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    Total War: Rome II

    Game » consists of 8 releases. Released Sep 03, 2013

    The successor to the acclaimed Rome: Total War and the eighth main entry in the Total War series, Total War: Rome II returns the series to classical antiquity.

    doktorsoviet's Total War: Rome II (PC) review

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    Total War: Rome II: A Beautiful, Buggy, Unfinished Mess

    Total War is the long running franchise brought to us by the folks at Creative Assembly. Originally owned by THQ, CA was purchased by SEGA and every Total War game after the original Rome has been made under their publishing.

    Rome II is the latest installment. It generated a lot of hype after the success of Shogun II, which had a tight, focused singleplayer, an expertly crafted multiplayer, and in general honed and perfected the traditional mechanics of the Total War franchise. It was a breath of fresh air that followed the disaster that was Empire. However, the game left people wanting in unit variety and locales, as Feudal Japan was fairly lacking in those aspects. So, when Rome II was announced and the first gameplay video surfaced, it astounded the fanbase. Not only did the graphics look amazing, but it showed everything people wanted to see; a traditional siege of a walled settlement, the clash of two mighty empires with distinct culture and style, and an epic struggle that felt a bit lost with Shogun II's small scale.

    Unfortunately, the game shown that day is not the game the players got. On release, Rome II was a disaster that quite possibly trumped Empire. The AI -the part hyped up by the Creative Assembly as having more focus and effort (and traditionally the area of Total War games that was particularly bad)- was terrible. At best, it was funny; at worst, frustrating. The AI typically did things like run its units in circles, charge and then fall back before the units even connected, or simply stopped dead in its tracks. It was terrible at siege battles, doing so awful that it wouldn't even build siege equipment and even when it had siege equipment (usually because the player gave it to them in Custom Battles) it rarely capitalized on it, often leaving its troops sitting on the walls after taking them. The campaign AI was both unaggressive and aggravating, as it typically refused trade rights for no reason, would refuse subjugation, and build many small armies that consisted of slingers and some levy spearmen. Hardly a force to be reckoned with. It lacked aggression and ambition, usually preferring to conquer a tiny area of the map and then just sit there as you built a mighty empire that could easily crush them. Even the glorious faction of Rome rarely expanded out of Italy. Couple this with absurd unit balance (the Romans often steamrolled every other faction if used by the Player Character due to their superior units and economy.) Following this was a brand new "politics" system meant to simulate the internal politics of your faction. However, it was poorly explained, unclear as to what actions did what, and felt extremely uninvolving. Even worse, it was meant to replace the family tree mechanics, but failed to do so, meaning the players attachment to generals is tenuous at best. They are merely more nameless conscripts.

    In summary, the game was a completely broken, buggy mess on release. Nobody knows who is at fault. It could be SEGA, who supposedly pushed the game out the door before it was ready to appease investors. It could be Creative Assembly, who hyped the game to hell and back to drum up as many sales on release as possible, knowing nobody would purchase the game in release state. In the end, it didn't matter, as the final product was still a mess and a disappointing repeat of Empire's failures; trying much too hard to innovate and achieving to little due either to SEGA's meddling or CA's lack of focus.

    However, the review doesn't end there. Creative Assembly clearly knew the game was not ready, and prepped for the disastrous release. They diligently patched the game quite rapidly for the first few months while releasing most of the DLC for free (or at least free for the first week), fixing many of the bugs and issues with the game.

    We have now reached patch 8, along with the Caesar in Gaul expansion pack/mini-campaign that re-adds some crucial elements like seasons. With all the patching, we can finally take a look at what the game is like in its current state.

    For the positive side, there is a surprisingly large amount of good things in Rome II. For example, the new province system gives the player reasons to expand in certain directions and declare war on certain enemies to gain the useful benefits (edicts that have varying effects on the province) that are almost necessary to keeping the peace. The same limited building slot mechanic from Shogun II returns, and it is a great choice as it forces the player to specialize settlements, meaning all settlements have importance. If the enemy captures your main unit-production centers, you are stuck with crappy militia until it is retaken. If they seize your agricultural cities, your armies will starve and your people will revolt, and so on and so forth. Both the player and the AI have a limit on how many armies they can field depending on their size. This greatly reduces the stack spam present in pretty much every previous Total War game and cuts down and the tiny, 1-3 unit armies running around. Although the AI does tend to make a habit of spamming multiple armies, most of them tend to be much larger due to this limitation. This means most of the battles you fight will be very large, unlike the numerous small skirmishes in-between major battles found in the other games. Armies also have "traditions" that grant small bonuses. although the bonuses are meager, it still makes each army unique as the can be named, given a symbol, and have varying specialties, allowing the player to get invested in their armies. Visually, the game is stunning, despite some questionable palette changes between the Siege of Carthage video and release. Every unit has extremely detailed weapons and armor and a great variety to each, with little pockmarks and dents in them to make them even more interesting visually. The AI is still prone to problems but can be force to reckon with when it works properly, fully able to use flanks, rush tactics, even having exchanges between ranged units. Animation quality is excellent, and fighting animations tend to line up very well (although this does result in some unit spazzing on occasion). It creates epic battles that are probably more interesting to watch then to play.

    Which brings me to my negative points. This will exclude things like bugs and focus solely on mechanics that need work. Battles are certainly one of the things that still need improvement. While I said the AI can be a force to be reckoned with, it can also be a mess. While the patches have helped and brought the AI to state where the it can be playable and even a bit challenging, the AI still has some issues. It varies widely in consistency between battles. Some battles it will do excellent, using flanking maneuvers, hammer-and-anvil cavalry strikes, and ranged units quite well. Other battles, it will form massive blobs and charge forward, or attack in the midst of reorganizing its army. Sometimes it can do a bit of both in the same battle. Needless to say, you pretty much flip a coin when the battle starts and can either get great AI (when the AI decides to work, it is the best in the whole series as far as tactics) or put on a shameful display (when it fails to work, the AI is worse than the original Rome and sometimes even worse than Empire's infamous AI). Units still blob a bit, although a formation attack attribute was applied to all civilized units (it existed before but was mistakenly not applied to any units, causing them to "blob up") that prevents this. However, this attribute will often make a unit worse at fighting, as it will get encircled while in formation and has a habit of turning to face the enemy, messing up perfectly good battle lines. The campaign has some issues. The political system is still a mess, and there is no sign of a family tree. The biggest killer to this game is the 1 turn = 1 year system CA used. It causes generals to die way to fast and excludes the interesting seasons effect from Shogun II (that was re-added for Caesar in Gaul's mini campaign but not the grand campaign). Despite the very different aesthetics of each faction, they all handle in a similar manner due to CA's apparent insistence on "balancing" each faction. Factions that should have terrible infantry have good infantry. Factions that shouldn't have sword infantry have sword infantry. Factions that shouldn't have good siege weapons, such as barbarians, have advanced siege weapons such as giant ballista that they could never build in real life. This limits the variety. Even worse, major factions like Carthage tend to get destroyed early on (although Carthage is a bad example because the last few patches beefed up their AI a bit) and even the mighty Rome often tumbles to some nameless Celtic tribe.

    So what did the patches do? They removed a significant amount of game-breaking bugs and fixed the huge performance issues most people had on release, to start. They also fixed quite a few AI problems, most notably that they now recruit much better, balanced armies and some can even expand quite a lot, and they make less oopsies on the battlefield as well. Siege AI is at least playable, although it still needs a massive amount of work. Some balancing has gone into account, especially for missile weapons, shield and armor strength, and attack and defense stats being changed to make combat last a bit longer. They also attempted to balance naval transports over a dedicated naval force by making transports weaker and slower, but the sheer damage their rams do make naval units still mostly useless.

    What did the patches not do? Sadly, we have not seen any of the content patches CA have mentioned, so no changes have been incurred to the political system. Siege AI still remains incompetent, and some major factions are still weak (although others are stronger than before, such as Carthage and the Seleucids). There is no family tree and it still uses the one-turn-per-year system. The AI still makes plenty of mistakes, especially on the open battle, although it seems to do alright in plain old land battles. Some bugs and glitches still persist, like the AI not being able to land all its ships and thus battles not being winnable (this is the only Total War game in which I use the battle timer just in case the AI makes some major screw up) or your ships not responding to orders.

    However, much of the game can be helped by its greatest strength; mods. It is easily the most open and modifiable game since Medieval II, allowing numerous overhaul mods, a great mod which adds the seasons from CiG to the main campaign, unit mods to give factions like Carthage that have lacking rosters better and more diverse units, mods that balance minor factions and major factions so that the major factions don't get conquered by tiny pushovers, mods that rebalance stats to make battles longer, e.t.c. In general, mods are the saving grace of this game and turn it from an okay experience to a really good experience. My personal recommendations are Dresden's mods, GEM, Mech_Donald's Special Effect Enhancement Mod, or Divide et Impera, a nice overhaul that adds most of Dresden's work and is currently adding new, historical units to the rosters.

    As far as vanilla, I would only slightly recommend this game. If you can overlook its faults and don't hype yourself up, there is certainly fun to be had. A lot of the hate is simply disappointment. Although there are some critical oversights, the game is still immensely fun. Not only that, but CA has stated they will continue patching (no word from them recently but they were probably off for the holidays, as this review was written around Christmas) so hopefully the rest of the issues will be ironed out. The active modding community gives me hope for some great overhaul mods and, were it I counted mods in reviews, the game would have four stars and would be a pretty easy recommendation. However, I don't count mods, so the game rest at three stars.

    In summary, Rome II is a disappointment still plagued with some issues, but it can be great fun and there are spots of light that occasionally break through the clouds that show that, with continued support from CA, the game can pull itself out of the gutter and at least become a decent addition to the Total War library. I would only recommend it -vanilla, it is current form- to die-hard fans of the franchise or those of us that are really curious. Otherwise, you are better off waiting until summer, which hopefully by then we will have seen some extensive patches and the game has gone down in price.

    Other reviews for Total War: Rome II (PC)

      Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die salute thee. 0

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      1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

      Long-time Total War fan reviews Rome 2 0

      Ever since the original Shogun sucked me into the series and real time strategies 15 years ago, I've been a fan of the Total War series. I still am, in some ways. In others? Not as much. Rome 2 is partly the reason for this.In many ways, the game is gorgeous. In others, it is a stark, dark reality of ugliness and mediocrity. There are a few things that save it from being an absolute disaster. There are also a few things that save it from being absolutely amazing.Let's start with the gorgeous. Fi...

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