing I really have a problem with in the AI is some of the political stuff, which tends to be rather arbitrary at points and cheating AI at any level higher than normal. (pulling armies out of their ass and so forth)

      On the battle map their tactics are alright, no match for a competent human brain, but acceptable (and i have plenty of human brains to play against)

      But thing thing which makes the series great is the mixture of all these things, it makes victories so much more fulfilling than on other strat games….

      Oh and it’s fun as hell

      • sonson says:

        The political options are there in Shogun 2 if you want to pursue them. I revolted, assassinated and bribed my way to half of Japan in my last play through. Also the penalties for warmongering and being dishonourable mean you have to think these things through more unless you just want to be permanently at war with everyone.

        And plenty people *do* just want to be at war with everyone, and that’s fine! But there are absolutely the options for greater depth in the latest TW offerings if you want there to be. They just require some dedication and forethought, which is how it should be.

        In the other TW games it’s pretty moot though, although still adds a lot to the narrative if you’re of a mind to use your imagination. But it’s essentially “at war” and “not at war yet”. But that’s the heritage of it as a pretty Risk clone. It is unquestionably evolving into a grand strategy as of late. The battles are in fact more or the less the only thing that *haven’t* changed, bar AI improvements.

        • Leb says:

          I felt Shogun 2 to be the lightest on diplomacy compared to both Medieval 2 & Empire.. Medieval 2 having the most interesting & non-broken mechanics

          Biggest issue with Shogun 2 diplomacy is that there is no point to it. You could marry your daughter off, give them 10k gold each turn, suck them off dry for however many turns, and they’ll still turn against you at realm divide

          • Chris D says:

            Eventually yes, but not immediately. In my most recent campaign I had a three way alliance going with two other clans. Come realm-divide they took out most of the opposition, who had to march through them to get to me, before turning on each other, leaving me with a relatively straight forward march into Kyoto and victory not long after.

            It’s true you can’t rely on permanent alliances but they can last long enough to be useful.

          • sonson says:

            No they won’t. Play it right and you’ll have two coalitions playing each other at Realm Divide, not you v the world. I worked on that every game I played after my first and always had allies. You just need to really invest in the system.

    • Curry the Great says:

      I think they do deserve a lot of the criticism. Good battle AI is just so fundamental to a long-term experience that there’s no excuse they only had one guy on it and leave it up to modders to fix. And it being “fashionable” to hate on Creative Assembly is just the dumbest thing ever. They get the criticism for a reason, they hype their game up and then leave glaring flaws in it that they barely fix later (no sea invasions anyone? Britain is undefeatable by AI cause they can’t sail an army across the channel, that’s not a glaring flaw at all!). The AI criticism has been valid in all releases so far, so all that frustration accumulates.

      I was very dissapointed in buying empire for a full price. I’m glad I found a good deal for Rome 2 so I don’t have to feel as bad, but CA is indeed notorious for a reason.

      • sonson says:

        This was true in 2008, of Empire. It was not at all true in 2011 of Shogun 2 however which fixed all those issues more or less. So a whole series has come and gone and fixed those issues. There is no rational reason to assume they will revert back to the bad practice of five years ago, which was done with a different engine, over the critically acclaimed practice of their most recent iteration, which is using the same engine as Rome II. I think that’s just common sense.

        • Curry the Great says:

          I sincerely hope you’re right, and I do feel good about Rome 2 so far. There have been many problems in games that I think common sense would have solved long ago, but that were still there, so I’m not trusting that anymore.

  12. Elmarby says:

    While I optimistically pre-ordered, I am getting more and more worried about the AI.
    We’ve seen very little of it in the promotional stuff CA put out so far. Even in Empire they bragged about how good it was it and that game’s AI was utterly incapable of fighting in the way that was typical at the time. The PR departments seems a lot more shy about AI in this title, and I fear it is not modesty motivating their reluctance.

    In this era pike and spear demands some pretty strict cooperation between units. Will we once again see units of Macedonian pike try to go it alone instead of sticking together?

    It is not all bad though, they seem to trimmed the silly units like flaming pigs and whatnot. Other then some Hollywood style boulder rolling I’ve not seen too much dubious goings on. What a-historical pandering remains is likely removed as quick as the waiting modders can figure out how.
    Because ultimately that is where all of the Total War games really start shining, in the hands of modders.
    With Darth working on a game of his own i hope the old Europa Barbarorum group is still alive and kicking to whip this game into shape.

    • sonson says:

      Maybe my copy of Shogun 2 was magic or something but the AI was absolutely competent in land battles. Flanked with cavalry, used terrain, skirmish screens, defended archers and artillery and flanks with spears, used units against correct counters, kept troops in reserve, prized flank and rear attacks.

      I had to focus on battles more than in any other TW bar the first two, which it’s at least on a par with in AI terms. If my line was weak or too static or fragmented, or my advance all over the place then I’d get punished. Armies with strong morale and experience where a bitch to crack, armies with poor AI melted quickly.

      • Leb says:

        Shogun 2′s ais main flaws (in my opinion) were
        - needlessly running, all the time almost. Would often tire out before player
        - When the AI was defending on siege. Running came into play here (recall all of the AIs unites playing ring-around-the-dojo within the castle walls).

        Due to the issues in siege (and the uninteresting siege maps) – siege battles became a chore rather than something fun to do. There are many nights where I quit my session early because I was just not in the mood to sit in for another siege battle.

        • sonson says:

          Sieges were rubbish aye. The difficulty with sieges is they cease to be about the manoeuvre of large bodies of men and become more isolated contests and skirmishes. An engine designed to do the former is going to struggle to do the latter. So they should either devise a different one, or change the nature of siege to reflect the former (not sure how/if that would work) otherwise it will always feel off.

      • Elmarby says:

        While Shogun 2′s tactical AI was indeed pretty decent, one should not get too confident that this will continue. Firstly because CA has a long history of screwing the artificially intelligent pooch.
        But more importantly because a feudal Japanese army would not fight the same as a Macedonian army. It cant, it doesn’t have the same troop types. CA just copy pasting the AI out of Shogun 2 into Rome 2 might not work out well for the blocks of Sarissa armed phalanxes.

        • sonson says:

          I think at this level of abstraction the ai required for ashigaru with long yari in a spear wall formation flanked by cavalry will translate fine to sucsessor phalanxes flanked by companion cavalry. Obviously there is a difference between the two but for a game concerned with battle lines and manoeuvre the two are certainly analogous

          I would like to see Elephants and chariots done right, as opposed to just being bowling balls, but I can see already that ain’t happening without modding at least. But it’s a small issue.

  13. Chiron says:

    You know the other day I was just thinking “What I’d like is a Crusader Kings/Total War mashup, we can call it Condotierri, it’ll be set in Italy and you control a general and his dynasty, you have no control over cities and must manage your court full of men who each possess a ‘lance’ of men (50-100 troops), there will be intrigue, shenanigans, battles with other mercenary captains, Popes causing havoc, Podesta’s using you to topple Republics, Bribery and Chaos”

    Sounds like R:TW2 is at least halfway towards this… lovely jubbly

    • Binho says:

      Yes! That sounds awesome!!

      I’d personally also want to see a game that deals with all the pre-battle logistics, manuevering and strategizing as well. A sort of proper ancient military campaign simulator. That’s just me though :)

  14. fredc says:

    I don’t get the continued Empire hate. It’s my most replayed – in fact I’ve just started a new Swedish campaign. Napoleon certainly improved the engine and the gameplay somewhat, but the sense of scale just isn’t the same.

    In contrast, while I adore the Shogun 2 engine and especially the FOtS setting, the automatic AI dogpile was royal PITA (yes, I know you can now mod it out). It seems like it was a crutch for some basic problem with game balance and modelling the complexity of Japanese feudal politics, and was completely ahistorical (in a not-fun way, not a what-if way). Sekigihara involved two coalitions of daimyo, not Tokugawa versus the rest of Japan, so why does the game insist on giving us the latter?

    • Leb says:

      While I enjoy the period & atmosphere & campaign of empire. The battle AI is atrocious – even with the mod community’s help

      • gunny1993 says:

        Tbf i think it was more an issue of the massive tactical move from previous games, i mean archers and swordsmen are a totally different kettle of fish to an army based upon firearms.

        • sonson says:

          I still played it-alot-but a game called “Empire” which is about colonialism is kind of pointless without that imperial competition. And there wasn’t any because no one could use boats properly.

          Napoleon was very good though

          • Chiron says:

            Funny, thats what the British Empire used to say :D

          • gunny1993 says:

            I meant in regards to the battle AI, the improvements of which you can see, as you said, in napoleon.

  15. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    I want an Archimedes mod, complete with battle cranes and death laser mirrors.

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  16. Commander Gun says:

    I remember the old Rome TW, where i was using 2 bands of archers to just wait before the wall. The enemy would march it’s cavalry/infantry units to the wall, i would shoot ten or twenty guys to their maker, the enemy would run away. Rinse and repeat. Or i would march 2 cheap infantry units to the front, let them engage their entire infantry units, and let cheap cavalry just run around them, attack i8n thier back and disperse them that way. I guess there are multiple other ways to do that.

    Despite that, whe whole atmosphere of the game was absolutely fantastic and it remains my best TW experience so far, with quite some distance too.
    Here’s to hoping the AI learned something!

  17. kharnevil says:

    One would like to see some detailed berating of Sega and why this most beloved of series is not available in Asia on Steam (Hong Kong based). Impossible to purchase through Steam stores, and our only option is to buy from over priced retail. I had to buy Shogun 2 while visiting the UK for a few months and temporarily registering my Steam account UK side.

    because, like, I wanna play it :(

    • Leb says:

      what about 3rd party steam sellers like Greenmangaming & getgamesgo?

      • kharnevil says:

        not sure, I can check them out soon, I got royally stung with retail with Empire too, the retail copy was Steam UK code, doesn’t work from over here, had to activate that by changing addresses and using a proxy.

    • Trithne says:

      That’s odd, since I picked up a copy of Shogun 2 in Wan Chai and had no issues registering it. I never looked for it on Steam itself though.

  18. AKRaven says:

    i hope they crack it fast .

  19. dsch says:

    Extraneous apostrophe in “player’s”; “interwoven” for “interweaved”.

  20. Jimbo says:

    Do these games have a Toggle HUD key yet? It annoys me every time I play TW and I can never figure out how to do it / if they even have one. Having it as a menu option is no use at all.

    • trooperdx3117 says:

      K on the keyboard will toggle the interface on and off since Empire I believe. Also insert will bring the game down to a really close up view of your units

  21. Outsider says:

    Great writing as always, Adam. I am so excited about this game it hurts!

  22. Boosterh says:

    While I am excited by the new things I’ve seen in Rome II, and I look forward to playing it extensively, I will say that I am a little worried that they will keep cycling through the same settings we always see in these sort of games. Knights, Samurai, Legionaires, and Musketeers are cool and all, but I would love to see Total War go somewhere less well trod: Romance of the Three Kingdoms China, maybe; or pre Mughal India; possibly the rise of Islam. I still like the classic settings, but I’d love to see their take on some less pop culture theatres.

    • Misnomer says:

      Always wanted to see if a game could actually cause a war? Rise of Islam sounds like a very very bad idea to me even assuming you get around the depictions of the prophet thing.

      I have often felt though that the Franco Prussian War and World War 1 were decently suited to Total War treatment. Trench warfare would be tough, but before that period there was certainly some interesting stuff for a game design perspective.

      If they really really wanted a challenge they could try pre-colonial America (North, Central, and South) and Africa. Call it Total War: Forgotten Empires . Unfortunately those would be politically dangerous as well.

      • Boosterh says:

        Franco-Prussian War might be a good idea, and I love the Forgotten Empires one, but I think that the TW battle engine is a poor fit for WWI. It might be able to handle the classic Western Front trench warfare, but I could see that getting really boring to play, very quickly; and the more dynamic, and tactically interesting battles would need something less like the TW rectangles of dudes, and more like Company of Heroes.

      • dolgion1 says:

        I can’t imagine how they would implement good air plane combat. Just reducing planes for air strikes wouldn’t cut it.

    • Superpat says:

      I agree with you, my favorite game in Empire was playing as the Marathi indians and kicking the Mughals out of India, I didn’t really play farther than that..

    • Baines says:

      I’d kind of like to see them tackle Romance of the Three Kingdoms era. Not even entirely for the game itself, but in the hopes that it would light a fire under Koei, getting them to step up their own games again.

      I’d also kind of like to see Paradox tackle that area of the world, but that is because I’d like to one day see them release some kind of mega-game that had the world scale of Europa Universalis but with the local detail of Crusader Kings and Sengoku, and the first step of that mega-game would be for them to give the Crusader Kings treatment to more areas of the world.

  23. Cleave says:

    I can’t wait for Warhammer Total War. They’d better be making it..

    • Tayh says:

      I’m with ya.
      I tried downloading the Warhammer mod for Medieval 2, but I could never find out how to translate it to English and not make it crash on startup.

  24. Binho says:

    Do want!! I’m very much looking forward to this! :) Looks and sounds amazing!!

    Must resist nitpicking thou….ahhhhhh…Warships of these periods wouldn’t sail in to battle with their masts up nor is it likely they had the same sort of rigging as 17th century sailing ships and according to the latest finds their rams were smaller than originally thought and graeco-roman temples would have been at least partially painted…oh Iuppiter, it all come out! Sorry! It’s honestly miles better than Rome 1 though, and hopefully it will be moddable too!

  25. sdancer says:

    Hopefully it gets some form of setting to make naval battles completely optional, as in, irrelevant to gameplay. Seeing a screenshot with many ships in a TW game is a frightening thing, with that being one of the worst UX nightmares of the series so far, apart from the excessive unexplainably high system requirements.

  26. byghostlight says:

    What is it with the Total War series, their UI’s are always hit and miss. originally Rome one was brilliant and suited the style and mood but this ultra modern aero one doesnt.

  27. selena25 says:

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  28. GameDreamer says:

    I can’t wait for this game! It’s one of the reason to have a gaming PC.

    And I’m so glad that there is a limited offer giveaway here:

    Free CD Key

    Love it!