Try And Trireme Again: Total War – Rome II

Professor Veronica Marbles, chair of the Serious Person’s Classical History Forum, would almost certainly be outraged by the contents of the video below. It’s almost four minutes of naval combat in Total War: Rome II, you see, and it’s so preposterously crunchy and wonderfully dramatic that it can’t possibly reflect the reality of wooden ships at war. At one point a pack of smaller ships surround a larger vessel, punching holes out of its hull, like particularly angry jackals swarming across an elephant. Boarding operations resemble terrifying alien invasions, furious creatures pouring from deck to deck with no regard for life or limb. One ship simply chooses to disintegrate on impact. Surely, Professor Marbles, this was not the way of it? “THE RIGGING IS IMPERFECTLY PORTRAYED”

Large scale naval warfare doesn’t play a part in the prologue code I’ve been playing, but this is the first time I’ve wanted to play with the boats as much as with the people. Well, maybe not quite as much, but I definitely want to play with the elephants more than everything else.

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  1. Gormongous says:

    Argh, fine. I’ll go ahead and bite. As late as the seventh century, Germanic peoples thought this was a ship fit to bury with a lord at Sutton Hoo. As much as I can remember from reading Peter Wells and Barry Cunliffe a few years back, the average Germanic ship around the birth of Christ was, at best, a thirty-person canoe or umiak with no sails, closer to a coracle than a longship.

    But yeah, Vikings rah rah, whatever. Looks very nice!

    • BwenGun says:

      True enough, though seventh century is a fair bit beyond the the time frame of the game. Still the Celts did build rather large and sturdy vessels and traded a fair bit about Europe, and whilst it would stretch the imagination for every ship the Germanic peoples in game use to be effectively rented from Celts it’s better than the alternative. Which is that the Germans would have no ships at all worth a damn in combat. Which would be rather silly from a gameplay perspective.

      • Gormongous says:

        I agree about fitting authenticity to gameplay, but I feel like they missed a chance to build in some asymmetry that, while not that much more historical, could have been a lot more interesting. Ramming and boarding works fine in the Mediterranean, but naval combat is more of a maneuvering and waiting game in the North Sea. Imagine small little Germanic boats darting between Rome’s hexaremes as they are thrown about by the waves of the open ocean, sniping and harassing until a wave founders one and they go in for the kill…

        Or we can just have everything fit to the Greco-Roman model by giving barbarians longships from one thousand years in the future. That’s easier, for sure.

        • cpt_freakout says:

          That would be amazing (I love asymmetrical combat because of the tactical possibilities) , but imagine CA’s AI trying to cope with such a system. It would probably try to ram the super fast little Germanic ships anyway. Still, an implementation like that would be really great.

        • CantankerousDave says:

          Time-traveling barbarians? Those are the worst kind of barbarians. Did no one learn from “Yor: Hunter From the Future”?

          • Bweahns says:

            Yor, Hunter from the Future is in my 4 out of 5 star bad movies folder. Very amusing bad movie. I love the scene where a cave is collapsing on him and you can see him laughing as the foam blocks hit his head. He is such a solid 80’s hunk into the bargain.

            In regards to the naval combat, it is great to see it included but the impacts are really lame. As for historical accuracy just wait for the mods.

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        2lab says:

        The Celts were a gemanic tribe, some of the boats they had were pretty good, it’s not a far strech.

        • Manco says:

          No, just no. Celts Were not Germanic. They were Celtic, a separate – though also Indo-European- cultural group that once spanned nearly all of Europe, nearly destroyed Rome in its early days and provided some damn good mercenaries to half the Mediterranean for centuries on end.

        • killias2 says:

          As has been said, the Celts were their own group. Think of, say, Gaelic/Irish. That’s a Celtic language. It’s not Germanic at all. English, however, is Germanic.

    • Reiver says:

      It’s the alt history angle. Admittedly CA’s approach to this (i.e. redcoat stats in Empire) is inconsistent which I think gives rise to a lot of dissonance but the idea is that, should the circumstances been right, this is where the Germanic tribes could have gone had they decided to compete at sea.

    • ratache says:

      Looks nice and all but seriously? Barbarians in full blown naval combat, thats just crazy..

    • WinTurkey says:

      CA have explicitly stated that they’ve been making shit up for the end-game barbarian units to make them interesting to play and not underpowered. They have their own tech tree with which they can conceivably take over the mediterranean, which includes naval units that they never got to build in real life because of Rome.

      • Dunbine says:

        Beat me to it.

      • Manco says:

        Considering quite a few Germanic tribes were active in piracy, assuming they’d build these kinds of ultimately fairly simple ships given the resources is not that much of a stretch.

        After all the actual Germanics like the Franks adapted pretty quick once they were top dog.

      • Gormongous says:

        Again, I’m not really objecting to historical extrapolation for the endgame. As several people pointed out, there were Celtic ships like cogs or barges that could have been elaborated upon. What bugs me is that they couldn’t come up with anything better than “Well, maybe the Germans have longships a millennium early” for it in the end.

        To give you an idea of how absurd of a reach that is, imagine we give the Aztecs whatever weapons are being used in Mexico in the year 2519 to fight back against Cortés in 1519 for the next Medieval: Total War. Only if the player really has their act together, of course.

        • Boosterh says:

          Okay, unhelpful hyperbole there.
          First off, the rate of technological growth is (at least) quadratic, not linear, so 200 BC to 800 AD =/= 1500 AD to 2500 AD.
          Second, I think it is a reasonable alt-history supposition. Longships are the next logical evolution of the 30 man “war canoe” that the ancient Northern Europeans did use. Sure, in our timeline that advancement took nearly a millennium, but I see no reason that a Germanic Empire, led by a succession of dynamic rulers, and in contact with (and learning from) a variety of other seafaring cultures couldn’t have made the jump faster. I mean, maybe a naval expert could correct me, but I can’t think of, off hand, any insurmountable technical obstacle preventing Roman Era cultures from building a longship, the way I can Aztecs trying to build gauss cannons or laser rifles or something.

          • Gormongous says:

            There might be a bit of a problem with scale, but I think you’re cashing in on hindsight quite a bit. Don’t you think that, a thousand years from now, armchair historians will talk about how quantum gauss cannons were “the next logical evolution” to laser pointers or something? The building of the keel, the nailing and padding of the frame, and every other element of the design in the longship are not obvious from the way of building ships in antiquity, which is why it took them a thousand years to be developed and why they were still centuries ahead of their time when they were developed. Just because they look somewhat similar to what existed at the time does not mean they were a hop, skip, and jump away. What, were Germanic peoples just dumb and lazy, since it took them a millennium to get around to longships by themselves? Why didn’t the Romans, blessed with smart and powerful leaders, build their own longships and discover America before the Vikings? Why does anything in history happen when it does and not before or after?

            And you still don’t address my main point, which is that longships are a thousand years out of place from an art design standpoint, regardless of technological feasibility. Why can’t Creative Assembly design their own extrapolated ships, rather than using a preexisting design that sticks out like a sore thumb to anyone in the know?

          • Manco says:

            Artwise, I’m fairly certain they did use the Hjortspring-style boats as major inspiration.
            At first glance those ships seem like wider and longer versions.

          • Boosterh says:

            I am not trying to say that the Germans were lazy or stupid. What I am saying is that a fragmented, subsistence level society has less capacity for experimentation than a “civilised” empire (assuming the existence of imperial competitors, modified by cultural/physical factors, etc.), and that a polity that has extensive (or at least extant) contact with the wider world can piggyback off of innovations from other areas. The clinker-style construction is first historically seen in this era (~200 AD according to Wikipedia), the sails could be introduced by Mediterranean cultures that had already developed them, and the scale can be explained as the difference between a tribal village building a raiding boat, and a national military building a warship.

            However, I am interested in what you think CA should be using instead. You say you want to see extrapolated ships, and I want to know, if not a longship, what do you think those extrapolated vessels should look like?

          • NickNerd says:

            Didn’t the Romans have shit for ships after the first Punic war, and then all of a sudden a Carthage ship crashed up on shore and the Romans just copied that piece by piece and Voila! Caught up with the Carthaginians. I’m pretty sure Germanic barbarians could have done the same thing.

    • tnzk says:

      This, though I understand why they may be doing so.

      Let’s hope Rome II gets a Total Realism mod. One of the best mods for any Total War game ever!

  2. BTAxis says:

    I think maybe the biggest impact of the new naval system is the amount of troops you can fit on them. In past TW games modders have tended to boost the size of each unit to make battles feel bigger, but that may not be so easy anymore considering boats actually transport units now. Wonder how that’s going to work out.

    • DougyM says:

      CA reps have already stated that there is a value in one of the games main files that any user can open in notepad and enter a new value to change the size of the games units.

      For example the basic value is 1, if you went in and made it 2 then every unit suddenly doubles in size.

      The game also comes with the usual in built unit size options (normal being 80, tiny being 40 men per standard unit, largest being 160).

      So by doubling the value you would technically get 320 men per standard infantry unit if you had the game on its max ingame size settings.

      (they also stated there is no hard coded limit so you could go mental and wreck your computer as it tries to render 10 times as many men in a unit than normal, for instance)

      How that relates to the soldiers on the boats is unclear, perhaps they have a set limit beyond which you simply wont see more troops despite an actual land battle being 2-3 times the normal size?

      Guess we will have to wait and see how that pans out.

  3. lordcooper says:

    The ship that decided to explode when tapped by that other one was bloody silly. Other than that I’m liking what I see.

  4. Jorum says:

    I would liked more detailed ramming damage with sides of ships being caved in or splitting. At the start those barbarian ships ram at full speed right into ship and just stop.
    It appears to be either absolutely no (visual) damage or spontaneously explode entire ship.

    I know realistic looking impacts would have been very hard work, but when you are doing naval combat in ancient period ramming is pretty much 90% so..

    • Grygus says:

      I *think* the barbarian ships are destroying the railing where they hit, but my brain may have made that up and now I’m too scared to verify. I do agree that the damage model seems simplistic, but honestly just being able to board with more than one ship at a time is enough to please me.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Yeah, it looks pretty bad when the ships hit.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I suppose it’s a minor point, but that bothered me too. The ships look like cardboard cutouts with no mass and inertia when they impact each other. The exploding effect when a ship is destroyed looks bad too.

      And to further nitpick… the oars just clip when another ship passes over them. Would it have been that hard to show oars shattering on impact with another ship’s hull, like a scene from one of the old Hollywood sword and sandal epics? Shattering the enemy’s oars is half the fun! Also, the ships are probably moving way too fast, but realistic speed under oars (especially in heavy weather like some of those scenes) might not be exciting enough for non-naval-nerd gamers.

      Oh well, naval combat has never been one of CA’s strengths. I still can’t forgive them for making square rigged ships in Empire that sailed directly upwind on invisible engines. This looks like it will work well enough to resolve naval engagements, and there is always auto-resolve if it ends up being too silly to watch.

    • crinkles esq. says:

      Yeah I think not just the binary “nothing or disintegration” damage model bothered me, but the lack of the physics model responding to the collision, with ships listing to and fro. The ships do slightly bob in the water when cruising around, which makes me think this is just an animation and not a physics system being applied to the boats. The great-looking, rolling sea makes me expect more realistic ship interactions.

  5. Skyhigh says:

    The possible Romefications of a Trireme ramming into another ship should never be underestimated.

  6. neolith says:

    Whoever wrote the shader for the water is my new personal hero, it looks amazing! I really hope they’ll do a nice making-of-video including its creation.

    • mike2R says:

      I hadn’t even noticed the water. That’s probably the highest compliment I can think of.

    • Jorum says:

      Empire had pretty stunning sea (for it’s time) from what I remember. Haven’t actually got round to naval battle in Shogun so not sure what it’s like there.

      But yeah looks really nice. As mike2R says the fact you just kind of take it for granted as “yeah that the sea” says a lot.

  7. John Connor says:

    What are the load time like? Even on an SSD they make SHOGUN 2’s late game unplayable unless you autoresolve constantly.

    • iniudan says:

      Never had load time trouble with Shogun 2 even on a regular hard drive, I just come to auto resolve has after a while it become boring to fight every battle where you know you have the advantage that just impossible to mess up.

  8. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Où est le exploding barrels?

  9. Sheogorath says:

    It looks to me like they haven’t made any major updates to the naval combat that we had in Empire.

    Note that when a ship is ‘killed’ by ramming, it actually explodes in the center, in more or less the same fashion ships in ETW/NTW exploded when their powder stores went up.

    Gee. What a coinkydink.

    I’m not even going to go into viking longships in 200 BC. That’s not even CA’s usual “lets just make up some cool fantasy units” stuff. That’s just WRONG.

    • DougyM says:

      There was a tribe of sea faring gauls called the Veneti who in 57 BC where documented by Caesers own accounts of his campaigns.

      In 57 BC, the Gauls on the Atlantic coast, including the Veneti, were forced to submit to Caesar’s authority as governor. They were obliged to sign treaties and yield hostages as a token of good faith. However, in 56 BC, the Veneti captured some of Julius Caesar’s officers while they were foraging within their regions, intent on using them as bargaining chips to secure the release of the hostages Caesar had forced them to give him. Angered by what he considered a breach of law, Caesar prepared for war.

      “Given the highly defendable nature of the Veneti strongholds, land attacks were frustrated by the incoming tide, and naval forces were left trapped on the rocks when the tide ebbed. Despite this, Caesar managed to engineer moles and raised siegeworks that provided his legions with a base of operations. However, once the Veneti were threatened in one stronghold, they used their fleet to evacuate to another stronghold, obliging the Romans to repeat the same engineering feat elsewhere.”

      “Since the destruction of the enemy fleet was the only permanent way to end this problem, Caesar directed his men to build ships. However, his galleys were at a serious disadvantage compared to the far thicker Veneti ships. The thickness of their ships meant they were resistant to ramming, whilst their greater height meant they could shower the Roman ships with projectiles, and even command the wooden turrets which Caesar had added to his bulwarks. The Veneti manoeuvred so skilfully under sail that boarding was impossible. These factors, coupled with their intimate knowledge of the coast and tides, put the Romans at a disadvantage. However, these advantages would not stand in the face of Roman perseverance and ingenuity. Caesar’s legate Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus was given command of the Roman fleet, and in a decisive battle, succeeded in destroying the Gaulish fleet in Quiberon Bay, with Caesar watching from the shore. Using long billhooks, the Romans struck at the enemy’s halyards as they swept past (these must have been fastened out-board), having the effect of dropping the huge leathern mainsails to the deck, which hopelessly crippled the vessel whether for sailing or rowing. The Romans were at last able to board, and the whole Veneti fleet fell into their hands.”

      link to


      Besides which people would complain endlessly if the factions that Rome conquered in real life could not compete in the game with them, imagine playing as Carthage and then all of a sudden you get no new tech or units because in real life they had been wiped off the face of the planet by Rome during the games time period.

      • Gormongous says:

        I think that speaks more to the silliness of the “tech tree” in a game about Rome rather than the necessity of giving classical barbarians medieval ships for parity’s sake.

        Also, and it’s been said before, but Germanic is not Celtic. Hell, Cisalpine Gallic is not Transalpine Gallic, for that matter.

      • Sheogorath says:

        Veneti ships were impressive, but they weren’t longships. They had more in common with the caravels/galleases of the 17th century. The images historians have produced of them look like a cross between a Mediterranean galley and one of those later-era ships.

        There aren’t even clinker-built ships AT ALL until the 4th century AD.

  10. Leb says:

    Looks like they finally got boarding right!

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  12. GameDreamer says:

    It seems the only animation that exists for ramming boats is the hull breaking down the middle. Also, all the men just fly up into the air. Still excited though.

    link to