Total War Rome II: Veni, Vidi, Vici

I’ve always been into good strategies. They make you feel like you are responsible for something big, something that can change the lives of others. Well, RPGs and FPS games also have their own mood and level of responsibility but still – nothing will ever substitute a great feeling of tactically and strategically won war. One of the most exciting and memorizable games of this jenre was and still is the Total War Rome title. Actually, the very first game became a revolution and is still played by dedicated fans even despite the fact that it’s been years after the official launch. And now, when all the expectations were down and it seemed like the classics will never be renewed, Sega and The Creative Assembly surprised everyone with the Total War Rome II. This game is not for everyone, but those who feel like spending hours thinking about strategy and tactics have actually became the happiest people in the whole world quite recently.

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The Total War series happen to be unique in their kind and have been known for their complicated but well thought out game system. At first it was described as a turn based strategy with some battle elements but now it’s nothing else but mixed up blockbuster real time and turn based strategy with the opportunity to conquer the whole world. And who doesn’t want that? If you ask me – I am ready to become the ruler of the world this particular second. Just give me a chance.

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From the very first sight you do get a feeling that Total War Rome II is exactly what they say it is and proves itself as the priority PC game. The graphics is astonishing and so is the gameplay. Your very first battle already makes you feel like Caesar and that the Roman Empire in its best is all yours. After and during that battle you can’t take your eyes from the monitor because everything that happens kind of reminds you a beautiful shooter that you used to play a few years ago. In other words – the graphics is too good to be true for a strategy like Total War Rome II but that is definitely good news.

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If you scroll the mouse wheel a bit closer to the battle and take a moment before the battle to watch the views and your army, you will realize that everything is both – same and different. On the one hand – every Roman warrior carries the very same armor, but on the other hand – every armor is different with scratches and bending in random and not repeatable places. And so are the faces: they all look tired, but they all are different. This little fact makes you understand that no matter what goes next – it is going to be legendary. And even if you still don’t think so – just scroll back the mouse wheel and you are going to see the amazing landscapes Total War Rome II offers to your suspicious eyes and all the great views just can’t but surprise you with their natural looks.

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A few hours of Total War Rome II gameplay turn your little squad into a legion and now you are fighting far-far away from home with the fearless barbarians. Everything looks even more dramatic with the weather changes that happen pretty often and pretty unexpectedly which means that if you begin the battle with the sun above your head it doesn’t mean that it won’t start raining closer to the finish line. Especially majestic everything looks when hundreds of warriors run from the one side and another hundred from the other and they clash into the battle somewhere in the middle of the snowy forest. At this point, the best way is to scroll the mouse wheel again and zoom in as close as possible to see the souls leaving the dead bodies of barbarians. It is very influential and realistic. I am not even afraid to say that so far Total War Rome II is one of the most cinematographic war strategies in the whole world.

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But those players who are familiar with the previous Total War titles will know that Total War Rome II is not only good for its graphics but also happens to be one of the hardest and realistic strategies out there. So, even if you are a skilled player and spend the whole day playing, studying and trying, the best you can get is to vaguely set your borders and send a few groups to scout the territory. Though, if you get really lucky – you can get prepared for your first fight with the real enemy. If you do more – you are either a Total War Rome II genius or you are cheating.

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As in the real life, armies under your rule move slowly across the virtual Europe and sometimes it seems like it takes them forever to cross the border and get to the destination point. The very same thing happens with the AI and its armies. Sometimes, the virtual player is so excited about beating you that he spends two or 3 minutes to complete a move and while you can observe his actions freely, that is not something I, personally, would prefer to spend my time on. The other problem is the discipline that very often suffers when you travel across the country to conquer the wild tribes of barbarians somewhere at the very end of your borders. The inner mechanics in Total War Rome II is very slow and whatever you build, create or improve something – it takes ages to become complete. Well, with time things will improve a little but still – in some moments the game seems to be too slow, though – some people might like it.

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But, if you hate to stay in line to make your move, probably this will somehow improve the situation. You see – the number of fractions in Total War Rome II is simply amazing and here you can show your best diplomatic skills. There is no need to search for anyone to make peace or start war with – they will find you faster than you think. But the good news is that in Total War Rome II you can start fighting almost immediately because at the very beginning of the game almost none can boast with more than 2 or 3 cities. Well, it does not mean that you will win without a fight but it does mean that if you do everything right – you will be granted with all the goodies with minimum loss.

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The administrative tool itself has been changed for a couple of reasons and despite the controversial thoughts – I do find it easier to manage. The provinces are now bigger and usually combine 4 or so cities. Every city has its own building brunches, though – the tax system and other parameters are one for the whole territory. This kind of management gives you the opportunity to spend more time playing the game than being an economist. And, by all means, this is another good reason to get Total War Rome II for your pleasure and excitement.

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Though, things mentioned about do not mean that the game process itself is much easier to understand and a lot funnier to watch. You still have to keep your eyes on the enemy spies, agents, take care of the champions and manage your helpers. The better you manage your generals – the better you become in battle and the better you army follows your orders. On the top of that the political aspect of the Total War Rome II plays pretty much the same and maybe even more important role than the war. Here you will find pretty much everything what a modern society can offer to their citizens: political intrigues, misunderstandings and wars between political parties, rebels and else. Welcome to the Total War Rome II, pal!

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And now – back to the battles again. For your interest – every battle is unique in its kind. They may seem the same but they are not. Probably, this is most exciting and picturesque part that keeps falling in love with the Total War Rome II more and more. Even the simplest attack during the patrol can look as good as the long and exhausting siege of the castle. Right now I am thinking about recording the battles and then editing them into some short series about the Roman wars because both pictures and game mechanics are that good in Total War Rome II.

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Let’s not forget about the see battles that also play an important role in the war tactics. Due to some peculiarities of the game period, the fleet is not as advanced as it is in other game titles, though it is easier to navigate and deal with. Thanks to the new Total War Rome II engine you are not supposed to build some expensive battle ships. All you have to do is to put a squad of you best warriors on the boat and turn it into the floating exterminator. Now you can easily attack, ram or board ships and all those actions will be useful and worth every try.

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Probably, the only thing that really spoils the fun is the badly cooked Total War Rome II title. It might look great in the eyes of potential buyers, but it is raw inside. First of all – the texture. They are not complete and sometimes are ridiculously unpredictable and outdate (and I thought that those harsh times were gone). On some maps the number of visual bugs is unbelievable and you can only imagine my surprise when I witnessed the textures getting all blue and red (definitely not because of my video card) and ladders disappearing in the walls of the castle. Sure, it’s not crucial but it is not something I expect to see in my favorite title. Very often I came across some black holes that indicated the “laziness” of the game to download the level and its textures right. Well, luckily it happens not as often as one might think but it happens which is kind of disappointing.

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But just when I thought that the bad days were over and there was nothing bad left to surprise me, I realized that Total War Rome II still has a few losing Aces in his hands. Unfortunately, the biggest and the most unpleasant problem in this game is the AI. Sometimes it acts like a 3 year old baby who does only those things she feels like doing. At first I thought that it was a problem of the complexity level, so I increased the difficulty a bit but nothing changed. I did that one more time and still – nothing. The game just became harder to play but AI still acted blindly. Here are a few examples:

– Very often, on the global map of Total War Rome II, the AI army attacks the superior forces or sieges the town with not a single chance to win it. Sure, you might call it an “exhausting” strategy where your enemy organizes small attack to demoralize your army and one by one make it be weak. Well, I sure can tell the difference and this is not what I saw. AI armies attack unbreakable targets just because they are said so and not because it is strategically important. And even despite the fact that it looks great, those victories become kind of boring pretty soon.

– When you have a squad of spearmen in your army, get prepared to see them attacked at the first place. It might sound odd but for some reason, no matter who’s on the battlefield, AI always tries to attack spearmen first even if there are a lot weaker and simpler soldiers to deal with. This, surely, creates a great opportunity for a massacre but still – Total War Rome II is a serious game and not something that you play and forget the very next minute.

– But the best part, of course, are the sea battles. Enemy ships can swim around in circles having all the priority and strategical advantage but give no support for the ground squads trying to enter the city. In those cases even the smallest garrison can easily deal with the whole armada because they don’t fight back and calmly agree on a defeat.

– Computer AI are not even interested in holding the cities and sometimes you can easily enter the town and capture the main square when enemies reinforcement is standing just a few blocks away from you helping non but themselves to have a good rest. Sad but true.

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Well, it’s been a bit more than a month after the official launch of the Total War Rome II but The Creative Assembly already released two big patches to improve bugs and AI inelegance. Unfortunately, even with both patches the game still seems to be pretty bad in some moments and the AI issue is still a big problem. Hopefully, The Creative Assembly will improve the situation in the closest future but I say that it will take no less than a month to make things complete, or even more, for that matter.

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Total War Rome II is almost a masterpiece. It has everything one would like to see in a game like this, though – it happens to have a few crucial issues and I can’t close my eyes on them (but I really-really want to). I assure you that you will enjoy every piece of it and every sound of the battle… they look so real that you can simply watch them like movies and even get some popcorn to enjoy them better. But until the issues are solved, we will have to wait a bit to call Total War Rome II the best game in its category.

Author: Oleg Repetskiy

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