Total Fight: Macedon vs Rome In Rome II

The Creative Assembly have released another big gameplay ‘n’ chat video for Rome II, in which CA’s own Al Bickham takes on Rome as the Macedonians, while playing on “very hard” difficult. Bickham is a guy who modifies and paints Games Workshop miniatures at a pro level, so his grasp of a paintbrush is not to be sniffed at. But does that also extend to strategy and tactics? CA explain: “We’re playing from the defender’s viewpoint, so it’s very much a case of “Come at me, bro!” as the enemy assaults his position. See how they employ their abilities and hardened military tactics to wear down our very own hero’s forces, with a sprinkle of cunning thrown in for free.”

Speaking of things thrown in for free, Rome II purchasers will get access to Arena, the F2P battle thing announced in March: “Including advanced beta access, exclusive in-game Legion Armoury bonuses and approximately $15(USD) of in-game currency…, ROME II players automatically earn ‘Legion’ status and will be able to experience the massed battle MMO before the game opens up to all.”

Latinate megabiff!

Whatever the dreary failures in the AI that might put people off this, I can’t wait to get stuck in. I realise I am a Total War apologist, but I make no apology for that.


  1. SpaceAkers says:

    Shameful Display

  2. Reapy says:

    I haven’t played total war in a while but for those with a better eye, was he playing shitty to attempt to nice up the AI? I thought it was nice how the general buffed guys up and stuff, but it seems to me they basically stacked it in the AI’s favor and did nothing to maximize their troop usage, like he put both his cav in woods and don’t they suck in there? He also made no moves to flank anything and just directly engaged.

    Basically he made no attempt to actually win. Good AI is when you lose while you are trying to win, not just blindly throwing troops against one another. They do this every time, try to make their AI look good by having someone play like ass against it, I don’t get it.

    • Leb says:

      While I’m no TW champ, usually a good player will micro their units more effectively.

      This battle had the usual PR feel – e.g. let’s make these units fight and zoom in to see the pretty graphics.

      Regardless, the AI general properly maneuvering and buffing, and enemy units positioning themselves for follow up attacks on weakened units seems like a huge improvement of the AI in S2. I’d have to see (and play) more to make any judgements though

    • Grey Cap says:

      On CA’s own Rome 2 forums, there are a million threads on this very subject. Many of them a bit heated. My guess is that mister Bickham spends a lot of time making total war games and not a lot of time practising them (not necessarily that the game was ‘rigged’).

      Anyway, I think a lot of players, probably the majority, play ‘badly’ and would not do much better themselves. So this is representative.
      Edit: I am a totally mediocre player. So those mistakes he made, I could easily replicate!

    • Chris D says:

      I think it was more a case of trying to play and talk at the same time. I would certainly have done things differently but I could kind of see what he was going for.

      I think the main problem was that he forgets drag selecting will make his troops run, which is what gives his position away in the forest and from there things fall apart quite quickly.

      Personally I would have taken more infantry and less cavalry to start with. His slingers go too far ahead of the main army and phalanxes are too slow to support them effectively. His cavalry might have been more effective if they hadn’t been discovered but as it is almost all of them get bogged down in fights with infantry. Trying to sneak through the forest isn’t a bad plan but he’s too close to respond quickly enough when things go wrong. His phalanxes are simply outnumbered by the time they get into the fight.

      Overall a few mistakes snowball fast and really he’s more concerned with moving the camera to show us the game rather than responding as quickly as he needs to if he’s really trying to win.

      I agree I would have liked to see the A.I. given a bit more of a challenge. It’s already reasonably good when it comes to matching up individual units but weaker to date at forming a coherent plan of attack and I don’t think we really got to see it tested in that regard. But I think it was cock up rather than conspiracy in this case.

    • Gormongous says:

      Yeah, I can only really speak from a mix of Rome and Shogun 2 experience, but he had a massive cavalry advantage that he failed to use at all. If he’d stacked them all on one side, he could have routed all the Roman cavalry and killed their general while using his hoplites to hold the Roman infantry in place.

      Instead, he put his cavalry way ahead of his infantry, didn’t support them at all, and let his skirmishers faff about while his line got swamped. The AI conducted itself competently, I think, but he was playing a frankly terrible game himself. I’m not sure if I could even be that bad on purpose.

    • TaylanK says:

      “Whatever the dreary failures in the AI that might put people off this…”

      Isn’t it terrible that this is the 8th game in the series and we still can’t expect a strong AI? I stopped getting suckered in after Empire, when I realized the tactical competency of AI in all TW games is equal to that of a drunken monkey having a stroke. For me it completely ruins all immersion and appreciation of everything else their games do well.

      • GoodKnight says:

        funny you should mention Empire.. It’s also the last game I bought from CA..
        They can talk all day about the AI but the reality is it will not be able to mount water invasions..

        • MasterDex says:

          Two things:

          1. Sea Invasions were fixed in the first year of release, that was back in 2009. 4 years ago now.

          2. Why would you have Empire: Total War and not have Darthmod? That’s like buying Minecraft for PC but never playing anything more than Vanilla.

          • GoodKnight says:

            so gone are the days where we relay on a game to come out WAD?
            From now on modders will finish shit off?

            Also Darth has retired! What now? And a YEAR after release is unfucking acceptable!

          • hamish says:

            CA also failed to hire darth after he applied to them, shows how little they care about AI, and was that the suicidal general again?

          • MasterDex says:

            Long gone are those days, my friend. Welcome to PC gaming. I know it’s new for the console kids but we’ve been dealing with patches and shit for years now. And CA, despite my personal grievances regarding their DLC strategy, have been good with support for their games.

            Also, let Darth retire. His mods work well enough as it is and they were all done on a volunteer basis. There are plenty more intelligent guys over at TWCentre to bring us some modded goodness.

            Finally, it was only a few months, not a whole year, before the sea invasion bug was fixed.

      • gunny1993 says:

        Are there any game that have a battle map like TW and have good AI?

        And the AI has been steadily getting better and better with every release, given any one of these battles has so many variables i’m not overly surprised the AI isn’t at human level.

        • GoodKnight says:

          Never asked for human level (would be nice duh) but basic shit like navel invasions would go a long way.. And not marching straight into my canister shot which happened both in Empire and in Empire 1.5 aka Napoleon..

          Stop pre ordering CA!

          • gunny1993 says:

            Well i can tell you from experience that AI certainly do use naval invasions, to annoying effect.

            And did you see the death toll for WW1 and 2, it’s perfectly normal for people to run at things that will obviously destroy them.

          • GoodKnight says:

            And yet a player would not do that.. So how is what you just said relevant? Maybe we would send 1 unit to keep the canon busy while the rest flanked or something like that but never ever an army..

    • Rindan says:

      I would say that the AI did a good job at dismantling a bad player.

      He had some decent ideas in there, but there were a bunch of cringe worth mistakes. Basically, everything he did with his cavalry was wrong. He couldn’t have wasted his cavalry more if he had tried.

      I would have held the horses further back in the woods so that the enemy formation could pass, and I probably would have stacked them all on one side. Getting the enemy tangled up in defensive units (like hoplites) and then crashing in on their rear is devastating. If my cavalry did get spotted, I would have had them run. Having your cavalry fight in the forest is just stupid and wasteful. Better the circle the enemy and give them something to think about. The same goes when his cavalry on the left got tangled up fighting infantry. Better to just eat some loss and pull back. These are not knights. They don’t stand well in combat against dudes with spears.

      He also would have been better off trying to flank with his expended ranged units instead of using them as road blocks. Having them stand and fight just buys you a few seconds, which in this case wasn’t going to turn the battle. He might have been able to get them around the backside of the enemy formation and suicide them into the rear to help his hoplites.

      All of that said, the AI seemed like it did a decent job. It used the forest the right way, and it piled onto weak units to break them.

    • Cinnamon says:

      He is better than bad.

      Hiding cav in woods to the flank and hoping that your opponent forgets about them or doesn’t guess they are there is common practice. What he was setting up was a standard “rope a dope” hammer and anvil strike with his cav coming round the sides. But this is so standard that it’s something that we have to expect the AI to be programmed to handle and this vid shows AI handling better than I expected.

      But his micro management of the cavalry was not good. He didn’t use his superior numbers to wrap around and do repeated hammer blows or use their mobility to avoid bad engagements. So his largest asset was not well used.

  3. Odoakar says:

    Buff to remove fatigue from your troops? What is this, fantasy rts, hero units with active abilities?!

    My interest in this game just plummeted:|

    Also, the battle seems the same as every single TW since Shogun. Bad AI is the biggest sore thumb.

    • thetruegentleman says:

      Its not that unrealistic; famous generals tend to get a reputation for inspiring seemingly superhuman efforts in their men, and all the more so in Classical antiquity, where you won’t find an unbiased source about major battles.

      I mean, sure, the men should probably collapse immediately after they finish fighting, but you can only put so much into a game…

      • Bhazor says:

        The battle of Munda is a good real life example on the near superhuman powers a general of antiquity can have. A 55 year old Julius Caesar charging the enemy frontlines all on his own, stopping about twenty feet short and then blocking the spears and arrows they threw as the rest of his army watched before charging in after him. Or theres how Hannibal put himself in front of his weakest troops during Cannae as a way to show he had no intention of letting them die. Which might be the only reason those troops didn’t rout at the first sight of the Romans.

        The cooldown’s do seem awfully gamey though. Would have preferred either constant passives or one off abilities.

        • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

          I also liked the time Alexander the Great took his bathysphere to the bottom of the sea and saw all kinds of wondrous things.

    • DougyM says:

      The battles are similar to Shogun 1’s in the same way that Battlefield 3’s gunfights are similar to Quake 2’s.

      At the end of the day it still a few thousand men running at each other and using an expanded Rock Paper Scissors system to simulate a battle.

      You wont notice the details and improvements from a cursory glance, if you have played the series then you will know that the battle flow and the AI has had its ups and downs but with Napoleon and Shogun 2 it has been getting better rather than worse.

      Failing that there are always the mods which come shortly after release which help to cover up any of the glaring AI problems.

      From looking at this video alone, even though the player was rather poor you can still see the AI doing several things it never did in the old titles.

      It pinned down his hoplites with heavy infantry to prevent them from manouvering, it then flanked those hoplites and used hammer and anvil tactics to rout them.

      It used its general to run around the battlefield and support troops who where in combat, compared to older titles where the enemy general would literally suicide charge into your spear walls.

      It flanked his forces with cavalry units and sent the appropriate ones to deal with the players units.

      While he played poorly the AI still made several correct moves that it has not done before in previous games.

    • GoodKnight says:

      I’m kind of with you on the generals abilities..

      And the examples that were given were rare and far in between..

  4. WJonathan says:

    “…while playing on “very hard” difficult.”

    Proofreading is your friend, Jim. Seriously, it was the first sentence.

  5. BTAxis says:

    Hiding troops in forests is always something that’s puzzled me a little. I can’t think of any good reason to do it? They always get spotted when the enemy gets closer, so you can’t use it to sneak units behind them or anything.

    • Leb says:

      There is a range to the spotting, also if i recall correctly it can have a morale effect on opposing troops if exposed to a large hidden force

    • Fumarole says:

      It can be absolutely deadly in multiplayer games where your opponent has limited attention. Versus a friend I once had a unit of spearmen hidden in trees to my rear. My opponent sent cavalry around the battlefield to try and attack me from the rear. Once he ordered them to attack I waited a second and then ordered my spears into a line to cover the rear. Sure enough his cavalry ran straight into their deaths while his attention was on the front line. As we were on voice chat at the time I grinned when a minute or so later he asked “Where’s my cavalry?”

    • Bhazor says:

      1) Take two regiments of spearmen
      2) Hide them in a forest
      3) Put general behind them off the flank of your main army
      4) Giggle.

      Even human opponents can’t resist sending a couple regiments of horse to attack a general like that. Given horses travel so fast and have short view range more often then not they’ll plow into the spearmen (or at least stop close enough for a spear charge) before you can cancel the order.

      Another use is to hold reserves. A block of fresh heavy infantry tucked out of sight can come in really handy after the front lines meet and the enemy skirmishers have run out of missiles.

  6. SuicideKing says:

    That’s pretty much what how my time with the Total War: Shogan’s demo went, on the normal difficulty level :|

  7. Grey Cap says:

    We can apologise together. Total War games are the best :)

  8. Okami says:

    I’d be more impressed by theAI’s prowess if the guy playing this would be paying at least a little attention to the battle. Come on, these are two rather moderately sized forces and not a whole lot to keep track off. Also he seems to spend a lot of time micromanaging unimportant stuff while totally forgetting at least a third of his troops.

    I love Total War despite its failings and have played every single game and expansion in the series and I will buy Rome 2, but his video didn’t convince me that there have been huge leaps in their battlefield AI.

    • BTAxis says:

      Well, possibly the general’s AI, but that remains to be seen. In previous TW games the single largest AI complaint was that the AI’s generals committed suicide against the enemy. If this AI doesn’t, that’s something I guess.

    • Superpat says:

      To be fair his attention was separated between the game and the camera, he probably had to get a few points across and show the fancy graphics instead of playing his a-game.

    • drewski says:

      Yeah, I’m not great general – I can beat Total War AI on Normal difficulty comfortably, but Hard gives me quite a challenge – but even I noticed how bad he was.

      You don’t need to be moving your skirmishers around in the rear while your cavalry is getting annihilated because they’re bogged down in the woods!

  9. Novotny says:

    I don’t believe the hype. I do trust RPS. Am so conflicted.

  10. Schneeble says:

    Good video, and it looks like they improved the AI. I do like how the AI keeps reserves and protect the general. Basic changes like these are a good addition to the game. Ithink it’s rather impossible to create the perfect ai since a too smart one wont be fun to play against. However i do like the new calculations/risks thinking the ai does, overall looks good.

  11. ShEsHy says:

    Where’s the Campaign map coverage; How big is the map going to be? Are they keeping the shitty E:TW and later city layout or hopefully returning to the M2:TW and earlier deaign? Will it be 1 turn = 1 year/6 months/3 months?… These are the things I want to know, since I play the game as a strategy, not a tactical battle simulator.

    Anyone else think that the TW series has been getting worse (from a strategy game POW) with every title ever since it became Steam only with E:TW?

    • tormos says:

      IMO Napoleon and Shogun 2 were markedly better than the dismal Empire, so kind of the opposite of that

    • HorzaEdeo says:

      There’s 173 regions on the map. It’s one turn per year. All buildings are contained in cities, rather than being dotted around regions.

      Attrition happens to your armies due to terrain, rather than winter conditions.