Total War: Rome 2 was originally released late last year to some rather indifferent reviews, on release it had many bugs and problems and even though it was released nearly ten years after the original Total War: Rome game it wasn’t regarded as much of a step forward and in fact there were many gamers who thought this was a step backwards with poor AI and some fairly boring game mechanics. Now a year later it has been released with a lot of extra add ons and DLC as the Emperor Edition. So have the twelve months been spent well by The Creative Assembly? I really hope so.
On first viewings I was astounded by just how much content you get in this version of the game, if you bought the game on release last year many of the updates you will receive for free. In the emperor edition The Creative Assembly have stated that they have updated the politics system, as well as general graphical updates and many improvements to the in game AI and early on I have to say that the game shows very few of the problems reported on release.
The main core of the game is split in two; firstly you will be introduced to a turn based game where you overview the map managing your cities, moving your armies and ensuring the future growth of your empire. This is supplemented by the real-time battlefields where you will take direct control of your armies as they battle to vanquish an invading force or you want to storm a fortress to take control of a new area of the map. The strategic map which you use to see how your various armies and cities are doing looks incredible, there is a lot of detail on show, including weather effects such as fog, rain and snow, all of which change according to the seasons of the year.
Like many real time strategy games you are likely to need a fair amount of time to get the most out of this game as there is much more to it then just clicking on an army and waiting for them to destroy another. The tutorial at the beginning of the game really is a rough guide, this is a very detailed game and to start off with the game really does just show you the basics such as how to move your army, which formation you should use and how to defend from a strengthened point. If you are not used to or have not played many real time strategy games then all of the options will be overwhelming to start off with, and Total War has so many options that you will discover the more time you spend playing it, such as hidden units in the forests – having these guys sneak round the flank of an enemy unknown and then rush out behind them is great to see and it does make you feel like a true general out smarting your rival.
The main part of the game you will want to play is the real time battles and I have to say that The creative Assembly have nailed them, they play out brilliantly. One of the criticisms of the original release was that the AI in the game was tuned to be quite dim, but now with the updates this is no longer the case, battles are difficult, as they should be and more importantly they are challenging. There are times when they feel frustrating but I found that the more time I spent learning various strategies I was just missing a way how to tackle a certain army. The battles you take part in take time, they are not quick events that you can just breeze through. Just like war itself you have to take time planning and coordinating your army. Thankfully the computer controlled AI is also fairly good. A few times you will wonder what is going on but generally they react how you would expect them to.
The campaign that is in the Emperor Edition is really fun to play through, it is set after the death of Julius Ceaser and is apparently faithful to history. From the start there are a few major players to contend with and you do feel as though you are only one turn away from a huge rival deciding that they want to wipe you off the map, from the start you feel as though you are in at the deep end and this feels different to how other RTS games introduce the players into a campaign, often with many slow and easy campaign missions for you to cut your teeth into. This need to avoid all out conflict is where the diplomacy comes in to play, you will need to use this to forge allies, you can offer cash or trade routes to build relationships with other powers. There is one gripe with this in that the game does a pretty poor job in explaining how to use the politics and diplomacy from the off, you feel like you are learning on the job with a fair amount of trial and error. But perhaps this is how it should work, you wouldn’t know how the other side is feeling until you approach and then offer them deals.
I have been very impressed with Total War and I find it hard to believe that this is the same game that was hammered on its release a year ago. The Creative assembly should be congratulated on all of their hard work in bringing this game up to scratch as it now is a hugely detailed and deep game to play through. But at the same time, they should not have been allowed to have released such a mess, many people who purchased and played this game my not come back to it and I feel that would be a shame as it is a genuinely great game now with hours and hours of gameplay to be had.
This game is now one of the best real time strategy titles available, it’s just a shame it is a year late.
Reviewed on PC